Doorknobs Buying Guide Doorknobs Buying Guide
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Doorknobs Buying Guide

When choosing a doorknob or lockset for your home’s exterior or interior doors, it pays to have a clear understanding of the differences between various types. This expert guide will help.

Mortise lockset for an exterior door is made to insert into a rectangular cut-out in the edge of the door.©Nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

Mortise lockset for an exterior door is made to insert into a rectangular cut-out in the edge of the door.

Satin nickel lever-style lockset secures a door with beauty, style, and security. Photo: Andersen

Because doorknobs (also called “locksets” by the trade) must open, close, and lock doors on a frequent basis, it’s important that they work smoothly, efficiently, and securely.

And because they are also a highly visible part of your home, doorknobs should be chosen with an eye toward quality and style.

Prices for doorknobs are all over the map, running from a low of about $30 to $800 or more. In most cases, you get what you pay for. Quality locksets are finely machined from high-quality steel and brass and are beautifully plated with brass, bronze, chrome, or similar finishes.

When buying a new lockset, you must distinguish between several variables. Most notably, you must choose whether:

1) It is for an interior or exterior door

2) It will include a lock, and

3) It will be a cylindrical or mortise lockset.

Doorknobs and locksets are readily available online.

Interior Door Doorknobs

Interior locksets may be referred to as interior knobs, passage locksets, spring-latch locks, or tubular locks.

Conventional interior lockset has a cylindrical body that fits into holes bored into the door.©Nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

Conventional doorknob has a cylindrical body that fits into holes bored into the door’s edge and face. This type, with a thumb-twist knob, offers only minimum security.

The most familiar type that has a push-button lock on one side, often used on bathroom and bedroom doors, is called a privacy lock. Privacy—not security—is the operative term. It is not meant to be used as an exterior door knob. This type of lock is easy to release from the outside by pushing a thin nail or sturdy wire into the hole at the center of the knob.

Interior locksets come in chrome, bronze, brass, and other finishes. In addition, they may have round or oval-shaped knobs, or straight, curved, or ornate levers. Prices typically run from $30 to $100.

Though some older homes may have doors equipped with old-fashioned mortise-style locksets, nearly all contemporary interior doors utilize cylindrical locksets because they’re easier to install—in fact, many new doors are pre-bored to receive cylindrical knobs.

Exterior (Entry) Doorknobs

Locksets for exterior doors are also called entry locksets, exterior locks, or keyed locks. These are heavier, more durable, and lock far more securely than doorknobs made for interior doors.

Exterior knobs typically come as a standard keyed entry set, an emergency exit knob (these can be opened from inside without unlocking the latch), and a dummy set (a fixed knob meant to be paired with an active knob).

Lever-style lockset has cylindrical workings. A lever is easier than a knob to operate, particularly for children and the elderly.©Nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

Lever-style lockset has cylindrical workings. A lever is easier than a knob to operate, particularly for children and the elderly.

Entry locksets can be locked or unlocked from both sides of the door using a key, a button, or a throw latch, depending upon the type.

If you are concerned about security, be sure your exterior doors have deadbolts that are either part of the lockset or installed as a separate lock.

High-security mortise-style locksets can have multiple bolts made of case-hardened steel.©StudioSmart / Shutterstock.com

High-security mortise-style locksets can have multiple bolts made of case-hardened steel.

A keyed deadbolt adds a higher level of security to an exterior door. Photo: ConstructorConstructor

A keyed deadbolt adds a higher level of security to an exterior door.

A deadbolt should have a minimum 1-inch “throw”—meaning it extends a minimum of 1 inch beyond the door’s edge—and be made of case-hardened steel.

For a double-cylinder deadbolt, you must use a key from both sides of the door. This is the safest type to use for doors with windows (or else a burglar can just break the glass and reach in to turn the bolt). When people are in the house, however, the key should be left in the interior lock to provide for quick exit in case of a fire or other emergency.

 

Before You Shop

Before you shop for a lockset for a door, be sure to make note of the following so the knob you buy will fit:
1The door’s thickness. Doors are typically either 1 3/8 inches or 1 3/4 inches thick. The thicker doors are usually, but not always, exterior models. Be sure to buy a lockset that will fit your door’s thickness.

2The “back set” dimension. The back set dimension is the measurement from the edge of the door to the center of the hole that is bored for the knob.

3The type of lockset. Note whether the lockset is a cylindrical model or a mortise lockset.

4The “handing” of the door. A door that opens toward you and has its knob on the left side is a left-hand door. A door that opens toward you and has its knob on the right side is a right-hand door. Though some locksets are reversible, those with curved levers instead of knobs are not.

 

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.
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