Restoration Guide: Windows and Doors Hardware

Barbara Marquand

Editor's Note: This is article 9 of 12 in Chapter 4: The Windows and Doors Guide of Old House Web Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Rehab Guide.


Hardware gives doors and windows the ability to swing, slide, glide, lock, or pivot. Finding the right components is among the biggest challenges for repairing or replacing hardware on doors and windows in an old house, but fortunately large distributors provide lots of choices in catalogs. This section of The Old House Web Restoration Guide covers the basic types of hardware and what to consider when selecting it, whether you're doing a simple repair or undertaking a preservation project.

Section 1--The Essentials

Here's a look at the three basic groups of hardware:

1.1: Movement: Hinges, Tracks, Guides, and Closer Devices

Most hinges are a version of the butt hinge, which consists of two plates that are mounted on abutting sides and pivot around a pin connection in the middle. You can mount hinges with only the barrel showing, or you can mount them so all the parts--barrel and all--are concealed.

Gliding, sliding, bypass, or pocket doors use some type of track or guiding mechanism, which guides top- or bottom-mounted rollers. Guides are usually used inside--think closet doors--while tracks, which can be weatherstripped to lock out the elements, are used for exterior doors, such as sliding patio doors. Glider windows also use tracks and rollers for up-and-down movement, and double-hung windows use tracks with a friction fit.

Hydraulic or pneumatic closers regulate speed to prevent doors from slamming shut, a blessing for a house full of kids. Spring hinges assure closing, but they can't regulate speed. Counterbalances, such as springs, weights, and screw devices, help windows and doors operate, and wall, floor, or hinge-mounted bumpers control how far a door can swing.

1.2: Security: Locksets, Stops, or Catches

A catch is the simplest way to secure a door or window. Magnets, friction, and spring-tension devices work as catches. Safety latches prevent small children from getting out. Some windows use latches with sliding rods or crank mechanisms. Door guards are simple devices, such as a chain or hinged bar, for limiting the opening.

Locksets include surface mounted or rim locks, mortised units, and bored units. Deadbolts are the most common types of surface or rim locks. Mortise locks are often found in old houses built before the 1940s. They require a rectangular hole in the door edge for installation. Bored locks are tubular, cylindrical, or interconnected locks that are inserted through holes bored in the door slab. All locks use one or more bolts that secure the door to the strike plate.

1.3: Operation: Door Knobs, Lever Handles, Pull Handles, or Push Plates

Knobs, pulls, and handles enable you to operate doors and windows. Hardware can be combined with latches or locks to provide passage, privacy, or security.

Hardware exposed to the outdoors is usually made from brass, bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, or plated steel. Other materials have also been developed to provide the same qualities at less cost.

When selecting hardware, ask yourself four basic questions:

  • How easy is it to operate?
  • How long will it last?
  • How does it look?
  • How secure is it?

Then get down to the nitty-gritty details; there can be a surprising number of them, even for a small piece of hardware. When choosing a hinge, for instance, consider the frame and sash material, the number of hinges you'll need, the method for mounting, the door or window's size, thickness and weight, the hinge's clearance, how often you'll open or close the door, security needs, and applicable building codes.

When changing hardware, you may need to consider accessibility standards, fire codes, and egress requirements. The National Fire Protection Association Standard for Fire Doors and Fire Windows is a useful guide.

Check the ANSI standard for locks and consider the three security grades. Grade 1 is the highest level of security, Grade 2 is acceptable for light commercial and home entrances, and Grade 3 is for interior locks, such as bedrooms or bathrooms.

Section 2--Repair and Replacing Hardware

2.1: Repair or Replace with Original Parts

Repairing hardware is challenging and requires special skill, and sometimes replacement parts are unavailable. Cost of repair can exceed the cost of completely replacing a unit, so replacement is the best option unless preservation is essential.

2.2: Replace Hardware with New Units

Hardware can eventually wear out after years of use. Replacing an entire unit assures that all the parts will have the same lifespan. New units also include parts made with better, long-lasting materials, such as high-density polyethylene washers. For preservation, you can find reproduction and salvaged hardware from national distributors that specialize in historic hardware, but it might be tough to find an exact match.


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