There are three certainties in life: You must pay taxes, you will die, and your door locks will break. From the polished brass honkers at the entry to the pantry-door latch with child-lock, they seem to just “go” sometimes.
While I’d love to blame it on cheap manufacturing these days, anyone who grew up in an old house learned to screw the doorknob back on to the spindle by the age of 3. It’s really just a matter of wear and tear, and holding up laundry.
But don’t fear the broken door lock. Rather, it’s an opportunity to upgrade.
The typical interior-door handle is inexpensive, simple to replace and available everywhere. There are gaggles of how-to videos online, and the job requires nothing more than a screwdriver and 30 minutes of your precious time. In most cases, you’re better off replacing rather than trying to make a repair. Maybe you can get some nice antique brass or distressed nickel in favor of that ugly, shiny gold the builder used.
When it comes to problems with exterior-door locks and handles, the job can be tougher and the replacement more expensive.
A decent front-door lockset can set you back $300 or more. The first thing you should do is see if the broken one is under warranty (and go to a shelter and get the loudest dog to protect your home from intruders while you tear it apart looking for the paperwork). Weiser, Baldwin, and others come with mechanical warranties that can last up to 25 years. Been there, saved that.
If you must buy a new lockset, you’ll find far more options these days. Did you know you can buy a biometric door lock at Walmart? Hallelujah! No more keys. There are face-recognition locks and even ones that scan your retina. Or you can get one with a lighted keypad, where you enter a four-digit code (which you can give to a loved one, then change as needed).
To install any of these, you may also have to deal with adjusting or re-mortising the strike plate, installing larger screws in the jamb, re-keying, and even touching up the door paint if the new lock is different from the old one. If this advice contained words you don’t know or just don’t like the sound of, call a professional.