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New door locks can add security and style

Posted: January 5, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 5, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Q: We’re buying a new house in a couple of months, and one of my friends mentioned that once the purchase is final and before we move in, I should replace all the doorknobs and locks on the exterior doors for security purposes. Is this really something we should do? What’s the best way to replace them? — Clark in Syracuse, N.Y.

A: While I haven’t heard a lot about changing doorknobs and deadbolts on new homes for security purposes (you could just have the locks rekeyed), it certainly wouldn’t hurt to do so. In addition to having new locks that no one else has the key to, you get the added benefit of choosing new styles of hardware for your exterior doors.

Once you’ve picked out the new doorknobs and deadbolts, remove and replace the old hardware one at a time. If there are any problems with installing the locks, you’ll at least have one working lock on the door while you solve the problem.

Remove the doorknob by first taking off the cover plates. There may be screws holding the plates in place; unscrew and remove those. If there are no visible screws, check the doorknob on the interior side. A small slot should be visible on one side of the handle, usually behind the knob.

You should be able to push in the small metal piece inside the slot, using a paper clip or even the tip of a key, until the knob pops loose. Now take off the cover plate.

An underlying plate will be visible. This can be popped off by locating a small notch on the edge of the plate where it presses against the door. Insert a flat head screwdriver into the notch and gently twist it to loosen the plate.

Now you’re free to unscrew the attaching screws that hold the doorknob assembly.

You also will need to remove the screws from the latch plate on the side of the door. Remove the assembly carefully so you don’t damage the door.

If you intend to replace the strike plate as well, remove that from the door frame.

To install a new doorknob, reverse the above procedure. You may find that the new doorknob doesn’t line up quite the same as the old.

You can adjust the backset (the distance between the center of the doorknob and the edge of the door) to correct this.

If you replace the strike plate, make sure the latch hits it correctly.

Tighten up all the screws, being sure not to overtighten, and test to make sure the door latches and locks properly.

Replacing a deadbolt lock is very similar to replacing the doorknob. The biggest difference (and difficulty) is if a door does not already have a deadbolt installed.

In that case you’ll have to drill holes for the deadbolt and the latch before installing the new hardware.

HOME TIP: Maintain exterior door locks by cleaning and lubricating with a professional-quality product like Lockease or Tri-Flow, rather than squirting in graphite powder.

Q: I was putting away my ladder after hanging up lights when it slipped and fell against the front window. One of the panes cracked all the way up. It’s an older window, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get a repair service in this late in the holiday season. How can I fix it? — A Reader, via email

A: Believe it or not, the newer, double-paned windows can take longer to fix than older ones. So, you’re in luck. Because you have an older, single-pane window with multiple panes, replacing a single pane can be pretty easy. Here’s what you’ll need for the job: a replacement pane of glass, glazier’s points, glazing compound or putty, wood primer, small paintbrush, needle-nose pliers, a screwdriver or chisel, a small putty knife, sturdy work gloves, eye protection, a hammer, masking tape, sandpaper and a tape measure.

Measure the size of the windowpane opening before heading to the home improvement or window specialty store.

Purchase a replacement pane that is about 1/8 inch smaller than the length and width of the opening. This is a good time to purchase the glazier’s points, putty, primer and any tools you’ll need, too.

First, remove the window sash from the frame and lay it down on a towel or old cloth. Keep heat inside the house by closing the storm window or taping a sheet of plastic around the frame.

Next, carefully remove the cracked glass.

You’ll need to break the pane to get it out, so put on gloves and eye protection and put a strip of masking tape on both sides of the cracked glass pane.

Carefully tap the cracked pane with a hammer until it breaks.

Tap pieces downward onto the protective cloth, then carefully pull shards out of the panel frame, as well as any old glazier’s points (discard them).

Use a screwdriver or chisel to carefully remove old glazing compound from the frame, then sand the area smooth and clean away debris.

To finish prepping the frame, put a coat of wood primer (preferably fast-drying) over the sanded area.

This will help the glazing compound last longer.

Once the primer is dry, test-fit your replacement glass, then remove.

Roll out a very thin rope of glazing compound around the wood frame. (You also could use clear silicone caulk at this point, as it’s an extra step to ensure a water-resistant seal.) Carefully press the replacement glass into place.

Next, put new glazier’s points into place. These secure the pane in place firmly.

Press the pointed end into the wooden frame about two inches from each corner, then use a screwdriver to press them in firmly.

Finish sealing the windowpane by rolling out another rope of glazing compound.

Press this into the seam between the windowpane and the wood frame. Use your putty knife to really push it in there, and then smooth down the compound.

Clean accidental globs of compound or primer from the glass with mineral spirits or turpentine.

You can now put the window sash back into the frame.

Let the glazing compound dry for about a week so that it sets well, then paint the wood around the new pane to match the rest of the window.

My new e-book, “101 Best Home Tips,” is available to download on Amazon Kindle! Pick it up it today for just 99 cents. Send your questions or comments to


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