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In the house I bought the doors are old but ok. However, the handle & locks are very old and we prefer to replace them. I am referring to the doors for the rooms inside the house.

Now the question is, is it possible to replace just the handle and lock or will the whole door need to be replaced including the door frame? There are 9 doors in total.

As far as I am aware, if I take the current locks off and try to put on new ones, they will not fit into the door.

enter image description here

And

enter image description here

Edit:

There are few issues that have made me ponder replacing the locks. I live in the UK.

The first is that the keys are lost. I don't know how I can get keys to fit these locks.

The second is that on most doors, the knob seems to have been "pulled out" as it is further from the door surface on most doors and feels flimsy. I feel that at some point the knob will just come off.

The third is that the doors themself have an "old" feeling to them. The doors are otherwise great. However, the scratches and dents and multiple coats of paint make them look really old.

I can consider keeping the doors as getting new ones will not be cheap. However, I need keys for the locks and also need to have a method where the door can be locked from inside without needing a key. I am trying to figure out how to do this.

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    Will probably need to make new holes for the new locks/knobs, and use a cover plate for the old holes, but look around for matching sizes. Those doors look like they are made of solid wood and will be hard to find ones as well made, most interial doors today are thin covers glued to cardboard, with tiny wood sides.
    – crip659
    May 3 at 11:42
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    Would definitely spend some effort looking for replacement hardware in the same style if you want "new" - though I don't see anything particularly wrong with the hardware you have going another 100 years. Whereas I'd be surprised if the generally lower-quality new hardware sold in 2022 would be around in 2122 or even 2052
    – Ecnerwal
    May 3 at 12:48
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    I would save the locks; they're not original but they're good enough. Take off, clean up properly, but back with decent period brass screws not those hideous counter-sunk Phillips. Get good old or copy porcelain knobs rather than those cheap [& too small] bakelite replacements someone swapped in the 50's. [Clean up the escutcheon plate on the other face too. Don't paint escutcheons… that's way too 'can't be bothered' 1960's for my liking ;) [btw, you won't find a modern replacement [other than a period copy] that can use the same holes for lock & knob, so you'll end up patching dowels through.
    – Tetsujin
    May 3 at 16:57
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    In fact, I might revise my opinion slightly - those locks are what I would call 'cellar' or 'servant's' locks. Get down to your local architectural reseller & swap for proper 'drawing room' locks, which should be more ornate & will have the appropriate 'wings' for the screws. They will also be properly 'handed' so you won't have the figure-8 lock shape, it will be correct.
    – Tetsujin
    May 3 at 17:02
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    The locks and doors are almost certainly treasures to the right person. It's a shame you don't like them. Whatever you decide, take them off non-destructively and ensure they find a good home. May 4 at 13:53

8 Answers 8

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If you really have your heart set on replacing the lock sets on those, I'd recommend taking the whole door off with the handle and hinge included and taking it to an architectural recycler.

As noted in a comment, these appear to be made of wide solid boards and those handle/lock sets are old and a lot of people actually like the old look. As a complete set of door and handle, they'll be worth a fair bit of money. It's hard to tell from the two small pictures, but they seem to be in pretty good shape and may well get resold with almost zero work from the recycler, so you should be able to get a fair bit of money out of them.

Once you've sold them (or at least ensured that you'll be able to sell them), go to your local big-box store and buy some cheap luan interior doors and bland, modern knob/lever sets and replace the doors. If things go well, you'll almost break even on the project, price wise.


I'd suggest calling a couple of places and asking them how they'd go about giving you an estimate on what they'll pay you for the door/lock sets. They may send someone to you to look at them and offer you cash on the spot (not so handy if they're taking the bathroom door!), or they may ask you to bring a door in so they can give you an estimate. If you need to bring one in, it should be quite simple to pull the hinge pins and put the whole door in the back of a SUV, minivan or pickup truck. (Ah! You're in the UK. You could probably easily strap it to the roof rack of a small car, or I've seen many with trailer hitches - put the door in a trailer, even if you have to hire one for the afternoon.) Just be sure to wrap it in a blanket or two to prevent damage during transport.

