Vol.2, No.8

How to remove a door knob

Installing a new door knob, or removing the old to accommodate a new coat of paint? Read on for some hardware disassembly help.

A door knob
Photo Credit: Diane Diederich
Removing a door knob is generally as easy as removing the screws and pulling out the pieces. But don't just grab a screwdriver and attack--you'll want an orderly plan of action and an idea of what you're getting into.

First, gather your tool set. You'll need a Phillips screwdriver for obvious reasons, and possibly a flat-head screwdriver or thin chisel as well. Grab a plate from the kitchen, too; you'll put the pieces on it to reduce the chances of them getting scattered. If this is a replacement job, use a separate plate for the new knob to avoid mix-ups.

If the door in question has a door closer installed, you'll need to prop the door open so you can easily get to both knobs. Sticking your foot in the door works well enough, but the awkward position will tire you out. Get a sturdy book or a large rock instead.

Unpack the new door knob set, if one is involved, and examine its parts. This will give you a head start on understanding the hardware involved.

You'll start by removing the trim. This is near-flat disk, often decorative, that lies between the knob and the door. You'll find trim attached on both sides. In most cases, two screws secure the trim, one to each side of the knob; remove them. However, in the case of some modern door knobs, the trim is affixed with adhesive instead of screws. You'll need that flat-head screwdriver or chisel to pry it off. To avoid scratching the door, make sure to slide your tool underneath as far as it will go before attempting to lever it off. You might also try laying a scrap of felt or flannel under the tool.

Newer door knob models often fuse trim and knob into one piece. After removing the two long screws, you'll be able to pull both door knobs right out of the door. But if the trim is separate, the job's still a simple one. The long screws will be hiding under the trim; once you extract them, your door knobs will come right out.

As parts come loose, set them down so that they fit together as they did in the door. This will give you a quick visual reference to assess that no pieces have gotten lost and to remember how to reassemble them.

Now that the door knobs are out, you'll be able to examine the bolt. This is the part with the "tongue" that holds the door closed. You can see the hole in the bolt where the door knob axles held it in place and manipulated the latch. On external doors and some internal ones, the bolt will be additionally secured by two screws on the door's edge, one above and one below the latch. If so, remove them. The bolt should easily slide out of the edge of the door.

Finally, take a look at the door frame where the bolt latches, and consider the strike plate. This is the flat metal piece laid over the hole that receives the latch. It gives the door frame a more finished appearance and provides a durable surface for the slanted edge of the latch to hit. If the replacement door knob comes with its own strike plate, or if the old strike plate is of a different color from the new knob, you'll want to replace the plate. Remove the two screws that secure the strike plate (one above, one below the latch hole), and you're done.

The bolt screws and the strike plate screws will have been drilled directly into the wood. You may find the screw holes worn too smooth inside to hold screws anymore. If so, take a toothpick with a drop of carpenter's glue (plain old white school glue will also work) and stick it into the hole as far as it will go. Break off whatever's sticking out by bending the toothpick sharply to the side. Let this remedy sit for about five minutes to allow the glue to become tacky, then insert screws as usual. The extra wood and glue will give the screw something to "bite."

One last tip: If this is your first experience with door hardware disassembly, you may want to practice on an interior door before attempting to replace an exterior door's knob. You'll feel less pressured if your ability to lock the front door doesn't hang on a successful reassembly.