How To Upgrade Your Old Brass Door Knobs With Spray Paint

You down with ORB? Yeah you know me.

The deed has been done. After years (yes nearly two years!) of planning to upgrade every last old brass door knob in our entire house, we finally got ‘er done. Strike up the band! I can’t hear you. Can I at least get some cow bell?

Yup, we removed 19 knobs with the intent of oil-rubbed bronzing (aka: ORBing) those babies. First we tried this method with a few exterior knobs, handles, and even a doorknocker a while back, just to see how they would hold up before doing the whole shebang (and I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t really have energy for the whole shebang up front). Baby steps.

We figured that since those exterior knobs/handles/knockers still look great after a year and a half of being exposed to the elements (remember we did an update on them here?), that bodes well for all 18 (yes 18!) of the interior knobs that we finally got around to removing and ORBing. But we’re so happy with the results! Totally worth the trouble.

Here are the steps we followed:

  • we removed all 18 knobs with a screwdriver, being careful to keep them paired up (we didn’t want to forget what went with what when we had to reinstall them)
  • using super high grit paper (400) we sanded every last knob to rough them up so the paint would stick (if you see small scratches don’t worry, they’ll be covered with paint- but you definitely want to use high grit paper because low grit can leave deep/big scratches that show through)
  • then I wiped down each knob with liquid deglosser (we like Crown’s Next Liquid Deglosser since it’s low-VOC) and laid them all out on a piece of cardboard (with them facing up, not lying on their sides – which sometimes meant piercing through the cardboard with their back parts to make them stand up).

  • I used Universal All-Surface Spray Paint (by Rostoleum) in the oil-rubbed bronze finish. This has a built-in primer and sticks extremely well to things – especially metal – so if you’re contemplating using another brand, you might need to spring for a separate primer to apply first if it’s not already included.
  • When it came to how I sprayed, I just misted everything from all angles. To avoid nasty drips and runny paint, doing several light coats with about 10 minutes of drying time between them was the charm. Mine were so thin it took five coats and I kept the can moving around the whole time – like you’d mist your mane with Aqua-Net. I also squatted on the ground from all sides to be sure I got all of the exposed parts of the knob completely covered.

  • We let everything dry for a full 48 hours before reinstalling them (didn’t want to mark up the finish while wrestling them back into place). After 12 hours outside on a nice day (you don’t want to spray when it’s too cold – check the can for temperature guidelines) we brought them inside to the sunroom so they could continue curing for the rest of the time since it gets too cold outside at night for the paint to dry properly outside.

When it comes to a time breakdown, it took about thirty minutes to remove all the knobs, about two hours to sand and degloss them all, and about an hour to spray paint them. Then after 48 hours of drying time we reinstalled them in all in about half an hour. So the total time spent for what look like new ORB doors = 3 hours and 30 minutes (plus a few passive days of drying time).

And it only took one can of spray paint (actually less than that, since we were using an already-open leftover can). So that’s a lot cheaper than the $185 (!!!) we would have spent at Home Depot buying the exact same knobs in their oil-rubbed bronze finish. Our verdict: so happy with them. Wish we did this about two years sooner. Seriously it wasn’t even that big of a project (in our heads we kept putting it off because messing with every door in the house feels intimidating, but honestly you just remove a few screws, note which ones go together, and they’re all back in a few days later).

Oh and here’s an installation tip for ya: we found that using some painter’s tape while re-installng them kept us from scratching the newly applied finish (then just remove the tape when you’re done and it’s all good).

As for our door hinges, many of them already look ORBed (they’re old and darkened and not bright and shiny brass like the knobs were) or are painted over in white like the door from the previous owners, so we don’t have bright brass hinges clashing with the dark knobs or anything. But if you do you could probably switch them out for a few bucks per door. ORBed doorknobs are muuuch more expensive to buy than hinges or door plates, which is the good news (so I probably wouldn’t attempt to spray paint hinges like the doorknobs, since I’d worry all that grinding over time would make the paint peel and scrape off).

