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Selecting Doorknobs

When is a doorknob not a doorknob?

First, let’s establish the vocabulary.

The doorknob, or handset, is usually round, oval or tulip-shaped, and throws a latch that slides into a hole in the doorjamb to keep a door closed. The rounded shape can be difficult for children or older folks to maneuver, so a door handle—usually a lever—does the same job. A lever also makes a door easier to open with an elbow when both hands are occupied, akin to a lever at the kitchen sink faucet to turn on or off with a wrist.

Regardless of shape, a handset is utilized for four functions:

• Entrance: used on exterior doors, and usually include keyed cylinders.

• Privacy: used for bedrooms and bathrooms. They usually have a manual lock on the inside of the room, but do not use a key.

• Passage: used to a hall or closet, and do not lock.

• Dummy: used for ball-catch doors for a consistent design aesthetic with other doors, but when the latch mechanism is not required.

A keyed knob offers the absolute minimum security, but like a cheap deadbolt, makes malicious access too easy. Only a pack of trained, resident Rottweilers could sway me from nearly insisting that a customer use a deadbolt, too. And on a door with glass, that deadbolt should be a double cylinder, meaning it takes a key to open it from either side. Hanging the inside key beside the door keeps it handy when you need to get out in a hurry, but out of sight and reach if someone breaks a glass pane, hoping to throw the thumb knob on a single cylinder deadbolt.

Common practice is to use more decorative hardware at the front or main entrance, and simpler knobs at side or rear doors. Locks can be “keyed alike,” so that you only need one key to get into any and every door. Better yet, the handsets can be keyed in concert with your deadbolts.