The Different Types Of Door Handles

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You probably handle a dozen doorknobs every day without paying much attention to them. Mostly taken for granted, there are in fact several types of doorknobs, and whether you are replacing your doors or just shopping for new handles, picking the right design and type will add a little touch of style to your room.

There are four basic types of door handles. Each has its own purpose, and each comes in many different designs.

Keyed Entrance Door Handles

These knobs require a key to unlock the door from the outside. The inside knob usually has a twisting button or lever in the center that allows you to lock the door from the inside without use of a key. This is the most common type of knob used on exterior doors that provide entry to your home, such as front or side doors. In the typical home, each keyed entrance knob is unique with its own key. However, some home or business owners prefer the convenience of using just one key to open all the doors. In this case, you can either buy new knobs and have them rekeyed to all use the same key, or if you don’t want new knobs, you can often have just the locks in your existing door handles rekeyed. Most home improvement centers or locksmiths can perform this service for you.

Dummy Knobs

These knobs are purely for decorative use and balance, and do not turn, lock or latch. They are used on double doors where one door closes into the other, such as on French doors, wardrobes or some cabinets. As it would look imbalanced to only have a knob on the dominant door, a dummy knob is used to give a finished appearance to the doorway.

Passage Knobs

These are commonly used throughout a home, anywhere that a door provides passage from one area to another, but does not require a door handle that locks. Typical rooms that would have a passage knob are closets, playrooms, children’s bedrooms, a separate dining room, sunroom or service porch.

Privacy Knobs

As the name suggests, these are used on doors to rooms inside the house where privacy is preferred. Privacy knobs lock with a small button or lever on the inside portion of the door, and do not use a key. Once locked, the knob does not turn, and the door cannot be opened from the outside, making these knobs ideal for adult’s bedrooms, bathrooms, home offices, guest rooms or pool changing areas.

These door handles are quite easy to set to a locked position without realizing it, then close the door behind you, leaving you locked out of the bathroom or bedroom. Small children can also lock themselves inside a room with these knobs, then be unable to figure out how to get the door open again. Most privacy knobs come with a small tool that can be inserted into a little hole near the base of the knob to unlock it in case of such a mishap. It’s a good idea to keep that small tool in an easily accessed location, such as on the door frame right above the door.

The Different Styles of Doorknobs

Among the different types of doorknobs, there are many different styles, particularly for dummy, privacy and passage knobs. Select a style of door handle based on how the materials used blend with your home’s interior style, as well as level of security needed.

  • Cut glass knobs can be quite ornate, and give a beautiful, antique appearance to a room. These work well in traditionally styled Victorian, Colonial, Tudor and French provincial homes.

Related: A Guide To Architectural House Styles

  • Ceramic knobs come in a tremendous range of colors, and look old-fashioned. They are very suited to a country or colonial style and are not as formal as cut glass.
  • Mosaic or hand-painted knobs are artistic and unique, and add a lot of interest to the door. Use them if you want your door to attract attention. They work well in Art Deco, Pueblo and Spanish homes.
  • Oval or egg-shaped knobs have a retro feel that can range from sophisticated to playful, depending on the size and finish of the knob.
  • Lever knobs are more popular in Europe than in the US, but for those having painful or limiting conditions in their hands or wrists, a lever knob is much easier to use than a round knob. You can even work a lever knob just by pushing down with your elbow, bypassing the need to grasp and turn the knob.
  • Ornate metal knobs can be small works of art. You can find metal knobs with finely wrought engraving and detailing, beading, ridges and rings or intricately worked rims. Ornate metal knobs are particularly striking in old, renovated homes, such as Victorian, Italianate, Greek revival, Craftsman or Cape Cod styles, but you can find a knob to suit any decorating theme.
  • Plain knobs don’t have to be boring. They are available in a tremendous range of materials, including metal finishes in every look from bright chrome to burnished bronze, and even knobs made of wood.

You may not often give your doorknobs much thought, but these hardworking pieces of hardware come in a wide range of styles that can easily update every room in your home.

Last Updated: November 14, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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