Updating A Door Knocker And A Doorbell

How about a post about hunting for knockers? Nope, not those knockers. This is just the follow-up we promised yesterday about updating our door knocker and doorbell.

Here was the situation before: a nice but quite aged door knocker whose main flaw was that the previous owner’s last name that was etched into it (it’s a little hard to see because I slightly blurred it for their sake).

We took the engraving as a sign that it needed to be replaced, rather than salvaged, so we figured we’d use the opportunity to buy something unique and statement piece-y. First we hit up our favorite local hardware store (Pleasant’s Hardware) which had some animal kingdom inspired options that Clara couldn’t keep her hands off of. But with those prices ($188?!) Sherry and I had no trouble.

Our next stop was a local architectural salvage place that’s always full of interesting pieces (Caravati’s). They had some cool options – we especially loved the chunky ring in the bottom right – but the prices were still about one digit longer than we were hoping to spend (that one was $185). I guess I never really thought about how much a door knocker could cost.

Next we scoped out Lowe’s and Home Depot, which both had options like these. The price was certainly right, but it was the same basic urn style knocker that we already had except smaller and not as “original” looking. Plus the size difference would mean we’d have to make new holes in the door to achieve basically the same look.

When the big box stores failed to excite us, we hunted online a little and found some interesting and slightly more affordable options at both Restoration Hardware and Anthropologie. Never did I think I’d put those two stores in the same sentence as “slightly more affordable” but compared to our first options their $50-ish price tags felt like a deal. But these were both about half the size (or less) than our original knocker, so we worried they’d look a little lost/piddly on our two-story facade.

Feeling a bit KO’d by knocker hunting, we started to look at our existing knocker with fresh eyes. A gentleman at Caravati’s had mentioned we could take it someplace to get the engraving buffed out… but maybe it was worth attempting an at-home buffing first? After all, my Dremel had some sanding pads that seemed built for a job like that.

Figuring we didn’t have much to lose, we removed the knocker and I attached the lowest grit sand paper to my Dremel (the one with the roughest texture) in hopes that it would scratch out the old owner’s name.

Scratching achieved. I stopped at first, worrying I was permanently damaging it, but Sherry assured me that a new coat of paint should cover it up. So I charged on, er, buffed on.

After a few passes with the low-grit sandpaper, I went back over with the high-grit stuff (which has a much smoother texture) to minimize the scratches by buffing them. It still had slight traces of my buffing pattern, but it certainly got smoother. It even revealed a gold finish that’s probably close to what the knocker looked like decades ago.

If gold was what we were going for – and if I had the patience to buff every nook and cranny – it could’ve been a very exciting discovery. Instead, I was just happy to get that engraving off so Sherry could get down to oil-rubbed-bronzing it to match the door hardware as well as some other dark-toned items on the porch (more on those in a second). She used her favorite self-priming spray paint by Rustoleum (Universal All-Surface Spray) and just applied three thin coats (more of a mist than a coat, so they built up gradually without dripping).

Once dried, the de-personalized knocker looked right at home on our new blue door. You can see how its fresh shine is reflecting the front yard – there’s even a reflection of Sherry standing in front of it taking the picture, but the area that I sanded down is exactly the same color and texture as the rest of it. Thank goodness for small use-what-you-got victories.

Here’s a detail shot of the door open to try to capture the smooth finish for you with less of the porch reflection thing going on.

While we were at it, we decided to clean up the doorbell too. We liked the shape, so it just needed a coat of the same oil-rubbed bronze finish as the knocker to cover the sloppy looking over-painted areas that had obscured its interesting shape.

Sherry’s trick for keeping the button from getting painted was to press a piece of sticky-tack over it (you know, that poster putty that you use in college to hang Weezer posters?). It was much easier than trying to cut painter’s tape in a perfectly sized circle. And as you can see above, it worked out pretty nicely – she just yanked it off after the paint dried and the button was clean and unpainted underneath.

So that’s how one can of $7 spray paint allowed us to keep and update two etched and painted over items on our porch. Hopefully it’ll come in handy for anyone else out there with a not-quite-there-yet door knocker or doorbell. We really like how the new darker finish helps them stand out more while tying in with the door handle, the black planters on the porch, and even the black rule around the doormat.

