How to change a door handle.

This is a short DIY guide on how to change a door handle. I wrote this guide because a lot of the video tutorials that are currently out there start off with an unnecessary five-minute intro. I mean, seriously Jeff. Nobody needs to know what you ate for breakfast or that you’re a Capricorn. Just show me how to change my damn door handles.

Firstly, I would just like to say that this isn’t a difficult job. You do not need to be a DIY guru to replace a door handle. Trust me. I have faith in you. You can do this.

What tools do I need?

To replace an interior door handle, you will need the following:

  1. The new door handle. Obviously.
  2. A Phillips screwdriver or a cordless drill with a Phillips screwdriver bit.
  3. A door stop (optional, but useful for keeping the door still and for preventing it from closing on you while the handles are off).

If you can’t see any holes or screws on your door handle, then it means that they are probably being obscured by a decorative plate. If this is the case, then you will need a flat-head screwdriver in order to pop the plate off. Typically, on plated door handles, you will find a small notch or indentation at the base or the side. This notch can be used to pry the cover off.

A set of pliers or a scissors might come in handy as well, for reasons that I will explain further down.

The door handle that I will be replacing.

This is the door handle that I will be replacing. As you can see, it is a bronze-looking handle that is pretty scratched and worn. These kind of door handles are extremely common in Irish houses that were constructed during the 1990s and 2000s.

Old door handle

This handle is probably about fifteen years old.

The new door handle.

I purchased these black Basta “Belair” door handles at my local hardware store. They come with screw fixings and a new latch mechanism:

Basta Belair Door Handles

Step 1. Unscrew the old door handles and remove them.

In the photograph below, you can see that the handle is fixed to the door using Phillips screws:

Phillips screw

You will need to start off by unscrewing all of these screws. In my case, I had four screws on each side that I needed to remove:

Unscrew

Unscrew the screws on both sides and the handles should come off pretty easily.

Don’t throw the old handles or fittings away until you’ve finished the job. That way, if something doesn’t work or your new set doesn’t fit, you’ll be able to put the old ones back on:

Removed handles

Neatly place your old door handles and their fittings aside.

After you remove the handles, you should see a small metal bar protruding out of the hole in the door. This metal bar is a part of the latch mechanism and it is commonly referred to as a spindle:

Door handle spindle

Above, you can see two holes. The top hole contains the spindle. The bottom hole is for the key. You will also notice that an old paint job exists underneath. Mostly likely, this was a white gloss paint that turned yellow over time.

This spindle allows the door handles to open and close the door, so don’t make the mistake of taking it out and forgetting about it!

If you have a set of “double doors”, then it is likely that one of the doors in the pair will not have a latch mechanism or a spindle. In those cases, the handle on the second double door is there for decorative reasons only.

Step 2. Make sure that the door handle spindle lines up on each side.

In my case, a new spindle came with the Basta “Belair” door handles. However, in most cases, you will be able to re-use the same one. I chose to replace the existing spindle:

New spindle

The most important thing to remember here is that the spindle needs to be pretty even on both sides. It doesn’t have to be perfect or anything. However, if it is pushed out too far to either side, then one of your door handles will not be able to latch on and turn the spindle. If that is the case, then the handle in question will not be able to open or close the door.

Step 3. Put your new door handles on.

Now is the time to place both of your new door handles onto the spindle at either side. Do not insert or tighten any screws at this stage. Just make sure that you can place them onto the spindle:

New handle

Remember how I told you to keep your old door handles? Well, it’s usually at this stage that you’ll figure out whether or not the handles are too small to cover up an old paint job or if they obscure the key lock too much. Try positioning them and moving them about so that you can see how they will look once you’ve screwed them onto the door. In my case, the handles fit “just right” and I had millimetres to spare.

If an old paint job is still showing on yours, you might want to repaint that section and let it dry before you put the new handles on. Nobody wants to see a small outline of old paint around their new handles.

Step 4. Use the door stop (if you have it).

Attempting to put new handles onto a door that keeps swinging back and forth can be frustrating. Trust me, I know. If you have a door stop, now would be the time to put it down. This will also help to prevent a situation where the door slams shut and locks you inside the room.

Step 5. Make sure that your new handles turn the latch.

Before you insert any screws, you should always make sure that both handles are able to turn the latch on the door:

 

In the video above, you can see that the new handles are able to turn the latch on the door. If one of the handles does not turn the latch, then it probably means that the spindle has been pushed too far into the other side. That, or you’re using the preexisting spindle and it doesn’t fit into your new handles.

Tip: You should use your other hand to try and keep the handles in place while you do this. In the video above, I was obviously unable to do so because I was recording with my phone.

Step 6. Insert the screws and tighten them.

Once you are happy that the new handles are turning the latch mechanism, you can begin to insert your screws and slightly tighten them. Note that you shouldn’t fully tighten your screws until you have all of them slightly screwed in. If you screw the first one in fully, it can be difficult to reposition the handle afterwards. This can be a pain if you are trying to make the new handle line up flush with the side of the door.

Belair Basta

Note that I usually do it in this order:

  1. I slightly screw in one of the top screws.
  2. Then, I position the handle until it is flush with the door.
  3. When I am happy that it is reasonably parallel, I slightly screw in one of the bottom screws. In the case above, the Basta “Belair” handles only have one hole at the bottom.
  4. I screw in the second screw at the top.
  5. Once I am happy that the new handle is positioned properly, I tighten all of the screws.

You never told us what the pliers are for?

Remember how I said that a set of pliers or a scissors might come in handy? Well, in some cases, you’ll find that you accidentally end up pushing the spindle too far into the handle that has already been fixed to the door. If this happens, then you can use the pliers to pull the spindle back out.

Once the first handle has been securely fitted to the door, repeat the exact same steps for the handle on the other side:

Replacing a door handle.

Although the lighting and angle of this photograph makes the handle look a bit “off”, I can assure you that it’s pretty flush with the door ;) I am OCD with these things and would not sleep if it was off by a few millimetres.

Tip: If you are replacing the door handles on a set of double doors, make sure that both sets of handles are vertically aligned with each other before you screw them in. Seeing one door handle higher up than the other will ruin your day.

And that’s it. Hopefully, you were able to replace your door handles without any major issues. This is one of those small DIY jobs that is relatively easy to do. However, it can still take a little bit of practice to get it “just right”. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you make a mistake or if you have to re-do something. That is how people learn.

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