I have a lever-type door knob on one of my bedrooms and I like it a lot more than the ordinary round knobs. I am considering replacing all the door knobs in the house with levers. Is there any reason to not do this? Why do people use round knobs at all?

  • 4
    Related question on User Experience: Why do door knobs still exist? Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 16:27
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    I had a unpleasant accident with a lever handle few years ago: I was in a hurry trying to go through a door and got my wedding ring to be caught by the lever, then I pulled my hand away from the door causing the ring to bite into my finger deep enough to leave a scar and bend a ring so I was unable to remove it without tools.
    – n0rd
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 17:43
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    Knobs are against code in Vancouver BC now.
    – Jim W
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 20:15
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    Most of the doors in our house use levers, and the one difficulty of note is the tendency to snag. Depending on your height, what you're wearing, what you're carrying, how you move through the door, etc, you could snag your belt loop, shirt or jacket sleeve, the handle of a bag you're carrying, etc.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 22:02
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    My cat can open lever-doors, but not knobbed ones. That's a big deal to me :)
    – Steve
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 22:06

11 Answers 11


In my experience, and in general terms...

Knobs are:

  • Familiar (in the U.S)
  • Low-profile (more compact horizontally)
  • Funcional with ambidexterity/symmetry/bidirectionality (operate the same from any side--some levers only function downward)
  • Non-snagging (and slightly more secure for this reason)
  • Less expensive due to production cost and/or sales volume
  • Better suited to some tastes and home styles

Levers are:

  • Familiar (in Europe and elsewhere)
  • Handicap-friendly (and, conversely, not as child-secure)
  • More striking in appearance
  • Swing-specific
  • Likely to catch on straps and clothing on occasion
  • Better suited to some tastes and home styles

Comment addition credit: Matt Lacey, Angew, Ferrybig, Accccumulation

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    Levels are also more friendly to small children and certain pets!
    – Matt Lacey
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 1:51
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    "Familiar" and possibly also "More striking in appearance" is culture-specific. In my part of the world (Czech Republic), you'd be hard-pressed to find a home with knob-style door handles in it. Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 8:05
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    If I'm using my hands to carry something, I can't open knobbed doors with my elbow.
    – Arthur
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 12:55
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    I don't think ambidexstrocity really applies. If your 'off' hand can't push a lever, you have bigger problems :-) Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:47
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    I wouldn't say "not as child-secure" for a lever, which in case of a fire might make the difference between getting out or not, for a child. We went with levers thoughout the house when the first kid was born, so he could more easily move around.
    – Jeffrey
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:56

It‘s interesting how these things differ among cultures!

In Europe (Germany for sure, but I never observed a difference in other European countries) basically all doors have levers. Here you install a knob only when you need the feature that it becomes more difficult open a door for pets and toddlers.

However, in most of these cases you can already get away with putting the handle upright, so knobs are really rare.

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    This. Knob vs. lever seems to be a cultural much more than a practical thing. For us Europeans, the door knobs so popular in America seem strange and odd.
    – Tom
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 12:16
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    I think it has mostly to do with what manufacturers were making 100 years ago. Most historical buildings in the US have knobs. Levers were rare, and are becoming more popular and common with time.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:37
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    Europe/Germany: knobs are used here for outside doors (house, garden) where unlocking by key is the predominant use case. These knobs often don't turn at all, they are only for pulling/pushing. Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 20:29
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    As a personal anecdote, my building door in France has a knob rather than a lever or handle. Many deliverymen will not even try to open it, thinking you need the key to unlatch it.
    – Jupotter
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:19
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    @cbeleites I wouldn't call them knobs at all actually, they're more like handles...
    – yo'
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 12:07

My wife and I moved into a home with lever door handles. One big downside was our young children, who instantly knew how to open them and escape. You can't childproof these easily either (they have devices, they just don't work as well).