And as for the latch strike plates, a few of those already look ORBed like the hinges (just from darkening over time, which for some reason didn’t seem to happen to the shiiiiny brass knobs themselves) but a few were still brassy and bright, like this one:

…so we picked four of them up from Home Depot for $5 total (they’re a whole lot cheaper than knobs!). Our reasoning for buying new ones to replace any super brassy ones that stood out instead of spray painting them ORB as well, was because the latch bangs against them a lot, so we thought they might scratch over time (whereas the knobs themselves don’t grind against anything else that’s metal, which must by why they hold up so well – even when they’re outside).

So there it is. A “dude get on that already” project that has been in the making for a long arse time. Feels pretty good to check that off! And just as I suspected, every single room/closet that we put them back on looked a little posher and less “ew, eighties brass”-ish than it did before. Hooray for small upgrades that make your whole house feel a little more crisp, new, and loved. What have you guys been checking off your to-do list? Does it involve paint? Sandpaper? A whole lotta procrastination beforehand?


  1. says

    Those look awesome guys! I’m forwarding this on to my aunt b/c her fixtures are ORB in the kitchen and the rest of her fixtures are 80’s brass so this is right up her alley. (Though I know she won’t do it. She’ll say “hey, you in the mood for a project?”)

  2. Lauren says

    Okay this might be VERY weird and OCD, but I am going to ask. I’ve thought about doing this in my own home but worry that it might be bad to touch the spray painted surfaces over time (exposing your hands to the paint). Did you worry about this or am I just insane? I’m sure we touch lots of other painted surfaces all the time and don’t even think about it. It’s okay to tell me I am weird…

    • says

      I totally think like that too, but I’ve learned that once spray paint is cured it’s just like touching anything else that has been factory sprayed, which is everything from parts of your car to other handles, knobs, metal stools, stepladders, etc – anything else that is sprayed metal or wood. So for example, if you bought the ORBed knobs that I linked to at Home Depot in this post, they have been sprayed in the same way – possibly with even more oil-based/strong paint). But when you touch fully cured paint it shouldn’t transfer into your system (obviously you don’t want to eat or inhale it or coat your body with it when it’s wet – but touching cured spray paint should be all good). Hope it helps!


  3. Brittany says

    I orbed all of my hardware last year, and it is definitely worth the extra money to buy the latch strike plates! Paint definitely comes off! The only other place that paint starts to come off is the key hole. I guess when it is dark people miss the hole and it scratches the plates sometimes… but overall the best improvement you can make in a day or 2!!!! Thanks Sherry for introducing me to the ORB!

    • says

      Wahoo! So glad you’re loving the ORB. And as for the strike plates, so good to hear that confirmed! I was tempted just to spray them but it was only a few bucks to get new ones so I went for it. Haha!


    • Steph H says

      When we first moved into our house we replaced a couple knobs as a start. Thinking about painting the rest…but as for the latch strike plate that came with our knob, I have the opposite opinion. The ORB has totally rubbed off and bright brass is showing through. Made me think I’d be better off to paint them myself. Of course it was a part of a knob kit. Maybe there’s a better option is you’re buying JUST the strike plate?

    • says

      We painted one of ours too (as a test). And the latch strike place is the only place we’ve had any chipping. Good to know there are some at Home Depot. I was going to order them offline!
      p.s. we’ve been doing ours one at a time. 2 down-7 left!

    • Lauren says

      We have the same problem as Steph! I just checked them after your post, and sure enough, the paint has scraped off of the ORB plates we purchased.

    • Jen M. says

      I ORBed all my hardware from that nasty brass a couple years ago too — first I actually considered doing the hinges myself, but didn’t want all my doors off their hinges while it dried, so I bought those (SO cheap and easy to install – worth the money!). I did spray the latch strikes though, and the first time someone closed a door with out turning the handle first, it scraped right off. I ran out and bought the ORB latch strikes after that, and most of them have been replaced in my house now. I can’t get the screws out of a couple (could the first time either, and just painted them right on the frame), they are stuck good. Any tips on getting those out without ruining the door frame? I literally shredded two screw drivers trying to twist them out, and the screws are just totally destroyed too (instead of the phillips head shape in the screws, now they are just hollowed out inverse cones… if that makes sense?). I got so annoyed, I just left them. But I LURVE my ORB hardware, seriously, I smile everytime I walk down my hallway, wish I would have done it sooner!

