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Restoring and Replacing Old Door Hardware

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Old doors often outlast the door's hardware. These tips are helpful to keep in mind when replacing and repairing locks, sashes, handles and other hardware.

Old solid wood doors are usually a wonderful combination of functionality and aesthetics.
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Ornate exterior and interior doors have become focal points in many older homes, as evidenced by the amount of rehabbing and restoration that has taken place in the last few years.

But while homeowners often pay great attention to the wood finish on a door, they often forsake the door's hardware.

Despite the rich detail often found on older hardware, it can loose its luster and its functionality over the years when covered by paint and varnish, grime and moisture.

The hardware on often-used doors and windows may even lose it radiance just from being handled over several decades.

Often times, pieces of door hardware can also be missing, or the hardware might have been "modernized" with materials that don't match up to the rest of the home's decor.

In addition, the locking hardware on older exterior doors is usually less than adequate, requiring some sort of upgrade.

But restoring or replacing door hardware is going to take more effort than a trip to the home improvement store.

The problem is that door hardware - now universal sizes - used to come in different sizes.


The hardware on interior doors can be restored or replaced in a number of ways, both mechanically and aesthetically.

If a doorknob and latch is not functioning, they may have been painted shut. Remove the hardware from the door and then remove the paint with paint stripper.

While removed, carefully take apart the latch casing and clean and oil the pieces. That may also free up any sticky pieces.

If the doorknob still doesn't function properly when reinstalled on the door, pieces may need to be rebuilt. That type of work is usually best done by a locksmith, starting at about a cost of $25.

If your brass hardware is simply worn and dull, clean it. Disassemble the hardware, put it in a plastic bucket and cover it with a strong ammonia - the type from a hardware store - and an equal amount of boiling water.

Let the pieces soak for a while, remove them and give them a light polishing with some fine steel wool and brass polish.

There are also a number of commercial cleaners and polishes available on the market for cleaning up old hardware.

Another way of bringing new life to the old hardware is replating it with brass or another finish at a metal finisher or replater shop. This is a fairly expensive procedure that may costs as much as buying new decorative pieces.

An inexpensive way to perk up hardware is to switch the backs and fronts of the door hardware around.


There are several ways to replace the missing hardware.

First, you can buy new pieces at stores specializing in decorative hardware. To best find a replacement piece, bring along any existing pieces, a tracing of the holes in the door and even a picture of the door.

You can also scour the local salvage houses for actual antique pieces that may match up or come close.

Finally, you can also "rob Peter to pay Paul" by switching pieces from the inside of the door to the outside.


Outside of the sash cords, pulleys and hidden weights, old double-hung window hardware is fairly simple to restore or replace.

The lifts, the handle used to raise and lower windows - are usually held on by four screws. The sash locks, which lock the top and bottom sashes and prevent the window from opening, are also held on by four screws.

Older windows may also have a window lock attached to the frame that allows a window to only open to a certain height. Again, it is attached by screws.

You can first try to bring new life to the old hardware by cleaning and polishing the pieces via the methods described above. Or, you can have the pieces refinished or replated.

You can also replace the pieces. Lifts and sash locks are available at most home improvement store and start at about one dollar. Home improvement stores usually have a limited amount of finishes, however, and new pieces may not match with the patina of your home's existing fixtures.

Again, you may need to visit a decorative hardware store to find a more appropriate replacement piece.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. June 20, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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