Now if we can just do something about that bug-infested crooked light…

Psst- Clara’s at it again, being all funny and cute over here.


    • says

      I think an up close shot of all the bugs that went there to die might change your mind. Haha! But I love a hall lantern! Maybe I should try to de-bug it and use it inside :)


  1. Liz says

    I love the dark hardware! I also love the blue door but think it would “go” better once you bring other colors into the front of the house – even just some flowers! An oriental-looking outdoor rug/doormat might tie the blue in with the red brick as well. (Or maybe not…I just love the look of old oriental rugs mixed with modern, brighter elements!)

  2. Stefanie says

    I really love how the ORB pops against that door color. It really makes everything look very finished and clean.

    I cannot wait to see what you guys do with that light. As is it leaves much to be desired but I think something like what you had in your previous dining area (but smaller!) would look kinda amazing in it’s place.

  3. rachael says

    We have that exact same door knocker!! It was my husband’s grandparents door knocker, and it has our last name engraved on it too. When they moved into a nursing home, his Grandpa gave it to my father in law who didn’t want it so he gave it to us. Now, we don’t have a door suitable for a knocker because it has a window in it that takes up most of the door, so we hung it up in our gallery wall. Maybe one day if we move we will have a door we can put it on.

    • Alisha says

      We have one, too! Our’s was my husband’s uncle’s (who passed away right before our wedding) but he never hung it–so it could have been my husband’s grandparent’s, too!

      My question, Sherry, is do you think we could ORB it (it’s bright brass) without covering/blurring our etched in last name? It would be a nice little family momento to display! I like Rachel’s idea of displaying inside on a gallery wall until have a place to hang it, too! ( we have 9 window pane door…would it be weird to hang it below the windows at waist height?)

    • says

      Oh man I’m nervous because we heard from someone who sprayed it and said it obscured the name (one person said fully and one person said partially) so it really must depend how deeply it’s etched.


  4. tjack432 says

    After all the ORB updating, that light looks like it was photoshopped onto the porch.

    I have a question. Did you remove the paint on the brick? It looks like there is less paint there in the before/after doorbell pics. Or is it just a camera thing?

  5. Mia says

    That doorbell transformation is amazing. How did you look at the original and imagine the final result?!

    • says

      I think we have tried to train ourselves to look at the shape of something over the color, so if we like the shape, and we know we like ORB as a finish, we just hope that once we combine those two things it’ll look nice.


  6. Amanda T. says

    Yay for being able to reuse what you’ve got! And ORB is just sooooo delicious! Like a sparkly chocolate river. Ha!

  7. audrey m says

    If you spray the light fixture the same ORB it will look better for the time being. Then y’all can replace it with what you love!

  8. Lynne Piil says

    Love, love, love the choices for the door, etc.!! We have a home with the same color of brick as yours and are about to paint the garage, front and side doors a charcoal/bluish grey color. The last owners did a terrible job painting the trim and there is white paint from the trim bleeding out onto the brick work. We are wondering what to do about this, and are figuring that the only thing we can do is try to match the brick color and paint over it — do you have any other ideas? Many thanks, Lynne

    • says

      We tried to get some paint off the brick using Goo Gone on a brillo pad since we heard that can buff it out in some cases. For us, it helped but didn’t remove it all (maybe 60-70% got lighter and less obvious but not much of it disappeared completely). Hope it helps!


    • says

      On Designed to Sell they used to paint bricks with brick color to get them looking decent again. Great use of a sponge paint technique.

  9. Shannon says

    Great way to use what you’ve got, especially when the other options were so expensive!

    If only a little spray paint could hide our door knocker that is in the shape of a cat’s butt!!! We do not own a cat, and neither did the previous owners, so it’s from 2 owners ago. It’s screwed into the mullions of the window on our door. We haven’t found a replacement that will fit!

    • says

      Oh my gosh I had to reread your comment because I said “surely she didn’t say it was the shape of a cat’s butt, I’m reading this wrong.” Hilarious! And my condolences.


  10. says

    Seems like I’m just following in your footsteps with newtome house projects. Well, I’m not ripping up any carpet though.

    The front door is perfect, although I was really hoping you chose “Spirit in the Sky” purely because it’s a great tune and just seeing the title made me feel all young and girly/giggly. :p

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