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

    Awesome! Makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?! When we moved into our house we replaced all of our interior doors and knobs, and the impact it had was huge.

    We just finished adding crown molding and wainscoting to our entry and long hallway! It was pretty much the opposite of your project – we didn’t think it would be that bad but it took two months. It was awful and tedious work. But it’s done and we love it!

  2. Jessica says

    We need a “down the hallway” shot to see a few knobs in a row! : )

    Been thinking about spray painting our knobs, but I might just spring for the ORBed ones in the store. Already too cold in NY for spray painting and my brass knobs need to go!

  3. Beth Jackson says

    Have done many of our doorknobs and fixtures. What do you think about glass knobs? Like, not the prism itself, but the plates behind the knob? And the skeleton keyhole? All the knobs on the second floor of our house are glass. Love the charm, but some have been painted over to match the doors, and some are just old and nasty. We’ve looked at replacing with similar but they are so expensive. Didn’t see any glass knobs in your pics. Any thoughts?

  4. Monika says

    We did this as well on (most) doors in our house! Our hinges and strike plates were also shiny gold, so I spray painted them as well. It’s been a year since I’ve done it. The verdict? The hinges hold up real well (they are well oiled and do not rub), like you predicted the strike plates scratched immediately, and the doorknobs are hit or miss. Some have chipping/peeling ORB paint and I’ve re-coated them already once. My feeling is that for doors where the handles are used A LOT (like our pantry door and garage door is opened at least 100 times a day), replacing them should be a way to go. But for bedroom doors that get locked once a day tops, the paint hasn’t chipped off at all. I might just put a third coating on the puppies to save $$$. Even with chipping ORB on some of the doorknobs, it’s well worth is for $8 total!

    • says

      So good to know! We plan to do an update with photos on ours in a while (just like we did with the exterior ones). Here’s hoping they hold! I do think sanding and deglossing seem to help a lot too, so to anyone about to try it, don’t skip those steps and try to apply paint as thinly and evenly as possible!


  5. meganleiann says

    I’ve been procrastinating on this waiting for your tutorial! I figured you would come up with something I’d miss. :)
    Did you spray the little latch part itself? Are you worried about that part rubbing off?

    • says

      We actually just did the knobs, so that latch part was already that dark color. It’s so odd how some of the strike plates and latch parts darkened over time while the knobs stayed so brightly brass!


  6. Lindsay says

    So glad your knockers are still looking good! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    We recently switched out all of our interior handles. I was going to try the spraypaint method, but they were so badly dented from the previous owner.

  7. says

    Love it! Funny story- when choosing paint for our house four years ago, I chose the main color of our interior from your blog- it was Water Chestnut. We have an open living area and vaulted ceilings and I’m sorry to say I hated the color! It was nearly impossible to see against our trim- 2 years later we painted all our trim and doors white (it took years before I realized they weren’t white and the problem wasn’t the wall color. woops!) and BAM – we got to see the beauty of Water Chestnut! But what really made a difference was replacing every door knob and hinge from the hideous 80’s gold to ORB. It’s by far one of the biggest transformations we have made in the house. Our only mistake was reversing the lock portion of the door to one of our guest rooms so it locks from the outside. Now it’s our daughter’s room and our friends always joke we did it on purpose. Maybe we will keep it like that, then she can’t lock herself in :)

  8. Annika says

    I did this a couple of years ago too, but got lucky and could by all the ORB handles for about $2 ( will never be that lucky again!!:) But I ended up spraypainting the hinges and they have held up great. I bought one set (3) new and then just switched out one by one, so that I never had to remove the door. So I basically did one door at a time, witch took a couple of days but it wa soo totally worth it! What a difference it makes!

  9. says

    We ended up buying new ORB knobs with handles because we thought it made our home look more improved since it’s a starter home with many other “starter home finishes.” Then we craigslisted our nickel-finished hardware for the same price we paid for the new hardware at Home Depot. Just like we had even exchanged it!

  10. Andrea says

    This is timely – I bought ORB last month and haven’t summoned the energy to go for it (definitely a “dude get on that already” for me!), so this is inspiration! And yes, I also refer to it as ORBing… you have created a new word!

  11. Chris says

    I am totally doing this in the spring (live in Michigan). I have some knobs that are brass on one side and silver on the other side of the door. Didn’t know that was part of builder grade! :)

  12. says

    And now I have that song in my head. It’s always on XM 90’s on 9.
    I think we’re going to try painting this weekend! It’ll be our first fun project since closing on our house a month ago.

  13. Heather W says

    Sherry, I couldn’t tell in the post but did you also spray paint the screws for the door knobs or buy new? Also where did you buy your deglosser? Thanks! They look great!

    • says

      If spray paint is fully cured it shouldn’t smell anymore, so the secret is super thin misty coats (they dry so much faster than thick goey ones) and giving it about 48 hours to totally cure up so it’s hard like a car finish.


  14. Kim says

    Looks great! Such a small change with big impact :) Do you ever wonder if 20 years from now we’ll all be thinking “Ugh, that ORB stuff is SO outdated!”

    • says

      Haha, it totally could happen! Although I tend to think the less neutral things will be dated before anything that’s almost black (it’s such a timeless color in design). For example, I think chrome or gold might be “of a certain era” someday (aka: dated to some people) while anything white or black might fit right in. Who really knows though!


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