Why Keep Your Older Doors?
Want to change a mortise knob set to cylinder style? I’ll talk about that here.
Some people prefer the solid wood doors of yesterday to hollow Masonite sawdust-made doors of newer homes, even million-dollar homes. The new doors resemble the raised panel doors that were being made at the turn of last century, but they are of course, fake. This construction technique, however, is still being used for high-end cabinet doors today. They were called rail and style doors, and were made of solid wood.
The question many people have is, can I keep my doors and just change the mortise knob set to the cylinder style in use today?
As you may know, the new doors are flimsy and can be easily damaged. It’s is not uncommon to find holes knocked in the thin sheathing with which they’re covered. I can’t think of an advantage of having the fake style doors, maybe you can. If so, please leave them in the comment section below.
Change or Keep Original Style Lock Set
If you have real wood doors in your older home, why would you want to switch to the new doors? Well, people sometimes switch them out to get away from a latching mechanism that is no longer working. You see, the mechanical assembly that fits inside the door is dissimilar to what is readily available today. And they are in no way interchangeable.
You can still find the old-style lock mechanisms online though, and they’re not all really expensive, but most are. I found one at the Home Depot website by searching for, “Victorian Glass Knob Mortise Set”. But it is an older looking style too, and you’ll have to be happy with whatever you can find there.
Also, sometimes the old lock mechanism has been painted over, or the handles are falling off. However, if the older door is still in good condition, maybe we can still save it. So, can we just change the old style knob set to modern style?
Change mortise knob set to cylinder style
So, the alternative that I’m going to tell you about is how you can switch out the old-style mortise knob set for the new cylinder style one. It takes a little bit of time, effort and patience, but it’s very doable. So, I’m going to explain that procedure for you step by step, so that you’ll see light at the end of the tunnel.
When you pull out the old door mechanism, you’ll see that a large rectangular sized hole will be left, which needs to be filled. If it were a neat ¾ inch width, you could just stuff a piece of 1 x board in there, that would be nice. But it’s not.
So, you have to fit pieces of boards in the hole, one at a time, and glue them in there. Then wait for the glue to dry. If it ends up just a little too high it can be sanded down with an orbital sander. But it might be better to leave it just a little too low, and then build it up with some good two-part wood putty. The putty is way easier to sand. This stuff dries quick and can be sanded in 15 minutes.
I would probably use my table saw to cut an exact size piece, but you’d need a table saw for that.
Install New Lock Set
Now what you have is like a blank door, without holes drilled, from the home center. All you have to do is drill a 2 ¼ inch hole, with a hole saw, for the new knob/lock mechanism. Then drill a 1-inch hole in from the door end for the new latch insert. The two hole’s center lines should line up nearly exactly. This can be easily accomplished with the help of a small square called a speed square.
The final step would be to mortise out the seat for that door latch mechanism, as it needs to be recessed into the door. That can be accomplished by tracing around the latch inset, then notching it out with a wood chisel. Now put on the handle and you’re almost done.
Lastly, you’ll line up the center of latch with where you want the striker plate located on the door jam. Again, trace the plate and notch it out, and you’re done.
The end result provides the simplicity of a modern doorknob with the quality and durability of the solid wood door. The process takes several hours for the glue to dry so it can be filled, sanded and painted. It may cost $100 to adapt a new doorknob to an old door but in the end, it is still worth it. It’s a cost savings compared with buying and installing a new door.
So, I guess it’s really not that hard to change an old style knob set to a modern style one.
Let’s talk about it
I’ll help you get through it if you get stuck, just leave a comment below. Give me a call if you’re not comfortable with the job, and I’ll be more than happy to help. But, if you were successful, I’d like to hear about that too in a comment below. Also, leave a comment below if you think a video on this subject would be helpful to you, and I might try to shoot one for you.
You can also see my Repairs page for other things I may be able to do for you.