12 Key Tips on How to Choose Your Door Handles and Locks

The door hardware is an extension of your home’s personality, and selecting the right door handles and locks is a great way to give your home a new look. In fact, a smart front entry can increase the value of your home by up to 10%! Read more on this subject here.

As with most home improvement projects, executing a well thought out plan for upgrading door handles and other accessories will yield much better results.

When choosing your door handles and locks there are 12 things to consider. Whilst this might seem a little daunting, it isn’t if you follow the steps below. The important things you will need to consider are:

  1. The style
  2. The front entrance & security
  3. The type of handle
  4. The door function
  5. The door set up
  6. The environment and material
  7. The finish and ensuring continuity
  8. The warranty
  9. Care and maintenance
  10. Installation
  11. Door Accessories
  12. Your budget

1.         The style

Approach door handle design in the same way that you would approach any other interior design task. Consider what your overall theme is in the building you are choosing the handles for. Then consider the design of the room it will be used in and, finally, the type of door design that your handles will be used with. For more on understanding architectural styles and handles read ‘What style is that? – Making sense of architectural styles’ here.

If you’ve taken a traditional design approach throughout your home, then choosing innovative angular handles is unlikely to work aesthetically, and if you’re committed to contemporary curves then a straight chrome door handle may not act as a contrast, it may just look out of place. For an in depth understanding of styles and handles view this and the accompanying slide on the subject.

You’ll also need to consider the types of door design you have used. Some people use different door designs on different floors of their homes, some prefer the same door design throughout and a few enjoy being completely individual and will have a range of door designs throughout their property. 

When you consider your door handles, you need to take your door decisions into account. For example, if you have all of the same door designs throughout, do you want matching chrome door handles for consistency or do you want to differentiate your floors or rooms with different handle designs to add that design edge? Do you want your door handles to have the same colour and finish but with different designs or the same design with different colours and finishes? 

If you’ve decided to be daring in your door design, do you want a handle that mirrors that bravery or do you want a more classic handle to highlight the difference and individuality of your door designs? 

For further reading see ‘What style is that? – Making sense of architectural styles’ here.

2.         The front entrance and security

Mortice locks offer better door security. If you are considering what is the most secure lock to install on your front entry then definitely consider using a Mortice lock? Mortice locks offer a higher level of security than a tubular latch. For more information read this.

If you’re looking to replace the locks and entry sets on the doors around your house, you’re really looking at a choice between Mortice and tubular style lock systems. While tubular systems are popular and found in both residential and business applications, you should know why Mortice locks offer higher security for doors in both businesses and homes before making your choice.

Tubular locks gained general popularity because they are quicker to fit and they do not require special tools or training to install, and are therefore seen as a relatively secure, simple entry system. However, it’s exactly for these reasons that Mortice locks offer a greater level of security.

The fact is that most home burglaries happen when the strike plate of the door is kicked in or struck with a heavy object. By weakening the lock, or simply smashing through the door around the entry system, burglars are able to access your home. A tubular latch has far less structural strength than a Mortice lock.

The benefits of a mortice lock

The left picture (figure 2) is a mortise lock. Note how the deadbolt (located beneath the handle) is integrated all within the case and the whole case has significant purchase power
The above picture is a mortice lock. Note how the deadbolt  is integrated all within the case and the whole case has significant purchase power

Consider the benefits of a Mortice lock over against a tubular latch;

  • Usually a lifetime warranty
  • Up to 5 times stronger than a tubular latch
  • Anti-drill and tamper proof – hardened cylinder
  • Larger dead bolt throw – 40% stronger
  • Heavy duty spring and mechanism – stronger spring which stops the handle sagging
  • Peace of mind
  • Comes with integrated deadbolt
  • Much stronger outer housing
  • Screws thread right through using tie bolts that sandwich the Mortice lock between the timbers of the door from both sides.
  • Mortice locks can be fitted with a euro cylinder enabling a minimum of 2,000 key differs, which means a thief would have to carry 2,000 keys for your make of lock to be certain of unlocking your door and even then he could be there for 3 hours trying all the keys before he gets lucky!
  • Good quality euro cylinders also feature anti bumping technology

For further information see the stats on the subject. In addition, you might like to check out the various types of front entry systems available here for traditional front entry systems and here for electronic front entry options.

3.         The type of interior handle – lever or knob

The door knobs you choose depends on the use of each door in your home, as well as the style you prefer. Some people prefer door knobs, while others like door levers (these are easier to open for people with disabilities, the elderly and children). This in depth analysis on the pros and cons is worth a look at.

4.         The Door Function

Once you’ve decided the type of hardware you need, you’ll need to determine the function. For hallway and closet doors, you will want a non-locking, passage knob or lever. For bedrooms and bathrooms, you may consider a locking, privacy knob or lever. For decorative door pulls, purchase a non-turning, dummy knob or lever and for exterior or higher security needs, a keyed knob or lever. It helps to take a tally of the doors in your home and the function you will need to ensure you purchase the right door hardware. There are four functions a handle provides;

  1. Passage set (non – locking)
  2. Entry set (has a key and used for the front door)
  3. Privacy (has an integrated or separate locking function)
  4. Dummy set (a fixed handle without a latch used for cupboards)

For special circumstances, such as a wine cellar, you may even consider a keyless Stealth deadbolt for easy access for you and extra help keeping nosy friends and family members out.

