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Today I decided to figure out how to replace a doorbell with another basic, albeit, more contemporary model. It was pretty simple, and it gave my front door a little mini facelift!

My front door and porch were already looking pretty good with some recent upgrades from the before:

My front porch with white trim and light tan paint. The navy blue door and nickel finishes are ready for the final touch of a brand new doorbell

There are just a few more things that I need to do… like replace this ugly doorbell.

Here is my old doorbell with a dated brass finish that match the door or the nickel finish on the other door accessories

As you see, it was time for something a little more my style. I definitely needed a change!

Why I Decided to Replace My Doorbell

There are lots of things I hate about the old doorbell installed on my house. For one, the old doorbell button was re-mounted to the left of the hole where the wiring comes out to make room for a storm door I have since removed. I can see an outline and old hole marks on the trim, where the original doorbell was, so I really can’t understand why the previous owner did such a sloppy job of leaving an exposed wire like this.

Also, the old wired doorbell was quite tarnished and clashes with all of the other finishes on the exterior around the front door (which I’ve slowly been replacing with satin nickel finishes, including the house numbersknockerporch light, and recently, the door handle and deadbolt). I think the satin nickel finish goes so much better with the navy blue front door and the white trim.

The old, poorly mounted doorbell stood out in contrast to the white doorframe and navy door

So, in case the reasons aren’t painfully obvious from the pictures, it was definitely time for a doorbell replacement. Fortunately, this home improvement project isn’t too tricky, and it’s a great way to update your front porch and door.

How to Do a Simple Doorbell Installation

You may need the following supplies:

Materials & Tools You May Need

  • pencil
  • screwdriver (flat or Phillips head, whichever works for your screws)
  • new doorbell (this is the one I bought)
  • voltage tester
  • paint
  • wood filler
  • sandpaper
  • drill
  • spade drill bit (depending on the doorbell style)
  • utility knife (possibly)

Step 1: Safety first! And a quick terminology lesson

As you can probably tell, this is a wired doorbell (it does not run on batteries but power running directly through the house). Before doing ANY kind of electrical work, you’ll want to make sure the power is off. I don’t just mean to flip the switch into the off position, but to save any risk of electrical current running through the wires you might be working with, it’s best to turn power off at the circuit breaker.

NOTE: Different doorbells, or door chimes, will have different numbers of wires. Check the diagrams on your package for specifics. You may run into a ground wire, a neutral wire & a hot wire. Don’t let those bell wires intimidate you!

Step 2: Find a stylish replacement

You will find replacement doorbells at many big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and of course, online. I chose one that was simple but complimented the surrounding front door and accessories. There are plenty of options for replacement doorbells. (You will find all sorts of bells and whistles available in the doorbell section).

Step 2: Remove the old

To replace the doorbell, I first removed the front plate, which unintentionally removed the (nasty) old button as both were held in place by the front piece. I’m not sure if this is the same for all doorbells, but because this one was so old, it came apart as soon as I removed the front plate.

I then unscrewed and detached the wires from the back of the doorbell. This is where you should grab your circuit tester to insure there are no hot wires. A zap from these *shouldn’t* cause you more than a buzz as they’re low-voltage wires but you’d rather not find out the hard way. Note: for safety reasons, because what I do to my house is to my house (and you should always do the safety precaution even if I don’t), turn the power off at the main breaker before replacing your doorbell, K?

The old doorbell is off the white doorframe and hanging by wires next to the navy blue front door.

Step 3: Position the New Doorbell

The new doorbell I purchased is nearly the same size as the old doorbell I was replacing, so it was easy to align them. First, I needed to figure out where the new doorbell was going to go compared to the old bell (AKA, a smidge to the right on the doorframe).

The new doorbell aligned with the old doorbell location quite well and looked great with the white doorframe and navy blue door

Step 4: Patch and paint the door frame, if necessary

Knowing I wouldn’t put the new doorbell in the exact same spot as the old one, I needed to patch the screw holes with wood filler. I also needed to touch up the unpainted area beneath the old plate on the left side of the trim work. You can probably guess where this is going…

I patched the holes from the old doorbell's poor alignment with Elmer's Wood Filler
I used my finger to smooth wood filler into the holes made by the old doorbell on the white door frame

After the wood filler dried for a short time, I was able to start painting the doorframe to cover up the patch. It took a couple of coats of paint to cover the dark brown stain, but it was also a fun reminder of how much lighter the exterior paint is now versus where I started five years ago.

