Door Handles and Locks

Door handles and locks take a lot of wear and tear over time, especially in high-traffic rooms such as bathrooms. You'll often be able to fix the problem by tightening screws or lubricating the handle or lock mechanism. When this won't work, however, it's still a straightforward task to replace the handle or lock, as long as you choose a replacement that fits the door.

Replacing a Door Handle

To remove the handle, unscrew the screws from the faceplate. This is easier if you hold the handle still on the opposite side of the door. If you can't see the faceplate screws, you'll need to remove the setscrew or release the spring catch (by inserting a small screwdriver into the slot or hole) that's located on the stem of the door handle. Pull the handle away from the door. You'll see the long spindle or the latch assembly that threads through the bolt mechanism and connects the two sides of the handle.

Remove any screws still holding the handle in place. You'll then be able to pull apart the two sides of the handle, leaving the bolt mechanism in place (notice the hole in the bolt mechanism through which the spindle passes).

To remove the bolt mechanism, unscrew the metal latch plate that surrounds it in the edge of the door. You should be able to pull it out, but if the door has been painted, you may need to first break the seal by running a utility knife around the edge of the plate.

Replace the bolt mechanism, sliding the new bolt into place in the old hole. Screw the latch plate into place. (If the old screw holes are stripped, you'll need to repair them as you would for door hinge screws in Chapter 3).

To install the new handle, follow the instructions included with it. Essentially, you'll be reversing the process you followed to remove the old one. Pass the spindle or the latch assembly back through the bolt mechanism so that the two halves of the door handle attach to each other (usually via long screws on one half of the handle that fit into screw housings on the other half). Replace the faceplate and screws as required.

Door handles use either a square spindle or a latch assembly that passes through the bolt mechanism to connect the two sides of the handles and to operate the bolt.

Loose Door Handles

The most common cause of loose handles is when the screws in one side of the handle work loose from the screw housing in the other half of the handle. Tighten the screws with a screwdriver while holding on to the handle on the opposite side of the door.

If the screws are secure and the door handle is still loose, remove the door handle. If the inner workings are broken, you'll need to replace it. If not, make sure that the spindle or latch assembly that runs between the two halves of the door handle is centered evenly in the door, with the same amount extending toward both halves; then reattach the door handle.

When you're reattaching a lockable door handle on an interior door, remember that the room's occupants need to be able to lock the door-reattach the door handle so that the lock side faces into the room.

Keeping Handles and Locks Moving Freely

Door handles that aren't moving freely need lubrication, Remove the door handle, and spray penetrating oil on all the moving parts. If the handle has a keyhole for the lock, do not spray the oil into the keyhole. Reattach the door handle, Keep locks in good working order with an annual application of graphite powder. Buy squeezable tubes or bottles that will spray the powder into the keyhole, or run a pencil over the teeth of a key and work the lock several times with the key.

To handle a bolt that's sticking, try removing and lubricating the handle. Also loosen the screws that hold the handle's faceplate to the door a little to see if that solves the problem. Check the latch plate, to make sure that it hasn't shifted into the bolt's path.

Freeing Stuck Keys

Having a key break off in a lock can be a major inconvenience. If you can see the key, you may be able to wiggle it free by grasping it with a pair of long-nose pliers. You may also be able to pull out the pieces using a straightened paper clip or a tool called a key extractor.

If this doesn't work, try unscrewing the lock from the door, taking it apart, and pushing the key pieces out. Unfortunately, this is your last resort before calling in a locksmith or replacing the lock (which is also necessary if the key is moving in the lock, but no longer operating it).

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