 5.         Door setup

Sometimes the type of door you have will determine the hardware you should install. Pay special attention if you have extra thick doors as you’ll want to be sure your hardware comes with the necessary kit or is well suited for those dimensions. For exterior hardware, you may come across an exterior door with only one hole for hardware. Instead of drilling a second hole for a deadbolt which could ruin the door if your measurements are off or hiring a professional to install, consider a keyless deadbolt such as the Stealth. This allows you to save money, gain extra security and enjoy the convenience of never needing a key again.

6.         The environment & types of material

7101-316-marine-grade-ss-polo-pull-handleThere are as many different styles of door hardware as there are doors to fit them, so be prepared to spend some time researching. Door hardware in brass or antique bronze may look better in a warm-coloured home, while cooler schemes fit with stainless steel, porcelain, or chrome hardware. If you are using an interior designer they may be able to help with this decision. Don’t forget to check out ‘What style is that? – Making sense of architectural styles’ here for a wealth of ideas.

If you live in tropical areas or near the ocean, then your door hardware has to be able to withstand the weather elements such as humidity and salt. In these environments Zanda strongly recommends 316 marine grade stainless steel, that are salt resistant and will stand up to the test of time. For internal doors, go for handles with a Micronised finish – satin chrome is generally more resistant to corrosion than brushed nickel. No matter where you are located, your door hardware needs to be long lasting and remain operable for as long as you need it to. Also see point 8 as to warranties and read the section on our web site under the finishes and care tab here.

7.         Types of finish and ensuring continuity

There are numerous types finishes available today – far too many to list. There are flat finishes such as matt with black being a current favorite. There are the newer antique finishes that deliver the unique aesthetic of an aged finish for the discerning hardware connoisseur.

Antique Brass and Antique Nickel finishes will maintain their original appearance and are not considered “living” finishes. When considering Antique Finishes, the user should be aware these finishes will exhibit variation in colour and shade just as an actual tarnished piece of brass or nickel would show. Curved and shaped surfaces will show greater contrast and highlights of golden brass or shiny nickel as shown above. Slight variations can also be expected from one piece to the next.

Finish variations – from different manufacturers & suppliers

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.

Finish variations – door and cabinet hardware

One other problem relates 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.

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.

There are a number of finishes available some of which can be found here. Talk to the experts at Zanda or your authorised re-seller for further information. Some finishes such as leather and timber are not recommended for exterior use. Also read our care & maintenance section here as some materials such as brass require more maintenance.

8.         The warranty

Be very careful when selecting your hardware as not all hardware is equal! Some hardware has very limited warranties. Zanda offers the very best warranties in the industry. Many of our products come with a lifetime warranty. Go to our FAQ page for more information about our excellent guarantees and look under the heading ‘what warranty applies to hardware items’. 

9.         Care and maintenance

Zanda has an extensive section on care and maintenance here and this is something you should give serious consideration to in the selection of materials when planning and budgeting. Marine grade 316 pull handles or the Astron range are recommended for exterior use.

10.        Installation

Give consideration to whether you are using a professional installer or are doing it yourself as this might affect your budget. After reading the section on security, you may decide to use your builder or a local tradesman. There is excellent further information on our FAQ page.

11.        Door accessories

Complete your desired ‘look’ by accessorising your entry door. Take your project to a whole new level by adding complementary door holders, door stops, door bells, door viewers, coat hooks, switch plates, door knockers or even house numbers.  The creative possibilities are endless! A Zanda entry door consultant can help you choose front door hardware and put it all together, exactly the way you want. Call anytime on 1300ZANDA1 with questions or to request a free door systems design consultation.

12.        The budget

The budget comes last in the list of twelve because you will have needed to consider all of the above before you can decide how you will spend your money. It may well be, that after reading this, you re allocate some of your funds to properly address the facts as you now know them.

If you’re an owner builder, developer or in the selection process, you’ll already have had to budget early on for your doors and, hopefully, your door furniture too.

However, if you’re at the stage where you now need to consider a budget for your door handles, then do consider, not only the above, but how often you use them. Door handles need to be hard wearing.

For most rooms of your home, you’re going to use them hundreds of times every month, and therefore selecting cheaper options because it saves you money now, is unlikely to do so in the long term. It might sound unusual, but you’re also going to want to consider comfort and the feel of your door handle (or knob) too.

If every time you use your door handle it feels uncomfortable and not a good fit for your hand, that’s going to wear on you over time. If you, or any of the people living in your property, has arthritis, is disabled or elderly, then it’s worth taking a little more time to consider which handles are most suitable.

It’s also important to consider that if you’ve spent a lot of money on buying designer doors, you don’t want to fit door handles that aren’t of the same quality as it will de-value the look and feel of your door. It’s worth reading “A smart front entry can increase the value of your home by up to 10%” here for more information on this. Another article worth reading is the Psychology of door handles here. There is also an in depth look at handles specifically called 12 door handle features you should insist on here.

Oh, and by the way, the following article on the importance of quality is a good read. It is based on a quote by John Ruskin – 19th century English poet and fervent art critic – it’s worth checking out – Enjoy!