What Type of Door Knob Should I Use?

Alex Niemi
3 min readAug 4, 2023

This is something that’s really easy to get right but for some reason it’s usually done wrong. Every apartment and house that I’ve ever lived in had the wrong type of door knobs throughout the interior of the house. If you’re a landlord and have tenants living in your place, this is extremely important because you want it to be a safe environment. For example, if you happen to have an extra keyed-entry door knob laying around and you decide to use it on a closet door — in order to save a few bucks and not have to buy a brand-new door knob — what happens when your tenant’s kid goes into it, closes and locks the door (from the inside), and can’t get out? Hopefully, the parents have a key handy. But, if you re-keyed the front doors for them (just before they moved in) and forgot to re-key that pantry door, you have a serious problem on your hands, and are going to have to make an urgent trip out to your rental.

There are really only four types of door knobs that cover 99% of all normal household use-cases. They’re listed below along with the types of doorways and rooms that they should be used for.

Keyed-Entry Knobs

Keyed-Entry door knob. Exterior-facing knob is on the left, interior-facing knob is on the right.

As the name implies, these door knobs use a key to lock and unlock them (from the outside) and have a rotating or push-button locking mechanism on the inside.

Use these ONLY for exterior doors that lead from outside the house to the inside of the house (and vice versa of course). Do NOT use them for bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, or anywhere else.

Privacy Knobs

Privacy door knob. Outside (of room)-facing knob is on the left, inside (of room) facing knob is on the right.

These have a locking mechanism (facing into the room) and an unlocking mechanism (facing out of the room) that does not require a key. Some have a hole that you can insert a small screwdriver into to unlock and others have a rotating mechanism that you can unlock with a butterknife or a flat screwdriver.

Use these on bedrooms and bathrooms. The idea is that somebody can lock the door for privacy but that it can be unlocked from the outside WITHOUT A KEY in the case of an emergency.

Passage Knobs

Passage door knob. Both sides are identical.

These do NOT have a locking mechanism of any type. Use them on closets, pantries, and any other room or area that a person would usually not enter and close the door behind them (or would not need privacy if they did so).

Dummy Knobs

Dummy door knob. It’s simply a handle on the door. They can be single-sided or dual-sided depending on whether or not you need a handle on just one side or both. The dual-sided dummy knobs (purchased as a set) usually have a threaded shaft that goes thru the door and the knobs are screwed onto; a set-screw on one or both sides prevents undesired rotation of the knobs during use.

These don’t have any moving parts and are used on doors that don’t have (or need) a traditional latching mechanism. They’re often found on small pantry doors and narrow interior French Doors that use a ball-catch to stay closed rather than a latch. They are essentially just a handle on a door (much like a drawer pull/knob).

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Alex Niemi

I'd write more if I didn't spend all of my time coding.