AKA: How to replace your doorknob in only 72 hours!
It’s been another monster work week. This, unfortunately, hasn’t left much time for side projects, including anything around the house.
But, I’m a stubborn gal, and decided late-Sunday afternoon that I could still pull off a small project before the weekend was out. One of the simpler projects on my list seemed like the perfect thing – replacing the front doorknob and deadbolt.
Our doorknob and deadbolt came with the house. The knob is 100% superficial. The latch doesn’t actually latch; it doesn’t even come out of the door far enough to hit the strike plate. This means that to close the door, we have to use the deadbolt every time. But, our deadbolt isn’t the kind with thumb turn on the inside. It uses a key on both sides. This means that if the door is fully shut, it is also locked. And, to open the door, you need to find your keys. Although we’ve gotten use to his whole process, changing out the knob and deadbolt seemed like a practical, high-impact, low-effort project. Perfect for a Sunday night!
I gleefully skipped through the hardware store and picked out a dark knob set that was labelled as adjustable and re-key-able. Perfecto!
At home, the project kicked off as I attempt to disassemble the old hardware to remove it from the door. That’s funny… no screws. A quick Google and I learned that our old knobs have a pin release. OK great, easy enough. A pin press later… followed by some serious muscle wrenching, and I get the handle apart and remove it from the door (*cough* *cough* now in several pieces).
Tearing into the new packaging, I quickly realized that the adjustable latch that came with my new doorknob only covers the basics – 2 3/8” and 2 3/4”. Thus, it doesn’t come near close enough to meeting the needed length of our 5” backset (this is the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the knob). The great backset setback!
OK… maybe I can just reuse the sticky 5” latch we already have, I naively thought. So, I set about cleaning the latch and trying to get the spring action working again. After a bit of effort, I decided it was good enough and tried to fit it with the new knob. No dice. Turns out the new knob doesn’t even fit into this type of backset. Serenity now! So, I jump online to find out if I can buy a separate 5” backset latch that will work with the new knob set. Thankfully, Home Depot has it.
Too late to hit up the hardware store, I decided to just call it a night and stuff a bunch of paper towel into the hole in the door to keep the draft out. My hulk-like dismantling of the old knob didn’t really allow for reassembly. Lesson learned.
The next night, Jeff went to the Home Depot to pick up the latch. Their computer confirmed that they had one in stock, but it’s the classic case of door-latch gone walk-about. The piece can’t be found. Fast forward to Jeff calling me while I frantically Google other retailers to find someone else who carries the piece. Ten minutes to 8PM, I realize the Home Hardware right up the street from us also has one in stock, but Jeff can’t get their before it closes.
Another night passes with paper towel stuffed into the door hole.
Finally, I’ve got a free night and drive out to Home Hardware to pick up the 5” backset latch. Since this project started, winter arrived, so it takes me 20 minutes to drive the 6 blocks back to the house from the hardware store. But… at least I’ve got my hands on the needed piece!
The new 5” backset latch fits the configuration of the new knob (Hooraw!) so I insert and screw it into place. Everything goes smoothly until I try to add the outside piece of the knob… it turns out that the hole in our door isn’t the 2 1/8” standard size. The hole is too small! AHHHHH!! GUH!!
Undeterred, I ran downstairs to get the drill and hole saw. Problem was, I couldn’t simply drill a new hole on top of the existing hole. A hole saw uses a drill pilot to guide it. Without something to guide the bit, there is no way you can accurately get the hole in the right place; the teeth of the hole saw will grab the surface and run all over the place. In my case, the existing hole means there is nowhere to line-up the pilot. *more sighing*
To overcome this problem I dug through the workshop for a spare piece of wood. I measured out the placement of the hole and clamped the scrap wood to the outside of the door. The scrap, with an accurately marked X over the center of the current hole, gives me a surface to start the pilot for the hole saw to achieve the 2 1/8” hole I need.
But… my scrap of wood is too thick for the small hole saw we have, so I have to find a second piece of scrap, remeasure, remark, and reclamp it to the door. Finally, with everything in place (and the new 5” latch removed), I use the scrap to start my pilot for the hole saw and cut out the enlarged hole. Hooraw!
Then, like magic, I installed the latch, installed the knobs (full honestly here, there was some additional fiddling because of screw depths), changed out the strike plate and closed our front door for the first time in 2.5 years without needing to use a key. Changing out the deadbolt went off without a hitch.
I also gave the inside of the door a quick coat of charcoal paint (to match the outside colour and replace the blue). Unfortunately, I still need to get a photo of it in all of it’s glory. Maybe sometime in the next 72 hours…
So that’s it. That’s my dead-simple project that went totally off the rails this week. Surely I’m not the only one that has had this kind of thing happen. Tell me the worst simple project you ever tackled.