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    Living in a part of the world where people don't use doorknobs, but levers exclusivly; it is common practice (and easy) to change the levers in a vertical position while children are young. They won't be able to open them.
    – MarkO
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 6:18
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    In our house the doors came with useful devices called keys
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 7:25
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    Note that the keys mentioned by @PlasmaHH are only to protect against accidental door opening. You can buy one that opens all internal doors in all houses for cheap at the hardware store
    – Suppen
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 9:05
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    @MarkO, note that levers sold for the US market can't be easily changed to a vertical position. Well, at least not the major brands that I've been in contact with.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:58
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    @J.A.I.L. For a lock in a home like that, they generally aren't overly secure locks. I know most knob with locks also have a hole on the other side to disengage the lock by pressing into the hole. The locks are really only for privacy. I assume most lever handles have something similar.
    – JMac
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:59

To add another bullet point to supplement the other good answers: While most exterior doors are pretty close to air tight and security is generally not a concern for interior doors, locks on lever-type handles are typically easy to bypass if there is any sort of gap at the bottom of the door (typical of interior doors). This can be a benefit if you know and trust everyone you live with and a door accidentally gets locked with no one inside the room, but if you have a slightly suspect house mate, round knobs with a security lock have an advantage.

For example, back when I was in college, many students found that they could easily use a clothes hanger to enter their own or someone else's locked dorm room using a clothes hanger underneath the door from the outside to pull down on the newly installed lever-style handles facing the interior of the room. The college replaced all the knobs on the interior side of the dorm rooms as a result.

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    This is entirely a question of lever design. My cat is living proof - she could open the doors in the old place by jumping and holding on to the lever. In the new home, she tried a couple times, then gave up. Rounded levers where cats (and cloth hangers) slip off.
    – Tom
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 12:19
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    The root problem here is that the internal lever fully unlocks the door. If it were designed such that there were a separate deadbolt, or even that the "twist-lock" button on the lever had to be operated independent of the lever itself, this wouldn't be a problem. (I have seen both knob- and lever- sets where neither internal nor external handle will move until the center button is moved to the unlock position) Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:55
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    Note that over here (Europe/Germany) lever type with security lock are perfectly normal. The lever goes to a spring bolt and the key to a separate dead bolt. You basically choose between cassettes for ward or double cylinder/security lock (depending on trust/required security level). There's also a restroom variety where instead of a key the inside has a knob (which for safety reasons that can usually be operated by a coin or a generic tool from the outside) Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 20:43
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    @CarlWitthoft: with our European versions, the lever never unlocks the dead bolt. This is sometimes discussed as an issue wrt. fire safety, and there are recommendations not to lock in anyone (including yourself) with the deadbolt. Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 13:49
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    @cbeleites agreed -- just wanted to mention that all sorts of variations exist. In the US, one can still buy standalone double-key deadbolts (meaning without the key, you can't even unlock from the inside; intended to stop someone from breaking a window and reaching in to open the door) Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 14:11

The one mayor hidden disadvantage is that they need a spring to keep the lever/handle in horizontal position.

I found after moving to a 20 years old house that some of them were not horizontal, but in a falling/diagonal position. They didn't latch the door, and don't look nice, as can be seen at the begining of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_y2_sCDnj4

Furthermore, the spring in the lever is not standard, and finding one that suits a handle that is not manufactured anymore is not an easy task. You can get more information on that in this site.

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    I usually replace the whole assembly. most are riveted anyways so not really repair friendly. I am not much used to knobs but all I can remember turn back automatically so must have springs too
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 7:28
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    no, I mean the part that goes inside the door, That one with the spring. Replace that, put on the old handles, done.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 9:25
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    Then they work quite differently than the european style ones. They have an assembly with a square hole that you put whatever handle you like into. Inside the assembly is a spring that keeps the hole vertical
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 9:34
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    All internal latch mechs have a return spring. If they didn't, the round-knob types wouldn't self-latch when closed any more than the lever types. Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:49
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    @CarlWitthoft if you see the video, or check the link in my answer, you'll see that, beside the spring in the internal latch, levers have a spring. The spring in the internal latch is nos strong enough to keep the latch in horizontal position.
    – J.A.I.L.
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:54

I've gotten my pocket/belt loops caught in the handle when maneuvering around doors. Have tripped myself/destroyed belt loops this way.


