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I have a hollow core interior door. The screws for the handle keep pulling out. To fix this I've used the biggest screws that will fit. I've tried a couple of different types of glue, and I've tried hollow door plugs. All of these solutions last a little bit and then the handle starts to pull out again which is a royal pain.

The other side of the door looks the same, except in reverse of course. Both sides are screwed in using wood screws.

I can buy a different size and shape of handle which will use different holes, but I suspect I'd just wind up with the same issue, i.e. the screws pulling out and then I'm back to square one. I'd rather find a permanent solution to the problem.

What are my options for keeping my door handle on?

Annoying pain in the butt.

From a wider perspective: enter image description here

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I would not mount the latch to the door skin. Even if you can attach it well, chances are you'll pull the skin off the door over time. It's not designed to withstand that sort of stress.

Instead, use long bolts with acorn nuts to sandwich the two sides to the door, or use coupling nuts and bolts from both sides. The latter requires larger holes through the door, but you can use small bolts in the latch plates.

Through-bolt with acorn nut

    |        |
  __|        |__
 |  |        |  |_
(|==|========|==|_)
 |  |        |  |
 |  |        |  |
 |  |        |  |

Screws with coupling nut

    |        |
  __|        |__
 |  | ______ |  |
(|==|=______=|==|)
 |  |        |  |
 |  |        |  |
 |  |        |  |

It's critical that your holes line up, and with four such holes it's challenging.

  1. Clamp or tape the latch plates in place. Verify that they align through the door. Mark the holes and remove the latches.
  2. Drill through the door skin from both sides with a small bit, keeping the drill square to the door face.
  3. Insert the bit through the holes in both faces. Ream the holes to shift position if necessary, aligning the bores.
  4. Gradually increase bit size, finishing with a bit size suitable for your bolts. This will help straighten the final bore.

For what it's worth, my guess is that the door slab was installed backward, with the hinge side used as the latch side. Hollow core doors should still have blocking at the latch area. It's also possible that the slab wasn't intended for this use, and was designed as a bypass closet door, for example. Still, if you install the latch as I suggest it should work fine.

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    I agree, use bolts all the way through both metal plates. Figure out a way to do this. Drill new holes in the hardware if you have to, or replace the hardware. Even on solid doors I have found that door knobs that use screws into the wood for their opening/closing action will work their way loose and ruin the door over many years. On a hollow door you have no chance. No anchor is strong enough for this and even if you find one, you will then just end up slowly tearing the skin off the door. – jay613 Feb 22 at 15:19
  • I suspect you're right the door was installed backward @isherwood, and I'm thinking along the same lines. – GdD Feb 22 at 15:27
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    I've been thinking of using coupling nuts @isherwood, it seems the simplest and least invasive solution. – GdD Feb 22 at 21:57
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    Every door knob kit I've ever seen comes with bolts that go all the way through, connecting both plates to each other, not to the door. Was this a custom job because the original hardware was lost or something? – Darrel Hoffman Feb 23 at 15:08
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    Honest question, I've never had to do this before: If you're sandwiched like this between two thin pieces of door skin, won't the action from using the handle eventually rip the whole thing apart at the screw holes? I wouldn't expect the thin wood to handle much shear stress. If so, I wonder if it's worth recommending a doorknob instead of the latch in OP's picture to mitigate it. – thehole Feb 23 at 16:24
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In the Netherlands (and other parts of Europe) we use a 'patentbout' for this situation.

pantentbout The holes are through the entire door and line up with the shields.

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    A search term for those in English is "door handle fixing screws". – Andrew Morton Feb 23 at 10:57
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    I would know them as "joining screws". A slightly shorter version is commonly used for kitchen cabinets. – Mike Brockington Feb 23 at 11:06
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    @MikeBrockington usually with a slightly different head too. Wikipedia has a list of names of (similar) such screws – Chris H Feb 23 at 12:33
  • Is the length of the "barrel" portion (I mean the part with the internal thread) supposed to be the same as the thickness of the interior of the door? If so, that's an especially good connection because it will rigidly lock the two door handle parts together, but without over-squashing the door itself. – StayOnTarget Feb 23 at 14:02
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    @DarrelHoffman The difference in security is pretty minimal (it's just a matter of the bad guy using a screwdriver vs drill, drilling these out wouldn't take more than a minute). And given that we're talking about a hollow core door, opening it is a matter of two well-placed kicks anyway. – TooTea Feb 24 at 9:51
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If the handle on the front and the back have the same hole pattern, you could use 4 bolts and nuts to sandwich the handles to the door. If it is really completely hollow there, try reinforcing the thru-hole first so you're not just clamping two flimsy door faces. SolarMike had some good ideas for inserting that through the larger hole.

