How To Change A Vintage Doorknob

Learning how to change a vintage doorknob takes patience. Depending on the age of the doorknob, the change may mean cutting a new hole for the new lock set. 

You'll need a few basic tools to switch out the vintage knob:

  • tape measure
  • screw drivers
  • hammer
  • saw or drill with doorknob-cutting attachments
  • wood patch
  • new door lock set and template
  • pencil
  • drop cloth
  1. Examine the vintage knob. The first step in how to change a vintage doorknob involves picking the best replacement knob. This is probably the hardest part in how to change a vintage knob since your old door may not be a modern standard size and the hole in the door may not fit any new locks. Before you head out to the store, measure the width of the door and take a look at the side of the door, where the lock connects into the wall. This will give you a clue about the size of the replacement knob.
  2. Take off the vintage doorknob. Unscrew the vintage knob from the door. You might need some oil to loosen up the screws. Avoid stripping out the old screws or you'll have a real mess trying to take off the knob. After the knob is off, take a look at the opening. Learning how to change a vintage doorknob involves measuring the old knob opening to figure out if a new lock will fit in its place without any monkeying around with cutting new holes or adapting old ones. Take a photo of what you're dealing with. This will help when you get to the store.
  3. Buy the new lock set. If you're not a proud home improvement geek, simply take the photo and the measurements to a locksmith and ask for a new doorknob that fits your need. If you want to torture yourself, read the backs of all the lock set boxes and pull out directions to figure out yourself what measurements will work. How to change a vintage doorknob sometimes involves putting pride aside to make for quick work of a home improvement job.
  4. Set out equipment. Put out all the equipment and put down a cloth to protect the floor. Handles have a way of falling out of the opening. This step will save your floor and prevent nasty dings on the doorknob when it hits the ground. 
  5. Remove the vintage strike plate and any extra metal pieces. Really old doorknobs sometimes have strange lock plates. Get all the extra stuff off the door. 
  6. Prepare the door. This may be a tough gig here, if your door needs tweaking. Fill or cut into the door using the template that came with the new lock set. Hopefully, the opening in your door allows the new knob and lock to slip into the former opening. Sand where the old lock set came off the door. If you're really industrious, put on a new coat of paint before attaching the new knob. But just who's that industrious, right?
  7. Insert the new knob. If you've had to adjust the opening, forget the new paint. Just insert both sides of the handle. 
  8. Test the knob. Close and open the door several times to see if the old strike place is in the right position. You may have more trouble here, if the knob and plate don't line up. Use your patch to fill large openings or chip out extra wood, if you need to cut a new hole. The hammer and screw driver are good tools for this. The knob should move easily in both directions and the door should stay shut when latched. 
  9. Recycle the vintage doorknob. Vintage doorknobs can be worth a bit of bucks. Check online or at a local vintage store about a trade or simply donate the vintage lock set. Make sure to bring the entire mechanism for the sale or donation. Many were made in limited quantities and a simple handset won't do much good without the other parts. 
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