Design Hack: The Difference A Door Handle Can Make

Here’s a quick remodel hack that might just save you time and a bit of money.

We hear it time and time again. Homeowners dreaming of remodeling their space. Call a local contractor who finds time in their schedule to come to walk through and prepare a scope based on all of the homeowner’s hand waving. A few weeks later the proposal arrives and that’s the point where most of us realize that EVERYTHING we want? Comes at a pretty steep cost.

But that doesn’t mean there aren't ways to shave dollars off that estimate, without compromising on quality, function, and style. In the design phase of your project, you should be making some key decisions around what features you really need in your new space.

Image of bathroom door with modern door handles and hardware
Consider whether you can revive your interior and exterior doors by simply upgrading your door handles and hardware.

For one cost-effective way to make an impact, turn to your interior and exterior doors. Maybe you are planning on replacing these altogether as part of your remodel. Maybe you hadn't thought of that yet, and now realize you absolutely have to. This is likely to run you in the thousands of dollars.

Is there a world where perhaps you can get away with a leaner version of this, by just replacing door handles and hinges?

Let’s do the math. In a four-bedroom two-story home with two full bathrooms and a powder - the cost to replace all interior and exterior doors comes out to roughly $10,000 (depending of course on the price point of the materials you choose):

  • Your front door will run you roughly $2-3k depending on the style of door (and can be more than that as well if you get fancy).
  • All other exterior doors are going to run you roughly $1500 a pop; French doors are closer to $2500. From the back patio to the garage entry, let’s assume 2-3 of these.
  • 11x Interior doors including closets can come in as low as $250 per door – assuming contractor pricing – but note that choosing between materials like a hollow core or solid wood option will make a big difference here.

Total cost: $10,750

To be frank, that cost doesn’t even include the handles and hinges, which you would need to source in addition. But here's the thing, you don't need new doors to have new hardware! So before you go ahead and commit to spending that money, consider whether your current doors might live to see another day, if they just get a little makeover?

image of hinge installation
If you’re upgrading your door handles, you’ll likely want to swap out the hinges as well.

Finding great hardware at a palatable price point is pretty easy to do online these days. But there are a few things to look out for while you’re shopping.

What you need to know about the three basic “functions” of door handles or knobs:

  • Privacy knobs. This is what you would want to use for bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. Includes door lock mechanism in handle or knob.
  • Passage knobs. These are for closets, nurseries, and other pass-through doors in your home. We're talking plain door handles or knobs with no built-in locking mechanism.
  • Keyed Entry is what you will use for your exterior door handles, these pair with a deadbolt or other smart lock.

If you’re upgrading your door handles, you’ll likely want to swap out the hinges as well. Especially if you are replacing your hardware with a different finish: chrome, brass, polished nickel, etc., then you’ll want the hinges to match. Plus, nothing makes a door feel brand new like tossing out that old can of WD40.

(Actually, don’t do that; there are probably tons of places your WD40 will come in handy around the house.)

What to note when replacing hinges on existing doors: look at the size, shape, and pattern of your hinges, and note that you may need to purchase ball-bearing or spring-loaded hinges, as opposed to plain hinges for some external doors.

When replacing hinges there are a few things to look out for. First, you’ll want to note the size and shape of your existing hinges. Residential hinges will typically come in one of two sizes: 3.5 inches for interior doors, and 4-inch hinges for some exterior doors. But nothing is set in stone, so measuring your existing hinges will be key to getting this right.

As for shape, some hinges are squared, some are rounded, what is known as a “radius corner hinge” and the latter come in one of two sizes, ¼ inch or ⅝ inch. Measure from the top of the hinge to the apex of the corner edge to know what you are working with and make sure to purchase hinges that will work with the existing cutouts in your doors.

(Oh, and check ALL of them - you’re likely going to have different sizes and shapes on several of the doors in your home!)

In addition to shape, note that the type of hinge can vary depending on the door, its weight, and function. For instance, you may want to use a spring-loaded or ball-bearing hinge for certain external doors such as in the garage - check what is already installed, and use this as your guide.

The total cost to upgrade hardware across 17 doors in this four-bedroom home? Roughly $675-$700, not including labor. The difference? What feels like brand news doors that no longer need replacing, and $10,000 back in your remodel budget!

Excited to start reimagining your space today? Sign up for our free design workshop and get early access to Beam.