The new paint and updates to the door accessories made a huge difference to the look and feel of my front porch. I think the nickel looks so sharp, now and the door seems more modern and even welcoming (I mean, it IS a front door, but you know what I mean).

The white doorframe was patched and painted, leaving the wires for the doorbell poking out.

Step 5: Adjust the doorbell wire hole, if needed

Once I got this far in the doorbell replacement process, I ran into a small dilemma. The back of the new doorbell had a much larger area on the back I would need to recess into the trim. I would assume it’s due to advances in doorbell technology or maybe a design issue. Nevertheless, I was going to need to make the hole bigger for the new doorbell to fit.

To achieve the right fit for the new doorbell, I first traced out the size of the hole with a pencil. After checking the wire was threading with a flashlight (so I could locate the wire behind the trim), I carefully (!) drilled a larger hole using a spade drill bit.

I sized the drill bit according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the doorbell package (5/8″). You could use a hole saw bit if you have one small enough. This option will create a cleaner and prettier hole, usually, but the spade bit was the first I found in my garage and got the job done. Plus, I figured the new doorbell would cover the hole anyway, so pretty wasn’t necessary.

I drilled a larger hole in the doorframe to fit the back of the doorbell in by the wires.

Once I was finished drilling the hole for the back of the new doorbell, I must admit it looked kind of like the mess a carpenter bee makes. (Except carpenter bees refuse to listen to instructions, so they weren’t available for help on this project.) Basically, it wasn’t the prettiest hole I’ve ever drilled.

Step 6: Attach the New Doorbell

Once the hole was ready, it was pretty simple to install the new doorbell. I simply reconnected the wires (matching them red to red and black to black wires, white to white wires). Once the doorbell was connected and working, I needed to drill new holes for the mounting screws to attach the silver plate to the wall. Then it was a matter of putting it all together using my trusty screwdriver and bam: the new doorbell was installed and operational!

I connected the wires on the back of the new nickel finish doorbell and drilled two holes for the screws that would attach the plate
My new doorbell installed on the white doorframe next to the light brown house and navy blue front door

Once I figured out how to install a new doorbell, my door looked really fresh and updated. You can see the before and after images—a doorbell replacement makes a HUGE difference.

My old doorbell before…

My navy blue front door with nickel finish accessories doesn’t match the old brass-finish doorbell

And after my doorbell replacement!

The new matching doorbell complements my navy blue front door with nickel finish accessories.

One of the coolest aspects of my new doorbell is that the button glows! It makes the doorbell easy to find at night. This new front doorbell will probably make life a lot easier on the pizza guy when he comes to my front door. Some of those new doorbell buttons out there are so fancy!

My new light-up doorbell looks great on my front door at night

Like most of the home projects that I deal with in an old house, the front door and porch will never be quite perfect. But overall, it’s a far cry from where I was several years ago. I think the front door is quite welcoming now, and the doorbell replacement made a huge difference.

My old red door with brass accents, looks so dated and mismatched against the tan house with dark wood trim
My navy blue front door looks great with white trim and nickel accents. The new doorbell matches the rest of the porch perfectly

Even Danny from Archer is a fan. (Sorry, this clip just makes me giggle.)

Me too, Danny. Me too.

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  1. Damn carpenter bees can’t be trusted to help with anything. Almost like they aren’t licensed carpenters after all.

  2. Where did you get the doorbell? It has such beautiful clean lines! Also, based on the “before” photo it looks like the doorbell was moved to the left to accommodate the storm door that used to be there.

  3. Yes, seems about 4-5 yrs. ago the brushed n satin nickle hardware colors took off and are still popular. The front of your duckling is really coming into a swan like appearance with it’s lovely finished front look with your door complete with new modern lit doorbell installed ( the right way ) , hanging plants, your five southern mini-mums you planted as well as the weeding and bushes behind them. It is indeed looking good… It is to be in the 30’s in the evenings this next week here and I have so much to get done before the snow flies. I am sooo envious of your longer growing season and milder winters. When I installed a new door on my shop / garage I used the matching antique brass lever type door knob (for when your hands are full ) with matching deadbolt and really do like it. Have fun at the signing Sarah, I’m not going to be able to make it….enjoy ;)