Expert tips on buying your door handles
Door handles aren’t all made the same way nor do they all have the same features and benefits. The cheap $10 handles you see at Bunnings are unfortunately just that – cheap! Remember, the age old adage – you get what you pay for. As famous 19th century English poet and fervent art critic John Ruskin so aptly put it; “When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. You can read more on this here.
The door handle, like the front entrance, is the first thing seen from the street and first impressions count. Just as you form a judgement of someone within seconds of meeting them, so it is with the front of a house.
Your opinion of the house and those who reside within is established either as a positive or negative thought almost immediately. Just as an unkempt appearance in a person may lead, rightly or wrongly, to a negative first impression and conclusion, so it is with our houses. You can read more about the psychology of this here.
In addition, over the course of its life, a handle is touched up to a million times. More than any other item in the house. It should therefore look good, feel good, work as intended and adorn the house as a final touch of artistry and grandeur. Shouldn’t it?
Your door handle selection is therefore very important. Here are 12 things to insist on for your door furniture when searching for the best bang for buck;
- A lifetime warranty
- A micronised polish
- An electroplated finish
- Tie through bolts
- Grub screw security and stabiliser
- Anti-sag spring
- Screw on rose
- Uniqueness in style and design
- Matching door and cabinet hardware
- Architectural quality that matches with your architecture
- Corrosion resistance
- Long plates and accessories to suit aluminium joinery
Each point is very critical and you may not have been aware of the importance of these features. Let’s explain each one in more depth along with the benefit.
The warranty is the first thing to ask about on any product. It is really the litmus test for the tough Australian climate in which we live. For instance, many products today are made from 304 grade stainless steel – but that simply does not stand up to the tough Australian conditions.
Furthermore, it’s not what the product is made of so much as how it is made and how it is finished. Even brass will tarnish and stainless steel will stain. However if the final coating process has been completed to the proper standard the product will stand up. That is the acid test along with the warranty that the company is prepared to back its brand with.
Brands that offer a lifetime warranty can do so because of the extra processes involved in properly preparing, grinding, polishing, treating and coating the handle. You can read more about this process in point two about a micronised polish.
Products with a lifetime warranty might cost a little more, but the value you get far exceeds the initial slightly higher investment.
A Micronised finish is the highest quality of polishing or smoothing that can be carried out on the metal (or substrate material) prior to the final surface coating being applied.
It is a very specialised process and is only used as a methodology on the very best quality handles. A Micronised finish is a much longer polishing process as there are a number of different stages of the process using finer and finer grit grades.
The advantages are that the final product is beautifully finished, is much smoother and is far more corrosion resistant. With many handles, they corrode because of porosity (tiny holes in the surface of the material) that cannot be seen by the naked eye. In poor quality handles, porosity can sometimes even be seen! Porosity allows the moisture from the environment or our hands to enter and because of the inherent acid, the handles corrode. Micronisation prevents this from occurring.
Many door handles today are painted to look like they have been electroplated. That is why the warranties for such handles will generally only be up to 7 years. If a handle has a lifetime warranty, it will be because it has been electroplated.
Electroplating involves passing an electric current through a solution called an electrolyte. This is done by dipping two terminals called electrodes into the electrolyte and connecting them into a circuit with a battery or other power supply. The electrodes and electrolyte are made from carefully chosen elements or compounds.
When the electricity flows through the circuit they make, the electrolyte splits up and some of the metal atoms it contains are deposited in a thin layer on top of one of the electrodes—it becomes electroplated. This leads to a very strong and permanent surface bonding between the substrate material and the coating. Unlike paint, it cannot be removed or scratched and results in a much better quality handle.
Tie through bolts are bolts that are fixed on one side of the handle and go right through the door and are fixed to the other side of the handle. This is not only more secure, it is also a very permanent and trouble free fixing as over against most handles which are screwed from either side into the door but do not tie right through. It means that the handles are sandwiched on both sides of the door.
This feature locks both handles to the spindle (see fig1.) providing a very solid and firm action and prevents the handle from any movement on the spindle itself. This is an important feature which also helps eliminate sagging. It also prevents the handle from being pulled out from the outside.
Many handles rely on the latch spring (see fig 1.) to hold their weight and prevent sagging. This invariably wears out over time and the handle ends up sagging on the door which is annoying and makes the door untidy. Top quality handles have a reinforced spring (see fig 2 below) within the handle itself which makes the handle far more heavy duty. Handles with a lifetime warranty will never sag.
See fig 3 above. Many handles today come with a push on rose. Push on roses have a cheap rubber holder which is used to hold the rose in place. Over time, the rubber perishes and the rose will become loose and fall of. With a screw on rose, this never happens. The rose can still be removed, however it never comes loose or falls off. Handles with a lifetime warranty have this feature.
Handles sold in the big box stores, including well-known brands, are mass produced with a limited choice of styles. This is because to obtain the economies of scale to buy better, overseas manufacturers require very large volumes. Obviously, the less styles, the less inventory, the less cost. Therefore you, the end user, are left with very few options other than what you see wrapped in a packet on the shelf.
High quality handles are not sold in big box stores for a few very good reasons.
- Door hardware is a technical product and the big box stores do not have the in depth knowledge to be able to give the technical advice that consumers need.
- Generally, the high quality brands, prefer to sell their products through designated door hardware specialists that can provide the specialist knowledge required.
- If the top end brands sold through big box stores, the product would no longer be unique!
- Big box stores sell at cheap prices and therefore don’t want to stock better quality products that boast a lifetime warranty
- Discerning buyers don’t want to buy a high end product from a big box store.
9. Matching door and cabinet hardware
When choosing new hardware, options are key. Variation in finish from brand to brand is inevitable. Company A’s brushed nickel may look completely different to company B’s brushed nickel. It is therefore very important that specifiers and consumers are aware of this when selecting products.
This often causes a problem when it comes to matching the door hardware with the cabinet hardware. Mostly there is no coordination of door and cabinet hardware selection. The builder normally supplies the door hardware and the cabinet maker supplies the cabinet hardware. Where this often plays out is when the two are finally put together and the discrepancy is noticed. By then it is always too late and the end user is often left dissatisfied.
Good quality hardware brands will also have cabinet hardware with matching finishes. Therefore be aware of this and where possible, it is by far the best option to ensure that the door hardware and cabinet hardware are selected from the one manufacturer. This ensures consistency in both style and finish.
If you are looking to obtain a specific architectural style or match the architectural style of your house then you will need to find a supplier that has handles that match. High quality brands have handles that suit all architectural styles. The big box stores simply can’t cater to that level of sophistication and the knowledge at that high end level. More on styles here.
Once again, the warranty is key. You are spending a lot of money on handles and you want them to last the distance! Most cheap big box store handles are good for someone who wants a quick fix for a short time. But bear in mind that, in Australian conditions, there is no place for a faint hearted handle. Poor quality handles deteriorate very quickly and you will find that in a lot of cases they don’t even last the time of their short warranty. If you want your handles to last, insist on a lifetime warranty and a micronised finish.
If you are wanting to match your door handles with your aluminium joinery, such as screen doors etc., then you will need to consider the accessories. High quality hardware will have the needed accessories such as narrow backset locks, narrow long plates and ancillary equipment.
So if you want to match the furniture, then be aware that cheap handles from a chain store probably will leave you without the look you deserve.