Hardware makes a house work. Without it, everything falls apart; drawers, doors, and windows won’t open or close; and visitors must rely on their fists instead of door knockers to announce their presence.
But door hardware is much more than utilitarian — it’s ornate, whimsical, decorative, or quietly elegant, depending upon how much creativity is applied in making each piece.
Using appropriate period hardware in an old house underscores its style as effectively as antique furniture or vintage wallpaper. A mix of hardware types can peacefully coexist — elaborate pieces for formal areas such as the living and dining rooms, and economy hardware in the laundry room.
But whether you’re replacing lost pieces or adding new ones, there’s a lot to know about shopping for hardware.
Basics: Secrets of Ordering Door Hardware
When you call a catalogue company to order door hardware and the person at the other end of the line asks all kinds of mysterious questions — “What’s the hand-of-door?” “What’s the backset?” — what do you answer?
To give the correct specifications for door hardware, you have to understand door terminology. “Hand of door” indicates which hand is used to open and close the door. This determines on which side of the door the lock belongs.
The stile is the vertical member of the door (hidden by the “skin” on flush doors). It’s necessary to know its width to determine whether the door will accommodate a particular lockset. Aside from the overall dimensions of the lockset, note the specification for the backset — the distance from the center of the knob spindle (the rod on which the knob is mounted) to the latch-edge of the door. If there’s a pre-drilled hole in the stile, make sure the backset matches it.
Measure the door’s height, width, and thickness. Order hinges based on these dimensions. Since some types of hinges have a top and a bottom, you’ll need to know the hand of door, too. Hinges must be wide enough that the knuckles (the part that holds the pin) protrude from the door and the jamb.
When ordering door hardware from a catalogue, give yourself sufficient lead time to get a few sample pieces to scrutinize. Be sure to get matching screws and nails for the hardware you purchase.
Take time to survey the field for the products you want. This research may not make sense for a set of hinges, but suddenly becomes important if you’re restoring a house that requires $5,000 in decorative hardware.