How to Install a New Door Knob and Deadbolt

February 27, 2013 | by Ethan (email) |

One of the questions readers are repeatedly asking us is how to install a door knob and deadbolt. Fortunately, replacing existing door hardware is an easy project because you don’t have to worry about mortising the door or door jamb (like you would for a first-time installation). Swapping in a new knob or deadbolt can be done in as little as 15 minutes if you know what you’re doing. I tackled this project last weekend, and I took a lot of pictures so you can know what to expect when you change out your hardware.

Remove the Old Knob or Deadbolt

Removing the old hardware is usually a simple process. Most manufacturers will have two screws that are accessible on the interior assembly. After you back those out, the interior and exterior assemblies can be removed. I’ve seen an older Schlage deadbolt that required the key to be turned part way before you could access the screws, and sometimes there are hidden releases or covers that conceal the fasteners. The latch or deadbolt is commonly secured with two screws into the end of the door. After you remove those, the latch should slide free.

New Hardware

I’ve found it helpful to purchase new locks of the same brand as the old one to better avoid problems with hole size/ spacing. No matter what, here are some questions you should be able to answer:

  • does the door have one hole or two?
  • what is the backset (distance from the edge of the door to the center of the hole)? The backset usually measures 2-3/8″ or 2-3/4″.
  • if it’s a two hole door, what is the distance between the center of the two holes?
  • if installing a deadbolt, what is the hole diameter? It’s usually 1-1/2″ or 2-1/8″.

Make sure the new hardware will work with the holes in your door, otherwise you’ll be making another trip to the home improvement center.

The pictures below show a Kwikset deadbolt and door knob. The process to install a Schlage or other competitors product is very similar.

Changing a Deadbolt

Deadbolts will have a “this end up” arrow (or even the word) stamped on the side that will let you know how it should be oriented, and many can be adjusted for either backset distance. For instance, on the deadbolt below, it’s a simple matter of rotating the face of the deadbolt to the other position.

Once you have the deadbolt screwed in, slide the outer cylinder in place. That metal collar should only be used for 2-1/8″ holes. Discard it if the hole diameter is 1-1/2″. The rod that extends through the latch is asymmetrical so it only fits one way (the correct way).

The inner assembly goes on with the silver-colored piece underneath, and it’s all held together with two long screws. If there’s a faceplate, that snaps on next.

Kwikset often secures the thumb turn with a tiny set screw. Schlage keeps everything together as one piece and eliminates this step, but you’ll be able to see the screw heads. The last step for installing a deadbolt is to put the new strike plate on the door jamb.

Installing a Door Knob

The steps to install a new door knob aren’t very different from a deadbolt. Start with setting the backset on the latch. Unlike a deadbolt, this is usually accomplished by flipping a pin to the correct position. When you put the latch into the door, make sure the face hits the strike plate and not the other way around.

Put the outside knob on, feeding the rod through the latch.

Now, slide the inside knob on and tighten down the two screws. Unlike the deadbolt, Kwikset keeps these screws easily accessible. Finish it off by installing the new strike plate on the door jamb.

Kwikset offers re-keying technology (see link in related content section) that should help keep all your locks on one key. That’s another reason to select one manufacturer and stick with them because Kwikset and Schlage keys are not interchangeable.

Editors Note: Schlage has dicontinued its SecureKey technology that enabled homeowners to re-key locks. However, Schlage will continue to provide customer support and honor warranties on SecureKey locks.

48 Responses
  1. modernhousewife says:

    This is very timely for us since we’re right about to change our locks on our new house… I was thinking of getting a deadbolt for the top, and a long handle for the bottom (so there would only be 1 lock, the dead bolt) but I can’t figure out how easy it would be to add the 3rd hold for the handle… did you consider that? Any ideas?

    • Ethan says:

      It’s very easy. Usually it’s just a matter of drilling a 3/8″ hole, and they new handle should have a template. Schlage even gives you a little wiggles room b/c that bolt is (slightly) adjustable up and down. I’d suggest drilling from both sides to avoid any splintering.

    • Fred says:

      New House?! Congrats! What are did ya’ll move to? (For those of you who didn’t know, modernhousewife lived in our little community for years!)

      • Beth says:

        We’re over in Elkridge now. Sad to leave the neighborhood, but glad for a bigger house! We are renting the Marshs Victory house! 🙂

  2. Icarus says:

    I need to do this on my mom’s house. unfortunately I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the problem…I think her door jam is so worn that we cannot screw in a new bolt feed. Gonna need a carpenter and a new door installed.

