The Shed door handle - T-handle or Barn door type?

The shed door handle is one of the most important parts of a shed door. It needs to be strong and well-made, in order to keep your belongings safe and secure. But also, easy to open when you need to access the shed.

Shed door handles are a little different than those used on house doors. Sheds are normally of a little more basic construction than your average house door. So the typical house door hardware isn't easily transferrable as the tight tolerance and quality that work well for your front door don't translate so easily to the harsh environment, less well maintained and built storage shed door. The door handle and lock must also be adaptable to both single door and double doors that are used on a garden shed.

There are two main types of shed door handle:

  1. The T-handle
  2. The barn door type

Which shed door handle is best for you? Let's look at the options.

1. The T handle

This option is common on many sheds, playhouses and chicken coops in the United States. The components of the T handle are shown in the picture below.

shed door handle Shed door T-handle components

For those not familiar with this type of product I'll give you a few more details on the parts and how to install this type of shed door handle. I'll go into the details of how to install a T handle later in the article.

Essentially the T handle combines the function of door handle and lock into one product that is very easy to install.

The main package contents are:

  1. The T handle which contains a lock mechanism and shaft, the T handle fits on to the outside of the door.
  2. Keys to lock the T handle
  3. Screws to secure the T-Handle to the face of the door
  4. The black D handle which is essentially a cam that fits over the square shaft and sits on the inside of the door. D handles also serve as a handle for securing the door from the inside.
  5. The grub screw with recessed allen head, this secures the D handle to the square shaft.
  6. Allen wrench which is used to tighten the grub screw

How to install a shed door T Handle

Easy installation is a big feature of this type of shed door handle.

Before you buy your lock kit you will need to check the thickness of your door to make sure that the square shaft is the correct length. The shaft length is not critical as if is too long as you can always cut it shorter, but if it is too short then you will have problems. Most T handles have a shaft length of 4.5 " (112.5mm) so work fine with the average shed door design.

The first step is to drill a hole in the shed door. Most shed door handle shafts are a 1/4" square so you will need to drill a 3/8" hole.

You then pass the shaft into the hole and screw the handle on to the front of the door.

Then with the door in the closed position (and you inside the shed!) put the black d-handle on to the shaft and push it up against the back of the door jamb. Allow a little bit of play here to accommodate some movement and then tighten the set screw with the allen wrench.

Turn the handle from the back of the door so you can get out and you are in business!

The pros and cons of the shed T handle

The big advantage of the T handle, as you just found out, is the ease of installation.

Another advantage is the very reasonable price. T handles usually cost in the range of $10-15

On the downside, the T handle isn't the most secure of locks.

It relies heavily on the two screws that fix the T handle to the face of the door. If these can be removed or snapped then the whole lock can be rotated and the door opened.

Also, the D handle on the inside on the inside is only secured with the set screw. Therefore, if this becomes loose the D handle will slide on the shaft and the door come open.

The cylinder locks on T handles are not of the strongest design which also makes them vulnerable.

So now you know about the shed door T handle lets find out about the other option, the barn door handle.

2. The Barn door handle

The barn door handle differs from the T handle in that the shed door handle and locking mechanism are separated. This means that there are more choices to make.

shed door handle Wooden barn door handle and lock

The most basic shed handles are the cast iron handles available from most hardware stores. These are fixed with two screws. This type is essentially a cast metal pull handle that gives you control over the door as you open and close it.

There is a huge range of barn door handle designs in folded metal, welded mild steel, stainless steel and wood. Checkout the range of door handles on sites such as Amazon.

I also have a very small range of shed door handles made of wood in my shed hardware store. I hope you like them and if you do buy one it helps to keep this site on the road.

The locking mechanism is separate from the handle and so could range from the simplest type of shed door latch, locking barrel bolts or a relatively sophisticated locking mechanism such as the Gatemate.

The pros and cons of the Barn door handle

The Barn door handle itself is simplicity to install just requiring two screws into a solid part of the shed door.

I have covered shed door locks in some detail in this article. There is a huge range in security and sophistication.

The simplest is the locking barrel bolt which bolts to the outside of the door and secured with a padlock. This method is effective but not as elegant as the T handle.

My favourite shed door lock is the Gatemate style long throw lock. This is a very secure lock which is robust, relatively easy to install (though more complex than the T handle) and also looks good from the outside of the shed.

The dead bolt which is made from 20x20mm stainless steel moves over 2" (50mm) horizontally and secures into a keep fixed to the shed door frame. Both of these factors are important as shed doors and their frames move a small amount due to seasonal factors and a traditional door lock doesn't have the extra bolt throw or tolerance to accommodate this without sticking.

In conclusion, the barn door handle approach is likely more costly but also more secure than the T handle.

So, which is the best shed door handle?

If security wasn't my prime concern then the T handle approach wins hands down for convenience, low price and ease of installation.

T-handles really work well as a lock for a small outdoor building such as a chicken coop or playhouse. Where it is good to be able to lock the door, but a good level of security isn't the main concern.

However, if you are storing any items of value in your shed then the barn door handle and more secure shed lock approach is the one I use on my own shed.

Also, when I build sheds for customers they normally have garden equipment stored in them so the extra money spent on a better lock is well worth the peace of mind for them.


I hope this article has helped to clarify your thinking between the standard T-handle and the more traditional barn door handle with lock.

If you need to find out more about the different types of shed door lock click here

Click here to find out about securing double shed doors

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