Thursday, July 14, 2011

{Guest Post} Let's Talk Doorknobs (The Nodakademic)

Hi! I'm Nodakademic. (That isn't my real name though; that'd be a way weird name.) I'm a late-20s academic nut from the always-windy and often-cold state of North Dakota. 
I blog about my life at 
Oh, and I'm also Mrs. Mary Jane on Weddingbee; that's how I came to know Amanda!

Let's talk doorknobs.

They are one of those details that can make or break the flow of a space. They're so small in the scheme of the room, you wouldn't think it matters. But it does (at least in my opinion!). My husband and I live in a 1920s bungalow chocked full of charming archways, rich hard woods and oiled bronze (or iron!) vents and handles. But over the years, "upgrades" have been made. Upgrades like these.

Anyone who has lived in a middle-to-low rent apartment is pretty familiar with this door-and-knob combo. I think of these as Lowest-Bidder Specials. They're the cheapest possible hollow-core door to be found, accented by a bright golden-plated, plastic-coated knob. There were nine of these doors (and knobs) in our house when we moved in. (Yes, I counted.) They were awkwardly mingling with other charming old knobs like this one.

Gradually (and I do mean gradually--we have lived in the house for 2 years and I have replaced 3 knobs), I have been trying to rid this house of these completely wrong-era knobs. (What era are these knobs correct for, anyway? Late-70s on-the-cheap?) Now there are only 6 left in the house. The first one I replaced though, was a nightmare. Seriously: a nightmare. How hard could doorknob replacement be? I mean, doorknobs come with instructions, and the one I bought (in a nice black oiled-bronze to somewhat match our vintage knobs) even said it was "Guaranteed to fit!" Well, step 1 of the instructions was something like "Remove the old knob." I admit: I struggled with it for about a half hour before I caved and had my husband remove it for me. Then I cursed and swore over the fact that my "Guaranteed to fit!" knob did not fit any way whatsoever. Those cheap gold knobs are not only ugly; they're SMALLER than normal door knobs. So the person who installed them drilled a smaller hole in the door, and I had to carve and scrape and drill and grind away at the darn door for a very long and frustrating time period before I finally managed to get the knob installed. (And yeah, I checked; the knob I bought wasn't some massive knob; it was a standard size. "Guaranteed to fit," my butt.)

You can probably understand why it was a long time before I tried to change another knob. But after I started working on my office, I realized that the nasty gold knobs on the bathroom door and closet door were really detracting from the room.

I was about to enter doorknob hell once again. But this time, I was determined to figure out how to do it! It cannot be that hard! People do this all the time, right?!!

Well.. I pulled and twisted and pried and distorted and bent the crap out of that knob and it did not come off. Meanwhile, my knob looked all beat up and bent, but still firmly attached.  Cussing at the knob and insulting its mother also did not shake it loose.

Finally I smartened up and turned to the Internet for help. There are actually quite a few different knobs. If you have the kind with visible screws to remove, you're L U C K Y. Undo the screws, and you're golden. Otherwise, you have to look for a tiny little lever, latch, or other type of place on the knob where you can jam a flat head screwdriver. With few google searches, and I had found a blog in which a man described the exact kind of knob I was dealing with: an 'economical' gold knob of a slightly miniature size, commonly used in the 1960s or 1970s. It turns out, this type of knob requires a little tricky screwdriver work.

You gotta poke that latch with your screwdriver. And WHILE poking the latch, you have to pull outward on the knob. Slides right off.

No problem at all. It would have been even easier if I hadn't bent the crap out of the knob's components with my screwdriver...

Oh well. It's amazing, the things you can learn on the Internet!! I took a video of myself removing one of the knobs. I'm sorry it's so shaky and at an awkward angle: let's just say it is difficult to use a hand-held camera to take a video of yourself doing a job that requires two hands.

Victory is mine!! And I didn't even cry or scream or bang on the knob with a hammer (one or all of those things may have happened in previous knob-removal experiences)! Hopefully for you, that's the hardest part of the task. Since (as I mentioned earlier) all of my knob holes (giggle) are smaller than any modern doorknob, I had to get creative with a Dremel tool in order to make my new knobs fit. I think they look much better now, don't you?

You certainly learn a lot of interesting skills when you become a homeowner. What are some that you've learned?


  1. I have been thinking of replacing door knobs in my house, too. But then I feel like the hinges need to be the same as the knob and the project becomes more work. Do you think the knob needs to match the hinges?

  2. Ohhh the gold door knobs - they're all over our house too! I think that a pretty door knob can make a big difference - I love your new ones!

  3. @Karie, our hinges are close enough, I think. They're not black, but they're pretty dark (and dirty) bronze. If they were bright gold, I'd definitely want to replace them too and yes, that becomes a bigger job.

    @Amanda, thanks! They're about the cheapest knob you can buy at Lowes (non-locking since they're for closets), so I'm happy with them!