Last Friday, my bedroom door handle malfunctioned.  As I locked the door the lock knob came off in my hand and the other side of the lock fell out of the door onto the floor in the hallway.  I was completely locked in my room, as I couldn’t unlock the door to get out.  Luckily I wasn’t home alone, and someone was able to come and put the lock back in the door so I could unlock it.

How to choose internal door handles

The door handles in this house annoy me.  They don’t turn properly, don’t lock properly and are basically falling apart.  Time for some new door handles!  Here are my tips for how to choose internal door handles.

Door Measurements

Is your door a standard size?  There are a range of standard size doors in Australia, but the most common size is:

2040mm high x 820mm wide x 35mm thick

Downstairs, the doors are all builder’s grade doors so they are all this standard size.  Upstairs there are only 2 doors that are original from when the house was built in the 1930’s.  They are different heights and slightly narrower than standard doors but are the same thickness – 35mm.

Door Panels

What type of door panels you have will influence the placement of the door handles.  I have drawn up the two styles of doors I have at home.

Door Panels and door handle placement

For the 4 panel doors downstairs, the door handle should be centred approximately between the panels, and the space between the panels and the edge of the door.

For the three panel door, the door handle is also centred between the panels and the edge, but it will be positioned much higher than the 4 panel door.

If you have a plain door with no panels, you can place the door handle wherever you like.  See below for tips.

Door Handle Height

According to Australian Standard 1428.1 a door handle should be between 900-1100mm from the floor.

How to choose internal door handles

The exact height of your door handle will depend on your door panels, as shown above.  On the four panel doors, the handles are 960mm from the floor.  On the original doors (pictured above), the handle is 1440mm from the floor.  That might not be to Australian standard but was a very common height back in the 1930’s, and conveniently makes for a very childproof door handle.

Door Handle Backset

This is the measurement from the centre of the door handle hole to the edge of the door.

How to choose interior door handles measure the backset

In Australia, the common backset measurements are:

  • 45mm (44-46mm)
  • 60mm (57-60mm)
  • 70mm

My doors all have a backset of 60mm.

Door Hardware (Locksets)

Regardless of what your door handle looks like, there are two types of mechanisms for locking door handles – Cylindrical and Mortice

Mortice Lock

Cylindrical lockset







Images via Home Tips

Generally speaking mortice locks are more secure but slightly more difficult to install (so don’t let your carpenter talk you out of them).  These locking systems may come with your door handles or you may have to purchase them separately.  I chose mortice locks for the doors in my house.

Types of Door Handles

There are 4 types of door handles:

  • Keylock door handles – use a key to operate the lock
  • Privacy Set – turn a knob or press down a button or latch to operate the lock
  • Passage Set – a door handle that opens and closes, but doesn’t lock
  • Dummy knob – a door knob that doesn’t turn (inactive)

The type of door handle you need will depend on the room it is for.

  • If you need to lock the door for security, choose a key lock (example – security lock between the house and garage)
  • If you need to lock the door for privacy, example – a bathroom or bedroom, choose a privacy set
  • If you need a door handle just to open and close the door, choose a passage set. (example laundry, study)
  • A dummy handle can be used on French doors or on cupboard doors where you pull the handle to open the door.

How to choose internal door handles

Door Knob or Lever

Door handles generally come as either a knob that you wrap your hand around and turn to open, or levers where you push down on the lever to open the door.  Levers are considered easier to use than knobs, but it’s a personal preference.

How to choose internal door handles

Milton Door Knob   |   Milton Lever   |   Milton Glass Knob

Rose or Backing Plate

One last factor you must consider before buying new handles is whether to choose a handle on a rose fitting (circle or square plate) or a handle on a short or long backing plate.  If you are planning on replacing an existing door handle, make sure the rose or backing plate will cover the existing hole in the door.

How to Choose internal Door Handles









Exeter Lever on Rose   |   Exeter Lever on Backing Plate

Shopping for New Internal Door Handles

Before you go shopping for new door handles, make sure you know:

  • The size of your doors, and where you will position the door handles
  • The size of your current handle hole and your backset measurement
  • For each door in your house work out whether you need a key lock, privacy, passage or dummy knob

Now that you have the essential information you need you can shop for pretty handles.  Consider the following

  • Do you prefer knobs or levers?
  • A rose or backing plate (make sure whatever you choose will cover the existing hole)?
  • Choose a style and finish you like that will fit with your budget (if you have a lot of doors, the cost will quickly add up)

I’m really drawn to glass door knobs at the moment.

Cape Cod glass door knob

Image – The Yellow Cape Cod

Glass door knob

Image – Emtek.  The glass knobs look stunning against a dark door.

How to choose internal door handles

Image – Julie Blanner

Installing Door Handles

It’s usually pretty straight forward to replace existing door handles with new ones, provided the measurements are the same.  If you are installing handles into new doors or mortice locks, you will probably need a carpenter to install them for you (so factor that cost in).

Cleaning Door Handles

Most metal door handles have a clear coat over to protect the surface.  Cleaning with chemicals can damage this coating, so it’s best to clean your handles just with soapy warm water.

I’m looking forward to getting some new door handles.  To me, they are like jewellery for your door and can add a special touch to your room.  I’ll keep you posted about what I find.

How to Choose Internal Door Handles