    • Ethan says:

      You might want to try something like “plastic wood” filler to repair the door. It becomes very hard and will hold a screw. You can even prime and paint it to match.

  3. Jake says:

    I too will be doing this in the next few weeks with our new house. I have a buddy in training to be a locksmith so I’m going to let him re-key them all the same. If you guys think it would be useful, I will take a bunch of pics when he does it and write up a tutorial of some sorts.

    • Ethan says:

      I think that’d be awesome! It would be very cool to see how he disassembles the locks and changing the pins. Send it my way when you can.

      • byeedo says:

        When I changed the locks on my house I used the Schlage locks with SecureKey so I could re-key all the locks to one key. Carrying one key rather than three is much more convenient. When I went with my brother-in-law to get a few sets for his house they said they didn’t make those locks anymore. Although we were disappointed the store employee re-keyed the new locks for us. It was pretty cool to watch him do it. It finally took the mystery out of how it’s done.

  4. William says:

    Was there any trouble getting the knob plate’s screws tight with a normal length screwdriver? Looking at the picture, it looks like an offset screwdriver might fit behind the knob and engage the screw head better than a traditionally shafted screwdriver at an angle.

    I must also mention to readers that both of those locks are useless on a home with glass sidelights or a large glass panel in the door. If someone can simply break glass and reach your deadbolt knob inside, you need a double-keyed deadbolt. There are disadvantages to them if you’re trying to get out in a hurry, but if you’re trying to KEEP people out, it’s the right way to lock your doors.

    • Paul&Aundrea says:

      That’s a good tip I never thought about. My mom is on the end of building a new home and her door has the glass panel. She bought one of the deadbolts with a key pad. I don’t know a lot about those, but are they like regular deadbolts that open from the inside just by turning them?

      • Ethan says:

        I’ve installed two of them (Kwikset and Schlage) and both of them had a thumb-turn on the inside. Check out the Related Content section for links.

    • Ethan says:

      It was a little bit of an odd angle but they’re good and tight. An offset screwdriver (or something similar) would have been good, but I didn’t want to go hunting.

  5. Ashley says:

    We just moved so my husband actually just did this recently. We had to actually drill into the door to install the deadbolts because none of the doors in the house had deadbolts when we moved in. He wrote a post about it on our blog last week.

    • Ethan says:

      That’s a great post! I’ve found that a palm router is really useful for cutting out the area for the face plate and strike plate. It gives you really nice looking edges.

      • rjt36 says:

        Agreed. Having a router makes prepping doors for hardware extremely easy it saves money.

        Instead of having to buy pre-hungs, you can get slab doors. The cost saving is significant. Sure, you can cut for hinges and strikes with a razor knife and chisel, but the router and template makes it quick and easy. It also makes for a much cleaner finished product. I just replaced 4 interior doors a few hours. It would have been even faster if my circular saw battery kept a charge.

  6. MissFixIt says:

    Did this install with the kwikset door handles I bid on in the rewards center. Extremely easy. Replaced 26 year old Builders handle sets that were tarnished and loose.

    Only grip was our key was too thick to re-key it with this lock set. I’m not sure about key thickness as our front door lock set(builders too). Not sure what type of key(thickness) Kwikset uses but my key was not working with it. So I ended up using the key they offered. Another key on my Janitor looking keychain.

    • Fred says:

      Since installing the combo-lock model that Schlage sent us a while back, I’ve completely abandoned by house key. I’m down to just my office key, my parents’ house key, and the fob for the car…. Love how much less is on my keychain these days.

      • William says:

        What’s the chance of failure of the keypad, and how would you get around that without the key? The problem with electronic keypads on safes and vault doors is that they eventually fail. All of them. Some more often. It costs a lot of money for a locksmith to open a safe with a keypad failure.

        • modernhousewife says:

          I think there’s a benefit with the keypad for kids — then you don’t have to worry about them losing the key. Also, I like it that now that my car has keyless entry, if my house is on a keypad, I don’t have to find my keys (even if the back up key is on my key ring somewhere in my purse).

        • MissFixIt says:

          William I think most keypads for the door have the key hole too. Just the keypad is there for kids or you if you dont want to struggle finding a key in the dark.

        • William says:

          I do understand that, but Fred said he doesn’t carry the key anymore.

        • Fred says:

          It’s a good question, but I think a pretty low risk. Our garage is also on a keypad, so in order for me to get truly locked out, the batteries would have to die while the power is out. And even then, I’m pretty sure I could break into our house pretty easily if I had to… Also, We don’t have the post up anymore, but Ethan’s become an expert lock picker… I’m pretty sure he could get in at another entrance if necessary.