enter image description here

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    0 down vote Use a HEWI 111-style door handle instead: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/HEWI - you may call it old-fashioned (it's a design from 1969, almost 50 years old), but OTOH I see you are wearing pants which were designed in 1871...so give it a thought, maybe? ;-)
    – Klaws
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 13:49
  • @Klaws - Those just look so stupid though. Also, you can have my 501s after you pull them off my cold dead legs.
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 0:15
  • @Klaws Thanks for the info, did not know that style had a name. Do you know the proper name of the non HEWI door style? Just in case I'm ever swapping over and I know what to avoid. As for the old fashioned, if something is an efficient solution and is reliable, I don't see a need to change. All I know, is that I have suffered under the oppression of the NON-HEWI lever door handle and would like to point out those injustices. You're right however, I am foolishly charging HEWI'S with actions they never caused. =)
    – Crettig
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 22:02
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    No, I am not aware of a specific name for the non-HEWI-111-style door handles. The HEWI-111-style is nowadays available from many different manufacturers (and they obviously cannot call them "HEWI" for trademark reasons). I just have such handles on the garden shed (they tend to interfere less not only with my "1871 style" pants, but also with hoses and cables and such) and still work well with greasy/oily hands.
    – Klaws
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 14:59

One disadvantage of using levers is mentioned in this article in The Economist - they may be more easily opened by bears (and velociraptors).

True, elderly and disabled people find it easier to operate doors with handles. But so do bears. In British Columbia, bears have been known to scavenge for food inside cars—whose doors have handles, knob advocates point out. Pitkin County, Colorado, in the United States, has banned door levers on buildings for this very reason. One newspaper columnist in the pro-knob camp has noted that the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park” were able to open doors by their handles.

  • ...more practically, by dogs. I had a dog that figured out how to open every door in the house by getting on her hind legs and scrabbling at the handle. The most problematic part of that is that, being a dog, she wasn't much for closing said doors, as much as she was for knocking them wide open and leaving them. Particularly awkward with bathroom doors, and any time the room occupants may not have been fully clothed. I've heard tales of cats learning to do this too.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 20:43

Lever doorknobs are now mandated by the ADA (Velociraptors with Disabilities Act) because they are much easier to operate for people with poor motor skills (or very short arms). That's why they are practically universal in commercial buildings.

Keep in mind ADA is not a "fist of God" requirement, and the primary doctrine of ADA is "readily achievable", or in new construction "unless impractical", hence the ability of a town to override it for cause of bears.

As far as snagging clothes, that is particularly a problem for firemen due to their gear, and also can snag fire hoses. As such an enhancement was mandated in public spaces:

enter image description here

And this is a pretty good idea overall. This is the only kind I would install.


Our cats can open our doors with levers.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Boy, does this make me glad we have knobs; our youngest cat is far too adventurous as it is... Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 0:35
  • My cat can turn knobs. I bet with levers you'd get more scratches on the door. -1 @levers
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 1:09
  • All the interior doors in my house have big claw marks on them around the handle because a previous dog of ours figured this out too.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 20:46

As Mazura summarized, "Levers don't have as many aesthetic options as knobs."

My house has four types of door "knobs". Just looking at the hardware, you can tell how it should be opened. From most common to least common:

  • Small (non-rotating) knobs: Swing the cabinet door open.
  • Large vertical handles: Slide the pocket door sideways.
  • Modest horizontal handles: Pull the cabinet out.
  • Normal (rotating) knobs: Twist the knob, and swing the door open.

The (few) interior doors that have "normal" (rotating) knobs have glass/"crystal" knobs, because they look nice in our style of house.

I like the contrast between the knobs and the handles; it makes it easy to tell how to operate the door. Lever-style knobs would not have as much contrast (vs. handles), and are not needed/available for cabinet doors.

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    Levers don't have as many aesthetic options as knobs. +1
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 1:16

My mother uses a walker and she moved into an apartment complex with some flat, but sharp, lever handles (i.e. not rounded). She kept hitting them and cutting her hand.

I replaced them with some rounded levers. But be aware of those older ones from a time when people were not concerned with sharp edges (not a problem on doorknobs).

  • Levers don't feel good, no matter what (and they're noisy). +1
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 0:19

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