Last Updated on May 13, 2020 by Dave Farquhar
When you buy a new doorknob, they almost always have a rectangular faceplate on the mechanism. In some older houses, the doorknobs just have small, round faceplates, or no faceplate at all. Here’s how to change or remove a doorknob faceplate so a new doorknob fits without you having to mortise the door.
To change or remove a doorknob faceplate, you literally pry the faceplate off with a screwdriver. The trick is just knowing where to pry. If you’re changing a lot of doorknobs, the time you save by not having to mortise the door adds up quickly.
Changing doorknobs is a quick, cheap way to subtly improve a house’s appearance. It’s subtle because normally you don’t really notice or pay much attention to them. But if they’re dull, scratched, and worn out, they tend to call attention to themselves.
You can spend $30 and up on doorknobs but you don’t have to. The knobs that cost $8-$12 are fine.
How to change or remove a doorknob faceplate
I bought a cheap Defiant doorknob to replace a worn-out doorknob on a bedroom. Defiant is Home Depot’s house brand, and it’s not the highest quality, but for interior doors, they’re fine.
When I saw the faceplate was different, I hoped I could just use the Defiant knob with the old mechanism, but no such luck. Sometimes you can mix brands, but not this time. The old worn-out knob was made by Arrow, as best I can tell. No one near me carries that brand, so matching brands was out of the question for me. But if the knob fits the old mechanism and it’s just sticky, here’s how to fix that and save a few minutes.
While this sounds like a caveman way of doing it, all you need to remove a Defiant doorknob faceplate, or any other brand for that matter, is a standard flat-headed screwdriver.
When you look at the faceplate, you can see it’s two parts. Insert the screwdriver into the slight opening between the two parts, and pry. Repeat on the other side if you need to, and the front pops off. That’s it. Once the front half of the faceplate is off, the back half just twists or lifts off the mechanism. Easy.
You won’t be able to put the rectangular faceplate back on after you do this, but there probably won’t ever be a need to anyway.
If you want to put the round faceplate on the door, it just snaps on. On my doors, the opening isn’t big enough for the round faceplate, so I just left it off.
The new doorknob works fine, and not having to mortise the door kept it from turning into a two-hour project.
In defense of brass
As an aside, what kind of finish should you buy? The cable TV shows tell you brass is out of fashion, but there’s a very practical reason we used it throughout the 20th century. Brass has antimicrobial properties. In other words, germs don’t survive very well on brass. That’s why we’ve used it on things like doorknobs and bathroom fixtures. So even though brass doorknobs won’t win you coolness points, they can help you get sick less. To me, that’s more than worth it.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.