Second, have you tried the type of drywall anchor that pull toward the wall as you insert the screw? Your image looks like the ones that expand away from the screw which won't work as well here.

enter image description here

Most of these are made for drywall thickness but you can probably find some that would do the thin wall of your door.

Lastly, without replacing your whole door you may be able to replace the area around the handle/lock mechanism with better solid wood. SolarMike's ideas would help insert some reinforcing wood through the hole and position it around the hole, but you could also cut a new hole from something like 2x6, plane it to your door's thickness and then chisel some away for the thickness of your door faces for about an inch on 3 sides. Cut the same size square out of your door, wood glue the flat of your insert where the thin faces will touch it, and clamp it in place. Sand flat and paint of course, but then you'll have actual wood you can grip with screws to hold your handles.

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    It's a nice idea, but it underestimates the thinness of the wood skin on those doors. 1-2mm is normal. The problem is that there's so little to hold onto and so little strength, anything putting a point load on it (like the wings of those fasteners) is likely to break it. – Graham Feb 23 at 1:12
4

Some door handles use a grubscrew to grab onto the spindle. With one of these on both sides the load on the fixing screws is reduced.

Reinforcement: the goal is to get more thread length to bite. In some cases a plate of plywood on the inside of the door would be easy, here less so. Instead, you can reinforce each hole independently as follows:

  • Drill an oversize hole centred on each screw hole
  • Insert a thick dowel, either cut to length or a disc on each side (at least 6mm thick), glued into place with wood glue or epoxy.
  • If I was expecting to repaint I'd probably drill a 16mm hole from both sides, and try for a single piece of cheap 16mm dowel, cut slightly over-long and sanded down.
  • If trying to avoid repainting I'd use 10 or 12mm hardwood dowel to hide behind the plate, and aim to get 0.5-1mm under length, making up the difference with epoxy if needed.
  • Once the glue is dry drill a pilot hole (perhaps a rather tight one) and screw everything together.

For cutting the dowel to length I'd use my (manual) mitre saw; a tenon saw with a mitre box would also be good. You do need quite a good square cut.

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  • Yep, this is how we fixed this problem on our bathroom door towel rack. – Dave Kanter Feb 25 at 16:18
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This answer assumes your door is hollow.

Firstly, inspect the hinge side of the door. Tap it to see how thick the hinge style is - if the door is not worth fixing then don't. One option is to replace the door completely, but that's expensive and its hard to find a door that matches your others.


If you think the door is best repaired, then fill it.

  1. Remove lockset and handles.
  2. Cut a hole through the inside skin of the door, perhaps 75mm wide and 100mm high. Leave the lock style (ie the edge-wood) intact.
  3. Pull out any cardboard fill that is in the way.
  4. Cut a block of wood to the thickness of the gap in the door. It should fit between the two layers of cladding/facing and it should be large enough to hold the lockset.
  5. Use construction adhesive to fit the block inside the hole. Also use long wood screws through the lock style to hold it securely while the adhesives set.

Next day, install the lock

  1. Drill a pocket in the side of the block to accept the lockset.
  2. Drill cross holes through the block for the doorset's activation lever.
    Essentially you're installing the lock from new, almost.
  3. Cut a filler patch of thin wood such that it fills the gap between the block and the surface of the door. If you want to be fancy, you could colour-match it and make the edges all perfect. I would not bother - I'd glue it down but then I'd cut a second board and mount it to the face, such that it covers completely the filler board. This last board should be straight with chamfers and a good visual match.
  4. Lastly, fit the handles. You can use the through-bolts mentioned in other answers, or you could use normal screws into the initial block.

enter image description here


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