What to do about an old doorbell?
October 11, 2008 11:54 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about my doorbell?

The button part of the doorbell is rotted away, so people don't like to use it for fear of getting shocked or whatever. I've asked around at Lowe's and Home Depot, and nobody knew anything about buying just the button part of a doorbell. Replacing the whole doorbell plate is tricky, since it's that funny shape (for which whoever installed it had to take a chip out of the molding next to it to make it fit). Any ideas most welcome.
posted by gleuschk to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Best answer: There are replacement buttons here and on the eBays, and this appears to be a pretty decent how-to article.

The plate is pretty unique; a good soak in some paint remover and a scrub with a wire brush should make it like new.
posted by mezzanayne at 12:09 PM on October 11, 2008

Best answer: Glass is a good insulator. I'd glue a marble in place and use that.
posted by judith at 12:14 PM on October 11, 2008

Best answer: It's a regular button, they do have them at Home Depot. Look in the doorbell section. They mostly don't have employees that know anything.
posted by lee at 12:33 PM on October 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Home Depot, it even has a light!!
posted by lee at 12:36 PM on October 11, 2008

Best answer: If the contacts still work, superglue a mother of pearl button to the remains of the previous button.
posted by hortense at 1:33 PM on October 11, 2008

Best answer: A few months ago I did exactly what you propose and replaced my doorbell button; they have them at both Lowes and Home Depot; it is about a 10 minute job. There are 2 or 3 standard spacings for the holes on the switchplate, so measure yours before going to the store unless you want to drill new holes; also, you may need to touch up the paint if you can't find the same style or something larger.

The voltage is 10 volts at a low amperage, so shock danger is low. I didn't bother to turn off the power, but you may feel differently.

I've asked around at Lowe's and Home Depot, and nobody knew anything about buying just the button part of a doorbell.

And my wife wonders why I don't ask for help in big box stores. Oh well, as soon as she gets home I am off to find a hose coupling to repair the drain on our dishwasher.
posted by TedW at 2:15 PM on October 11, 2008

Best answer: The voltage on a doorbell circuit varies a bit (IME 12-18 volts is more common, fed from a tiny transformer hidden in your walls somewhere) but, yeah, it's a low-voltage, low-current circuit that pretty much any pushbutton should be able to deal with. In addition to big-box stores, Radio Shack should also have pushbuttons available, as well as most small hardware stores. You want a button that is "momentary" (as in, it turns on while you press it, instead of being push-on-push-off or something) and "normally open" or "N.O." (meaning, the bell will be off [open circuit] when the button's not being pressed, and on [closed circuit] when the button is being pressed). Most pushbutton switches will be momentary N.O. switches so no difficulty there. Find something that looks nice and is the right size to fit in the hole in the plate, and you'll probably be good. Bonus points for something that's weather-resistant or deigned as a doorbell switch, but don't sweat it.
posted by hattifattener at 3:18 PM on October 11, 2008

Best answer: This is the perfect home repair for places like Ace hardware or other local franchises where the store is small, the place is packed with parts, and staff is worth their weight in gold. I tend to show up at our Ace with a handful of parts and a description of the problem and walk home with more parts and a plan. Home Depot will do if I know what I'm doing, but Ace gets my business over and over again because they actually know their stuff.

In any case, you should be able to get a replacement button and it's about as easy as it gets to replace the thing. I didn't turn off the power when we did ours, but no one ever got killed by turning off the power just in case.
posted by advicepig at 7:43 PM on October 11, 2008

Response by poster: Big thanks to everybody. I love feeling competent and DIY-y.
posted by gleuschk at 8:55 AM on October 12, 2008

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