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Do It Yourself: Weigh lever-door upgrade

Q. I recently visited a house where some of the doors had levers instead of knobs to open them. The owner didn’t know much about them, except that he liked them, and so do I. Can you give me some information on door levers?

A. Lever door openers are considered an upgrade over knobs not just for their clean lines and good looks, but because they help people open their doors. They are especially valuable for older people, children, and those who have arthritis or other grip-weakening conditions in the fingers or hands.

It is possible to buy lever handles at moderate cost for virtually any type of door, including entry doors, passage doors and closet doors. You can find a selection on lever locks and latches at most home centers.

Most include instructions, and they are not difficult to install, although an entry-door lever can be somewhat tricky.

The first step in an installation, of course, is to remove the knob assembly. The knob is usually held in place by a couple of long screws in one side of the decorative flanges that fit against the door. Remove these screws and the knobs should pull away from the door.

The latch itself is held by two more screws, penetrating the door edge. Note which way the flat face of the latch is turned – the new latch should turn the same way so the door stays shut when closed. When you have removed the screws in the latch plate, which should be mortised in the jamb, the door is ready for the new lever latch.

In some cases, the mortise that holds the latch plate needs to be enlarged slightly to accommodate the new latch. Use a sharp wood chisel to enlarge the mortise.

Entry-door levers that include a lock set, usually with a deadbolt, are usually the most expensive, and can cost from less than a hundred dollars to several hundred. Levers for interior doors, without lock sets, cost less. For example, Home Depot recently offered a Kwikset entry-door package, including lock set, for $40. Kwikset closet-door levers were priced as low as $20.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.