When selecting door hardware, there is a lot more to consider than style. You must decide which material would be best for your home, which functions you need, and more. You must also accurately measure your door to ensure your new hardware is a perfect fit. With so much to take into account, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Have no fear! This guide will make the door hardware selection process a breeze.
Knobs or Levers?
Knobs are operated by twisting the handle around the central pivot point, whereas levers are operated by pushing the handle towards the floor. While the decision is largely aesthetic, there are a few reasons you may consider one option over the other.
In general, levers are easier to operate. This makes them an excellent choice for homes with elderly or weak hands. Levers can also be opened with your elbow, which can be a nice convenience if your hands are full. However, being easier to operate isn't considered a benefit for all. We have worked with many customers wanting to switch out their levers for knobs because their children (or sometimes dogs!) were opening doors that were off-limits.
There are many finishes to choose from. When it comes down to it, the finish selection comes down to personal preference, but we do offer a couple of things to keep in mind:
Finishes vary. Finishes can differ widely across different manufacturers. One company's Satin Brass may be entirely different than another's. For this reason, we strongly suggest seeing finishes in person, especially if you are looking to match nearby fixtures.
Living Finishes: A living finish means the color can be expected to change and age over time. Depending on the finish and base material of your hardware, you could expect your hardware with a living finish to lighten, darken, or even turn a beautiful turquoise green. These finishes can give your hardware added character and make your home look more historic. If you are interested in how your particular finish could change, contact us and we would be happy to elaborate further.
PVD and Lifetime Finishes: Color changing hardware not your thing? Look into products that are lacquered or powder coated to resist the elements and keep your hardware looking new. For even added longevity, many manufacturers offer PVD or Lifetime finishes that undergo a high tech electroplating process to greatly extend the finish's lifespan.
Oftentimes the base material of the hardware is overlooked. However, the material of your hardware can greatly affect its long term appearance and lifespan. We highly recommend choosing hardware made of brass, bronze, aluminum, or stainless steel. These high-quality materials will provide the best finish and the longest lifetime.
You'll also want to determine if the hardware you are looking at is solid or hollow. Typically, hollow products are nowhere near as sturdy as their solid counterparts and are much more susceptible to damage. However, top of the line manufacturer, FSB, has developed hollow levers that perform just as well, if not better than solid products. These masterfully engineered levers are extraordinarily strong, while the lightweight designs reduce lever sag.
Brass provides an excellent base for high-quality finishes. Specialty finishes like antique brass, relieved bronze, and burnished nickel, look notably better when over brass, rather than steel or zinc. Brass is also a very hardy material well suited for exteriors or damp environments like bathrooms.
For solid brass door hardware, you can expect to pay upwards of $80 per set.
Bronze is an old-world material with incredible durability. With its naturally uneven texture, it is a beautiful choice for those desiring hardware with a rustic or handmade appearance. The large majority of finishes over bronze are living finishes which means you can expect your hardware to gain even more character than what you see out of the box.
Solid bronze hardware tends to be more expensive than brass. Sets start at about $110 each.
Stainless steel is well known for its strength in coastal environments. Although it is extremely durable, stainless steel still can rust. Luckily, the rust can be easily buffed away. Due to low malleability, stainless steel designs tend to be relatively simple in shape. This makes it an excellent option for modern designs.
Stainless steel sets begin around $75 each.
For more in-depth information about hardware materials, read our Decorative Hardware Material Guide.
The overall quality is one of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing your door hardware. You will likely be using your door handles every day for years to come. It's wise to invest in something that is as reliable as possible.
There are a number of factors that play into the quality of hardware including the materials, internal components, and manufacturing process. However, you can typically get a good idea of a handle's quality based on where it is made. In particular, the United States, Europe, and Australia are known for producing the highest quality hardware.
You may want to consider checking the manufacturer's warranty as well. In the event that your hardware does fail, a good warranty policy could save you hundreds of dollars. When reading a company's warranty, be sure to note what is covered. Some manufacturers may not cover the hardware's finish or electronics, or the warranty may not be honored if the home is near the coast.
When in doubt, ask your salesperson for feedback about product quality! San Diego Hardware has been selling door handles since 1892 which means we have a lot of insight about the lifecycle of hardware from different brands.
The function determines what your hardware will do. Will it lock? Does it need to operate or will a stationary handle suffice? Almost all homes will use a variety of functions. To make your selections, you will need to go door by door. Consider what room or area each door is for and who will be the primary user(s). For example, you may want a different function on a child or guest's bedroom than you do for the master bedroom.
Passage - Passage sets do not have any locking function. They are commonly used for closets, pantries, and sometimes bedroom doors.
Privacy - Privacy sets are most frequently used on bathroom and bedroom doors. They have a locking function to prevent quick access to the room. They are locked by means of a small pin that is pushed on the interior side of the handle set. When engaged, the door can not be opened from the exterior unless the emergency egress function is used. The emergency egress is typically operated by inserting a small pin (a paper clip or bobby pin can be used) into the small hole on the exterior side. This safety feature allows access to the room in case of an emergency.
Keyed Entry - Keyed entry sets are a step more secure than privacy sets. They can be locked and unlocked by using a key on the exterior side or a turn piece on the interior side. Keyed entry sets do not have an emergency egress function. They are typically used for exterior doors, private offices, and closets requiring added security.
Dummy Set - The knob or lever on dummy sets does not function or turn. It is a stationary handle that is used only to push and pull on. Dummy sets are most commonly used on closets in conjunction with a roller or ball catch to hold the door closed, or on a set of double doors opposite a functioning set.
Measurements You'll Need to Order
Nearly all door hardware needs to be ordered per your door's specifications. These are the main things you will need to know for ordering your door hardware:
Door Thickness - To find the door thickness, measure your door from the inside to the outside of the door. Most interior doors measure 1-3/8" and most exterior doors measure 1-3/4", however, this does not apply to all doors, especially those that have been custom made. Whatever your door thickness, we can order hardware to accommodate it.
Bore Diameter - If you are replacing existing door hardware, your door will have a round hole, or bore, through the face of the door. For modern hardware, this measurement is usually 2-1/8". For high-end or vintage hardware, the diameter can be substantially smaller. We highly recommend taking a set off the door so you can verify this measurement. Otherwise, you could end up with new hardware that is unable to be installed.
If you ordering new doors, you will need to get this dimension from your door manufacturer. Some doors are predrilled with a bore, others do not have a bore so they can be drilled on-site.
Backset - The backset is the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the handle set or borehole. Most interior sets have either have a 2-3/8" or 2-3/4" backset. For new doors that are not predrilled, you will need to specify which backset you'd like. For doors with stiles up to 4-3/4" wide, we typically recommend a 2-3/8" backset. For wider stiles, we recommend a 2-3/4" backset. If your stile width is narrow, be sure to verify your hardware will fit while being centered on the backset.
Handing - Many manufacturers will require the door handing to order. Handing describes which way the door is hinged. To determine this, stand on the outside of the door as if you were walking into the room. Face the door and note if the hinges are on the left or right-hand side of the door.
We know selecting door hardware can be a daunting task. If you have questions or would like some suggestions, don't hesitate to contact us! Our door hardware experts are happy to help.