    • says

      Ooh that’s really hard. Honestly I would try to pry them out with a crowbar or prybar or even use a flat-head screwdriver as a chisel in the hopes that with some wood putty and a new plate you’ll be as good as new once you get them off. Anyone else have better/more gentle ideas?


    • CohoesMom5 says

      For the stripped screws, we bought a small tool that you hammer into the screw (to make new lines) and then unscrew very slowly. It has worked for us.

      I also ready a tip online to use a rubber band between the screw and the screwdriver and that the rubber band might fill in the hole just enough to grip the screw. I haven’t tried this but it might work.

  4. says

    Muuuch better! Such a great, inexpensive upgrade. Thankfully, the Little House has all glass door knobs, so painting/upgrading wasn’t necessary!

    PS. Thanks to you guys we’ve discovered the wonders of liquid deglosser. That. Stuff. Rocks. So glad you turned us on to it!!

  5. sheila says

    Yes!! Love it! I have same old brass knobs, and this will be sooo much better and cheaper than replacing them all. Maybe I’ll get on this now too! I’ve only been hating mine for almost six years now…

    • Laura says

      I’m SO with you Sheila. We’ve lived here for 3 years and I ALWAYS look at them and wish they were different!

  6. Katie says

    ORBing is the best :) My husband keeps trying to remind me that the answer to everything I see in the store isn’t “we should buy that and spray paint it!”

  7. says

    I had planned to either swap out or spraypaint all the brass doorknobs in our 50s ranch, too. And then an odd thing happened: I started to like them. (They’re old, so they’re not suuuper shiny, but still kinda shiny nonetheless. I blame (credit?) Emily Henderson. So I’m kinda glad I lived with them for a little while before spraypainting.

    • Sally says

      Me too! I’ve got a 50’s ranch and the knobs have grown on me.

      I did switch out the 80’s cabinet pulls for ones that looked more retro.

  8. says

    It looks great you guys!! I really appreciate how you two have the patience to do all the steps carefully enough for an optimal result (like not rushing the number of coats or drying time)! I’ve just been learning the last couple years how important that is.

    Also, I’ve had surprisingly good results spray painting some old hinges that I couldn’t stand but didn’t have money to upgrade! I’m so lazy I didn’t even take the hinges off the door. Haha. I documented it here:

  9. Andrea Ferree says

    We have a pretty small house (1,200 sq/ft) so we just sprung for the 5 door knobs in that brushed nickle finish and we still haven’t put them up.. that was a few months ago. D’oh. Maybe we should “dude get on that” already.

  10. Amy says

    I’ve been ORB-ing all of my ugly brass – including the hinges. The hinges have held up great – you just have to be careful when re-installing the hinge pins that you don’t knock the paint off!

  11. says

    Great kick in the butt, ya’ll! I have been working on stenciling my bathroom walls, thanks to motivation from your book! My stencil is being a biznitch now that I’m close to the end, but MUST PERSEVERE. Can’t wait to use the link up to show off the results too!

  12. Niki says

    OMG. I was completely just thinking of this LAST NIGHT and I almost posted a random comment asking if you had ORBd the hinges, etc… Great timing. (they also look great)

  13. Kristi says

    I tried that with our brass hardware and we haven’t even lived here for a year and its all wearing off. Hope it works out for you!

    • says

      Hmm, did you sand and degloss? That seemed to help our exterior stuff hold up (and we figure if that’s still going strong after being outside/in the elements than hopefully this stuff inside will too). We’ll definitely keep you guys posted and do an update!


    • says

      I second Kristi. The Rustoleum Universal spray paint does well when it isn’t handled. I sprayed the trim on my cook-top satin nickel a little over a year ago and now it’s starting to fade. I did sand and degloss. I thought of doing it for all of my interior door knobs, hinges and strike plates but wanted to see how it held up. Given that the knobs would be handled so much, I’m a little reluctant.

  14. Karly says

    We sprayed the hinges on our kitchen cabinets when we redid them, and they have held up wonderfully! No scratching or scuffing. Love the power of spray paint, the new knobs look great!

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