Home improvement

The joy of doorknobs

I’ve got no issues with doorknobs. Big fan of ‘em, in fact. They are fantastic inventions that serve a great function in society, from privacy issues to security issues to little brother issues. (That last one is particularly relevant to one resident in my house.)

But no amount of appreciation of a doorknob and its long history of service can top this fact: I would rather chew off my own arm than install another doorknob.

I’ve installed numerous doorknobs over the years, and every single time my home improvement ineptness leaves me banging my head against the door. I can’t get the screws lined up. I install the doorknob backwards. I forget that little part that actually latches the door shut. It results in me reaching the home improvement high anxiety level I normally reserve for projects involving electricity.

But here’s the thing about electricity – a particularly unpleasant zapping around 1998 got rid of any possibility I would so much as think about electrical work again, so that personal horror is a thing of the past. Doorknobs, sadly, have yet to give me an electrical shock strong enough to stop me from installing them.

So this particular installation was partially inspired by the aforementioned little brother need, as my daughter’s doorknob did not lock, meaning that anyone in the family could barge in at any point and grab, say, her pillow and sprint out. I can safely say that neither my wife nor I made any pillow thefts.

My daughter and I went to a home improvement store to get her an actual, functioning, locking, brother-proof doorknob. She wanted to get one that was the lever kind, with the handle you push down. I scoffed loudly at this notion, pointing out that she clearly had never seen the safety documentary “Jurassic Park,” and she was ripe for being tracked by a velociraptor. No child of mine is going to be eaten by a velociraptor because of poor doorknob choice.

We ultimately went with a fine gold colored number that I selected because (a) it said it was for a bedroom and (b) I could not find one that was cheaper.

When it came time to install, my daughter and I armed ourselves with all the necessities: A screwdriver and a book of profanities.

Ha! Little home improvement humor there! I handed my daughter the screwdriver and told her to remove the current doorknob. She took the first screw out, and then I heard the familiar whir and grind that is all too common in my home improvement world – a stripped screw.

Normally, I solve this problem by pretending it doesn’t need to be removed and just leave the stripped screw in for all eternity. Problem was, this screw was kinda getting in the way of a new doorknob, so it was going to have to come out one way or another.

Well, if there is one way I get myself out of a home improvement jam, it’s through brute force. I once was having an issue getting a couch out of an upstairs room. I remedied that with an axe. Seriously.

So I went to my toolkit and retrieved a pry bar and a hammer. This should cover it, I figured. I wedged the pry bar in between the door and the partially removed knob, resting it on the problem screw. I then smacked it as hard I as I could with the hammer, making a fantastically loud TING! sound. Cool sound effect aside, the screw was hanging in there. TING! TING! TING! Nothing. Hmm, I thought. Maybe I should check the tool arsenal to find a new approach.

I reached for the partially attached knob and turned it. Nothing. I jiggled again. Nothing. And then I realized I was trapped in my daughter’s room. My first thought: I am going to be so embarrassed having to be rescued out of my daughter’s window by a fireman.

I called for my daughter. No response. That was odd, as communication by hollering from another room is her primary choice of communication.

I yelled again. And again. And again. Apparently my pleas for help finally reached whatever room she was in and were loud enough to drown out the Kelly Clarkson blasting in her earbuds.

“Allie,” I said. “I’m stuck in here. I’m gonna need help…”

Apparently, while the smash and crash method of repair damaged my side of the door, hers was fine, and she opened the door, freeing me after one of the most perilous 20-30 seconds of anyone’s life.

Eventually, I was able to continue to smash the doorknob and beat it until it agreed to break free.

My daughter then took about 11 seconds to instal the new doorknob, proving that, at 12, she is roughly 43,000 times better at home repair than her old man. Maybe she can knock out some electrical work for me…


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he can be reached at

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