Published August 2020 | Updated April 2024

How to Install Door Knobs and Levers

Written by Level Home Staff

How to properly install door knobs and levers

Door knobs and levers are a staple of every home's entryways and interior doors. They are also an essential part of interior décor, enhancing a home's style and finish. Like other home accessories and appliances, doorknobs break down and require replacement. If your doorknob is faulty and you're wondering how to change it, read this step-by-step guide on how to install door knobs.

What you need to install a doorknob

Changing a doorknob is typically an easy job, but you'll need a few basic tools for un-installing the old one and installing the new one:

  • Screwdriver

  • Doorknob kit hardware

  • Safety glasses

Note: Check the packaging of your doorknob or lever for additional tool requirements

Doorknob parts and accessories

After gathering your tools, ensure you have all door knob parts and pieces to complete the installation. Doorknob parts and accessories typically include:
  • Outside housing: This is the exterior part with a spindle that extends all the way from the back.

  • Inside housing: This is the interior part of the doorknob. Some privacy knobs feature a push-button lock on the inside housing.

  • Latch: The latch is the bolt operated by a spring. It features a beveled face to allow latching action when the door closes.

  • Strike plate: This is the metal plate affixed to the door frame.

  • Round drive-in faceplate: A faceplate replaces the rectangular faceplate already attached to the door. This is optional; you will only use it if needed.

Learn more with our handy guide to door hardware.

7 Steps to install a doorknob or lever

Once you have everything you need, follow these steps to securely install your new doorknob or lever:

Step 1: Remove the old doorknob

Your first step involves removing the old doorknob to make room for a new install. Use a screwdriver (usually a Phillip's head) to unscrew all the screws holding the latch system to the door. Afterward, loosen and remove the screws that hold the outer and inner door knobs in place. Remove each doorknob carefully before sliding the latching system off the door. Finally, detach the strike plate from the door jamb by unscrewing it.

Step 2: Determine the appropriate backset before inserting a new latch

On the surface of your old latch, there is a number stamp, usually either 2 and 3/4 or 2 and 3/8 inches. This is the old door knob's "backset," indicating the distance from the center of the doorknob hole to the door's edge. It's crucial to ensure you use a correct backset that matches your door and old latch. Although most standard doorknobs have one of these backsets, it's still a good idea to confirm. If you are unsure of the backset, take your old doorknob to the store when shopping for a new one. Once you have the correct doorknob, insert the new latch into the hole in the door's edge. Orient the new latch to ensure it matches the direction of the door.

Step 3: Install the first new knob

The installation process starts with the new knob. Start with the one with a longer rod engineered to interlock with the other knob and door latch. Position the new knob over the hole before you slide the extending rod into the latch. After ensuring the knob is centered in the hole, thread in the screws to hold it firmly on the door's surface.

Step 4: Thread the latch firmly

To tighten the latch onto the surface, tighten the latch plate screws down and ensure they lock the latch mechanism firmly in place. Afterward, push the latch spring with your fingers to test that it's firm and working properly. A well-installed latch will spring back up after every push.

Step 5: Install the second new knob

Position the second knob in place and ensure it interlocks with your new knob. Lock the second knob in place by threading its screws.

Step 6: Install the new strike plate

Place the new strike plate over the door jamb's latching hole. Ensure it matches the hole and the marks left behind by the old plate. As you lay the new strike plate, position it so it's beveled edge faces the door. Tighten the strike plate screws to hold the new strike plate in place. Finally, test your new knob by opening and closing the door a few times.

Step 7: Repaint the area around the knob

If the installation process leaves ugly marks on your door, consider repainting the area around the knob or re-finishing it if your door is stained wood. You may also need to repaint the door if the new knob is not as big as the one you removed. In that case, the exposed area will look scuffed or unpainted. You can use paint or wood stain to touch up any exposed surface.

Common mistakes to avoid during DIY doorknob installation

Installing a doorknob is relatively easy, but there are a few easy mistakes to avoid in the process:

  • Buying the wrong knob: When buying a new doorknob, ensure its lock is ideal for the type of door. You should also make sure the lock can't be opened using simple techniques.

  • Orienting the knob incorrectly: You will only realize your mistake after you finish installing screws when you can't close your door properly. Read the instructions carefully to familiarize yourself with the steps before you begin.

  • Measuring incorrectly: A perfect door knob installation project needs exact measurements. If you are installing a new doorknob, take your time to measure and mark the right spots to make holes.

Update your doorknobs with confidence

Whether you need to replace an old faulty door knob or simply need a new one for your new home, knowing how to install a door lever or door knob correctly is a valuable skill. Luckily, installing a doorknob is an easy do-it-yourself project. Follow the steps above to get the job done.