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Making a memorable first impression is tough if your front door has ho-hum hardware. Even worse is a tarnished, pitted entry set with a peeling lacquer finish, like the one below.

To give the door more polish, we shopped around for a shiny brass replacement. But rather than get a set from a specialty hardware shop, where they can easily top $1,000, we chose a Baldwin one-piece handle and tubular lock set with a handsome escutcheon for $179 from the home center. Hardware manufacturers' home-center lines, which range from $100 to $350, are also easier to retrofit because they're designed for DIYers.

Completing the door's makeover is a shapely new knocker for $41 and a gleaming kick plate for $66, for a total project cost of $286.

Step 1

Entryway Before

Photo by Ryan Benyi

Budget: $250 to $500

Key players: Entry set, knocker, kickplate

DIY savings: Up to $250 to hire a locksmith

How to Pick a New Entry Set

The key to an easy entry upgrade is finding a handle-and-lock assembly that lines up with your door's existing drill-outs. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your new set will be a perfect fit.

Lock type

There are two options: A tubular lock, which installs in two holes in the door, and a mortise lock, which goes in one hole. Tubular locks are more widely available, easier to install, and less expensive. Mortise locks, which tend to be more solidly built, require a locksmith to install. Unless you plan on buying a new door, make sure your new setup has the same lock type as the old one. Also, check the dimensions of the strike plate to ensure it will fit in the existing impression in the door jamb to avoid having to pull out a chisel.

Door swing

Entry sets with handles or knobs can typically be adapted to a right- or left-hand door swing, but ones with levers are not so forgiving. To determine if your door has a right- or left-hand swing, stand outside and note which side the hinges are attached to. A door that is hinged on the left side, for instance, swings to the left.

Hole placement

Remove the interior knob and thumb-turn lock hardware to expose the holes in the door. Measure from the center of the knob hole to the center of the lock hole to determine the spread. On a replacement set with a one-piece exterior escutcheon that holds both the lock cylinder and latch, the spread must match the holes exactly. Choose a two-piece set if you want more wiggle room. Measure the backset: the distance from the inner edge of the door to the center of the knob and lock holes. Backsets are typically either 2⅜ or 2¾ inches. With the door closed, the new escutcheon or rosettes should fully cover the holes, leaving at least ¼ inch between their outside edges and the doorstop.

Step 2

Remove the Old Entry Set

Photo by Ryan Benyi

Remove the old entry set by taking out the mounting screws that secure the interior knob and locking hardware to the exterior handle and lock cylinder. To remove the dead bolt and latch bolt, unscrew their faceplates, located on the door's inner edge. Replace the existing strike and latch plates in the door jamb with the new ones provided with your set.

Step 3

Install the Exterior Handle

Photo by Ryan Benyi

With the new dead bolt and latch bolt in place, fit the handle over the door's existing holes. The posts for the handle's lock cylinder and thumb latch should easily slide into the dead-bolt and latch-bolt assemblies.

Step 4

Secure the Interior Hardware

Photo by Ryan Benyi

Fit the lock over the projecting cylinder post, and put the knob's spindle-and-rosette assembly on the thumb-latch post. Fasten both with mounting screws. Next, fit the knob on the spindle and tighten its setscrew. To steady the base of the handle, insert a mounting screw, and hide its head with the decorative cover supplied. Finally, finish off your front-door transformation by drilling holes for and fastening the new knocker and kickplate.