        • William says:

          I do vaguely remember reading that article about basic lockpicking or something. It is a good skill to have, so long as you don’t use it for nefarious means. I wish I had a pick set sometimes. I don’t know how many residential fire alarms I’ve been to that were the result of faulty alarm systems while the homeowners weren’t home. It’d be nice to be able to get in to look around without breaking a door frame or glass. Some of us have shove knives, but they’re useless if a deadbolt is locked.

  7. easy peasy lemon squeezy.

  8. modernhousewife says:

    Ok, so do you guys have an affiliation link I can go to to buy a kwikset combo handleset lock? I think you should get credit when I purchase it ! 🙂

    • Ethan says:

      Thanks for offering, but I’d just say buy ’em at the local HD or Lowe’s. Your comments are payment enough! Oh, and tell all your friends about us.

  9. HANDYMAN51 says:

    Found the backset measurement description very helpful. I also share the concern that William had re: breaking glass, turning the deadbolt knob. I believe I’ve heard that double- keyed deadbolts are not allowed some places due to fire codes. It is also not uncommon for people to leave the key in the deadbolt inside- not much of a crime deterrent if the door has a glass panel. In the panic of trying to escape a burning home, it’s important to think about the difficulty of using a key, especially for kids. That’s why I’d rather have a door without glass panels OR sidelights.

  10. frazzled5 says:

    Thanks for sharing the tutorial, looks like something I could do.

  11. shawn says:

    is the dead bolt hole the same is the door handle hole or are they different sizes from the edge of the door to the beginning of the hole are they the same??????

  12. shawn says:

    is the dead bolt holds the same as the door handle hold where are and from the edge of the door to be getting a whole body deadlock in the door handle the same they different is there any difference for dead bolt hole in a door in a handle hola door

  13. poiboybf says:

    It’s funny I have done this task many times as a self-taught DIYer, but I had never considered the backset before. I guess all the doors I have done this on were whichever backset is more common. Which is the default setting that they all come with preset in the package?

    • NicF says:

      All the locksets I have installed have been set to 2 3/8 out of the package, as it takes up less space within the packaging.

      • poiboybf says:

        Yeah that makes sense. Good to know that it can be changed. I had just never run into a problem before, so hadn’t even explored the possibility. I should have known that one universal industry standard was just a little too convenient. 🙂

  14. Joe says:

    here is a fun question… how do you change the lock when the lock wont retract (its broken!!).
    Answer, take the pins off the door and hope you have enough room to push the whole thing past the hinges so you can replace the bolt.

  15. bigredmachine says:

    again you make it look so easy. How about an article on replacing enterior doors as I am looking to upgrade my fsmooth finish doors with paneled ones..

  16. Joe says:

    I wish I could have the two keys I use most match, but they dont, and never will, because the patio door key has an extra pin, and I understand that using the longer key in the shorter lock is generally a bad idea.

  17. trebor says:

    The timing on this repost is great…I just moved into a house as well and bought the Schlage rekey kit from Home Depot. Sadly I haven’t gotten around to actually using it yet, haha. $12 for DIY or $70 for a pro…easy decision.

    Also, the link for the Schlage rekey instructions is broken

  18. jim cook says:

    took the dead bolt lock off to paint door.put it back together but the handle will not turn even in the unlocked position

  19. Sibyl Gordy says:

    I took deadbolt lock out and when I try to fit the new cylinder back through the hole I am stumped! My door has a burglar proof price of metal that is made into door and I can’t get the peice that should fit on outside of door past that. This peice is designed where the outside screws on the jam can’t be forced open by an intruder.

  20. Sibyl Gordy says:

    My question got entered as a response. Do I need to put it in again?

  21. Sibyl Gordy says:

    I took deadbolt lock out and when I try the new lock the new cylinder won’t fit the hole because of the flat peice that holds the screws can’t get by a safety peice of metal. My door is a burglar proof door designed to keep burglar from putting score driver in to force open. I am stuck trying to figure out what to do. This peice in made in the door.

  22. Oralene H Smith says:

    I always love reading about how to install a door knob. It sounds so easy. Why then do I struggle with putting the two screws that connect the two sides of the door knob. If I manage to get a screw in correctly, I can’t celebrate, because I know the next one won’t go in without a real struggle, and that comes after a long break, or after I ask a friend for help.

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