There's a good chance that you'll get more per door if you sell them a full set of 9 doors, than if you sell one at a time, so be sure to discuss that with them, and be prepared to live without doors in your house for a few days as you work to install the new ones.


To address the new issues in the edit:

Lock the doors

I'd suggest either a locksmith (after all, that's kinda their reason for being) or again, take a trip to an architectural recycler - they may have keys that would work with your doors.

To lock them from the inside without the key, you could install a barrel lock, though, IMHO, that would look pretty poor.

This is the type of latch I'm referring to:

barrel lock
image courtesy of lowes.com. No endorsement intended or implied

This one is, at least, black to match the rest of the door hardware. Again, I agree that it wouldn't look all that great, but it would at least match color wise.

Also, you could hang the key on the knob by a string on the inside, then at least, you'd always know where it is when you need to lock it. I presume you're most interested in locking bathroom doors to avoid uncomfortable interruptions, so that would work. You could put up an extra towel hook to hang it from so it doesn't bang against the door every time it's opened or closed.

Loose knobs

On door hardware like that, there's a good possibility that the handles are affixed to the turning shaft by set screws. It might be as simple as loosing the set screw, pushing the knob back on, and tightening the set screw.

I'd suggest a whole new question focused on that only, with detailed pictures of the knobs if you're interested in figuring out how to repair them.

Doors look old

Some people like that, some people don't. That's a matter of opinion and design and is explicitly off-topic for this forum. If you don't like the "old" look, then by all means replace the doors! Just don't scrap them - doing so is throwing away money.

You can, to an extent, fix up the scratches and dents and multiple coats of paint. Strip the paint (using a paint stripping chemical, not a sander - there could be lead paint in there and you don't want to breathe the dust, plus liquid strippers are much better at getting paint out of details without destroying them), fix up the bare wood (stop by the woodworking sister site with detailed pics of the damage to ask how), then either stain if it's nice wood or repaint if it isn't.

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    If you take them to a good/reputable architectural recycler, he'll persuade you to clean the metalware up properly & put the right size knobs back on, which he'll be happy to sell you. Your house value just went up [& my OCD is satisfied] ;)
    – Tetsujin
    May 3 at 16:54
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    Great answer, I'd triple +1 just for informing me of the woodworking sister site! May 4 at 16:13
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That style of door lock is a "rim lock". You can still get them today. If they are old and worn out, go to a good hardware store, and find new replacements.

It's got to be better replacing only the locks, rather than ripping out authentic period features from your home and replacing them with cheap modern doors that won't be as good quality.

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If you really want to replace them, the process would be:

  1. get the new locksets and door knobs
  2. buy a jig to help install the new ones, but be sure it's a high quality jig. I bought a cheap plastic one and it was pretty sketchy.
  3. remove the existing hardware
  4. Depending upon where the new hole needs to go, you may need to clamp on a thin piece of wood that you can drill thru and guide the hole saw.
  5. using the jig, drill into the side of the door for the latch mechanism. You'll probably have to mortise to ensure it's mounting plate is flush. Mark it carefully and use a sharp chisel.
  6. install everything and you're done, but be prepared, this will be some real work.

IMHO, I like the looks of the old hardware and replacement hardware (new) that might be a direct fit is available, you'll have to do some searching, but it's out there. If you find it, it would be a lot less work that replacing with modern hardware.

If you do decide to replace everything, don't just toss the old hardware, you might be able to sell it on EBAY.

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Don't:

Those doors are probably a little thinner than modern doors Wood quality appears to be excellent, but you probably don't have enough width in the door to drill out a hole for an interior door latch/strike, and even if you did, it would probably weaken the door enough to break it.

There are basically only a few different styles of lock: rim locks, locks where the cylinder is on the doorknob, and mortise locks. The builders used rim locks because the doors are thin, and rim locks are very easy to install.

You will probably have to use a rim lock anyway unless you feel like replacing all of your doors, rehanging them all, repainting, and installing new door hardware. So I'd consider shopping for rim locks, but otherwise I'd just leave them alone.

