I have a very old door with a very old lock, pictured here:

Photo of door

It doesn't close because the previous owner stuck some wood in the latch, and there doesn't seem to be any place for the lock. I'd like to replace this, but I'm not sure if it will be possible. The screws on the face plate are painted over, and it seems to be pretty far in there, and the strike plate is totally painted over.

Will it be possible to replace this with a more modern door handle? Any ideas? Thanks!

  • It looks like an interior door, does it need to lock?
    – Jack
    Oct 11, 2015 at 0:28
  • 1
    Yeah, I live with some roommates so I'd like to have a privacy lock.
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:00
  • Good to know, various parts of my answer below covers that, the rebuilding, or the link that directs you to a latch set with a keyed lock.
    – Jack
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:18

6 Answers 6


How can I remove a Mortise Lock and deadbolt from a door?

The paint's no problem. Cut around the door knob escutcheon with a sharp utility knife, so it doesn't rip chunks of paint off the door. Do this anywhere there's paint-glue holding in metal parts. Scrape the paint out of the groves in the tips of the flat head screws using a screwdriver or the knife if you have to.

How do I replace mortise locks with bored cylindrical locks?

That post says don't. Replace it with another mortise lock. Other posts mention having a hard time finding a match for their hardware, you might want to see if you can get yours working again.

  • Thank you! Would I use a utility knife to cut out the Mortise lock if necessary as well? or the covered keyhole?
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:26
  • @user44457 - Yes, you want it as freed up as possible. With that much paint, it's liable to take chunks out of the door along with it, if you don't. Just be careful with that knife, yo. You can also use it loosen the keyhole cover; here's some tips for finding keys.
    – Mazura
    Oct 11, 2015 at 3:29
  • Awesome, I'll give it a shot. Thanks so much!
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 7:21

You can score the paint with a knife edge or screwdriver corner, then chip/dig the excess paint away, to free things up.

The thing below the knob, before it was painted in place, is the keyhole cover. It's supposed to swivel to the side. This is almost certainly a bit key lock with just a few levers; a good locksmith could get it all working again and give you an appropriate key if you want to maintain the history. For security you might want to mount a deadbolt higher on the door, with a modern cylinder and key.

If you want to replace this old mortise lock set, there are a few choices. It's going yo be hard but not impossible to fit a modern mortise lockset into the mortise cavity. Or you could fill the mortise by gluing in one or more appropriately sized blocks of wood, drill the repaired door, and mount a tubular-style knobset, which is the type most commonly used today, optionally mounting a deadbolt over it.

Or you could retire and replace this door.

  • Fantastic, thanks for your answer. I never put 2 and 2 together to realize that was a keyhole cover. It seems like it's painted over, but if I score it, I should be able to uncover the keyhole, right? Would the cost for a locksmith to get this working and provide a key be under $150, do you reckon?
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:28
  • Also, interestingly enough, I just looked at my door again and found that someone did put a deadbolt in there, and then took it out and painted over the hole - there's this crease there where the deadbolt used to be on both the door and the frame.
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:29

Unless you really want a new door latch these type of locks can be rebuilt by a lock smith, perhaps much cheaper than hiring a carpenter to fill the door in to install a standard modern knob, off the shelf of the local hardware store. Mortise locks are still made and there may be a chance to find one that will replace the original, but that will take research.

Here is a latch set that may come close to an outright replacement, but more would need to be known about your door that the picture does not show to know for sure.

  • Ah, so that's what they're called - Mortise locks! Good to know. After doing some research, I'm having a hard time finding one that matches my particular dimensions of the face plate – 6.5" by 1". Most locks I'm seeing are 5.5" by 7/8". I don't see any identifying characteristics on this lock - any tips on how to go about researching this?
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:24
  • When the latchset is removed there is sometimes an embossed name on the side of the latch body
    – Jack
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:30
  • Corbin, Schlage, Baldwin, Yale, among others are long time makers of this type of lock
    – Jack
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:31
  • Awesome, I'll take a look. Thanks so much for your help.
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 7:20
  • The backset, the distance from the edge of the door to the center line of the handle is a dimension that is important. I found a few that are close to the faceplate size you need..
    – Jack
    Oct 11, 2015 at 16:12

Possible?, yes. Might it be hard work?, also yes.

Painted over is a solvable problem, but it will involve getting the paint out of the slots of the screws, and cutting or breaking the paint film sticking the wood to the metal. Paint can be removed, so do that.

If you remove the door you may be able to have someone less daunted by it work on it in their shop, rather than calling them out to your house to deal with it. If you wrote appearing more daunted than you actually are, then start scraping paint out of the screw slots, and use a good screwdriver that fits the slots well to remove the screws.

  • Definitely a bit daunted by this since I'm not very good at DIY, but it looks like the door hinge itself is painted in, so I guess I'll be working with the door. Do you reckon it will be enough to remove just the paint from the screws? Is there a good chance it will come out even though the lock is painted on at the edges too?
    – user44457
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:30
  • Not much paint on the lock to hold it, and if you remove the two screws and one doorknob (and pull ouf the shaft with the other doorknob) it should pop right out with minimal fuss, and no need to mess with the painted over hardware on the face until you get it working and need to open the keyhole cover (which you could work on freeing up while the mechanism is at the locksmith's)
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 11, 2015 at 4:26

Getting that lock out, keyed, and replaced may be a lot of trouble, maybe you could just install a surface deadbolt (under $20) instead? They are not real secure but sounds like it would be good enough in this situation.


If you want to switch lock styles, plan to switch doors as well. It looks like you could just pull the wood out and the latch will work again. To add lock function, just cut/mortise out a hole in the frame the same size and placement as the deadbolt. If you can find an appropriate plate for the door frame even better. If you were dead set on changing lock/knob styles, you would probably need to cut bigger knob holes, and then fill in the space left by the mortise lock. Getting it done well will be rather difficult. You'd also need to cut a new latch hole in the frame and properly install a new plate.

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