How to Fix an Old Doorknob That Sticks

How to Fix an Old Doorknob That Sticks
Photo: Sengchoy Int, Shutterstock

A sticky door knob might not be the most pressing update your home needs, but fixing it can improve your quality of life every day. As hardware ages, knobs can come loose or develop other problems that prevent the latch from engaging or disengaging when you turn them. Although the inner workings of a door latch can seem enigmatic and mysterious, they’re actually pretty simple to fix.

Where to start

The most useful tool in door knob repair and installation is a flathead screwdriver. (You might need a Phillips head driver if your hardware is newer.) Depending on the type of problem, there are a few different things you can try, from tightening up loose screws to replacing parts — but first you’ll need to determine the source of your trouble.

Inspect your hardware

Start by inspecting the latch hardware. Locate the set screws that are at the base of the knob, near where it joins to the door. It’s usually a relatively small flathead screw. Check to see if the set screw on either side of your door is tight. If it’s loose, try tightening it up. Test your knob to see it works better. If it does, then you’ve solved your problem. (Congratulations!) If not, go ahead and loosen one of the set screws and the knob should slide right off. Once that’s done, you can slide the knob and shaft out from the opposite side of the door.

Rotate your spindle

Now that the knob is clear, take a look at the spindle, or the four-sided shaft that goes through the door when the handle is in place. If there are wear marks on it, you might be able to rotate the knob to the other side of the shaft to fix the knob. If it looks like the metal of the spindle is dented or pitted, you can try putting the doorknob back through the door and simply tightening your set screw onto a different face of the shaft. Did that work? If not, a little more investigation is in order.

Replace your set screws

Perhaps one (or both) of your set screws is worn down to the point that that it doesn’t hold the knob on the shaft securely. These should be pretty easy to replace. There are lots of suppliers online that sell replacement doorknob set screws, also known as grub screws. You may also be able to find them at your local hardware store. If you think your set screws are the issue, replacing them should cost less than $US5 ($7). If you are still experience problems after this fix, there are still a few more simple things to try.

Replace your spindle

If your knob’s spindle is rounded due to wear over time, it won’t fit snugly in the square hole known as a hub, and it won’t be able to turn the latch. If that’s the part that’s giving you trouble, it’s not hard to replace. You can also get these at pretty much any hardware store or online. You simply loosen both set screws, remove the knobs, attach one knob, replace the spindle in the hub, and reattach your second knob. If this makes your latch turn, you’ve fixed it.

Check your latch plate

If you’ve tried these tricks and you’re still not getting results, take a look at the latch plate on the doorframe. If it’s loose, try tightening it up. You can also try shutting the door to see if the latch bolts, or if the part of the latch that protrudes from the door lines up with the latch plate vertically. If it’s a little off, you can try unscrewing the latch plate and moving it up or down to line it up before screwing it back in. A lot of latch plates leave a little bit of space to slide. Once things are lined up, it should latch without issue. But if not…

Install a new doorknob

If none of these fixes work, maybe it’s time to buy a doorknob kit at the hardware store. Luckily, installation is pretty simple. Remove the knob as previously instructed, and then unscrew and remove the plate that goes against the edge of the door. You will then be able to remove the old hardware and install the new hardware by reversing the process. Check the labels on the new hardware to make sure it’s the same type as the old one. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to bring the old hardware to the store with you for comparison. And with that, you’ll finally be able to close the door on another successful home repair.

 

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