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  • Downvoted for suggesting that a new hole is going to weaken a _ solid wood _ door, enough to break it!! May 5 at 17:04
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    @MikeBrockington It's thickness rather than width that's the issue. The door is solid wood, but could be half the thickness of a "regular" door. Trying to fit a standard latch inside a thin door could weaken it enough to break - if it's even thick enough to drill out a hole for the latch to begin with.
    – ArmanX
    May 5 at 19:12
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    Maybe "crack" or "split" would be a better term than "break".
    – Kevin
    May 5 at 20:12
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    I'd be as concerned about a modern lock set not having enough adjustability to accommodate a thinner door. After a 3rd reread, I understand that the concern is drilling the hole in the door edge for the latch to go through might not leave enough wood around the latch to fully support it. After the door slams shut a few times, it could literally tear the latch through the side of the door. A valid point.
    – FreeMan
    May 6 at 13:50
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the keys are lost. I don't know how I can get keys to fit these locks.

Any competent UK locksmith will almost certainly be able to make a key to fit. They can also rearrange the order of the levers inside so that old keys no longer work. I had that done for some old 5-lever mortice locks, I suspect it should be possible for any common rim lock, even older ones. They should also be able to clean and lubricate the lock's internal parts.

If you don't want the lock, don't scrap it, sell it on eBay and let it live again with someone who appreciates old locks.

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If you really want to put new lock furniture in those doors then I would fill the old holes with dowel glued in and then refinish.

However, if you want to keep the period look then checking out the second hand places selling that sort of thing may help.

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There are companies that make period reproductions of door hardware like that. They look the same, but the mechanisms are modern. One I've used in the past is Rejuvenation. Another source is Van Dyke's. I realize these aren't in the UK, but I'm sure you can find the equivalent there.

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If this is an exterior door:

The problem with these old style doors is that the panels (blue arrow) are very thin. They're recessed inside the thickness of the door.

enter image description here

This makes them quite fragile, and they can be easily broken in a few seconds with a good kick:

enter image description here

After this, the burglar will grab the handle and open the door, or just crawl through the hole. In this case, it's better to change the door. It would be a waste of time and money to fit a secure lock on a door that can be broken with a kick. If it is too thin, you can resell the door and install a more modern one. In this case, the four panels are not recessed inside the thickness of the door, they're simply pieces of MDF glues on. So they stick out instead of reducing the thickness. It looks surprisingly similar.

If this is an interior door:

You can fit a modern lock, but that goes inside the thickness of the door, so it requires work with a router, and it would definitely look out of place. These old doors look best with the assorted locks and knobs.

The first thing to do would be to check if the locks still work properly. If they do not, you can take them apart, clean the inside, grease it, etc. It's a pretty simple mechanism, but be careful, the spring will probably jump out at your face when you open it.

While you're at it, you can clean the lock cases and perhaps paint them, if you don't like black, or just remove the white paint stuck on the sides.

Once that's done, you can fit them back and make sure the door closes well and stays closed. This might require sanding off a few coats of paint in the hinge, or adjusting the strike with an angle grinder or file to make sure the bolt slides in nicely. This is not difficult to do, I've done it plenty of times.

If the lock is busted, you can buy new replacements with the same (or almost the same) shape, so you don't have to drill new holes.

Then replace the ugly bakelite handle with something more appropriate, and you're done.

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    From the OP: "I am referring to the doors for the rooms inside the house.". I think it's safe to say these are interior doors.
    – FreeMan
    May 4 at 11:24
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    OK, I read it too fast
    – bobflux
    May 4 at 11:56
  • When I bought the house, there were no keys for the internal door locks. May 4 at 14:05
  • Here's an example of modern lock that would probably fit. You can probably find the same stuff in your country...
    – bobflux
    May 4 at 14:54
  • Aha! The shop I linked above has branches in the UK. It's a Dutch company. Anyway, if you're in Europe (or close enough) you'll have no trouble finding as plenty of people have the same problem, so there are modern locks to solve it. I hope they fit! You can take one lock out of the door, and bring it to the shop. Or take a piece of tough cardboard and mark the holes for your locks, then use that to find one that fits.
    – bobflux
    May 4 at 16:45

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