Wood Door Comparison: Solid Wood, Solid Core, and Hollow-Core

Wood Door

Lee Wallender

Solid wood doors have long been considered the premium—and only—choice for homes. But as times have changed, innovations have come along that place other doors—hollow-core and solid-core—on an equal playing field with solid wood doors. At a glance, many wood interior passage doors and wood exterior doors look like they are made entirely of solid wood. But more often than not, these doors use construction methods designed to make them look like solid wood while avoiding some of the drawbacks of solid wood doors.

Wood doors used in residential construction come in three types: solid wood, hollow core, and solid core. Each type of door is constructed differently and has its own advantages and disadvantages. Today, it is more a matter of choosing the door that is best suited for your own needs. No single wood door is perfect for all needs.

Solid Wood Doors

Solid wood doors are made either from a solid wood slab or, more commonly, a frame-and-panel construction that uses natural wood—whether a softwood like pine or a hardwood like oak or maple. Exterior doors made from wood typically use solid wood construction for strength and security. With interior doors, however, you have other options. 

Solid wood doors are 100-percent natural wood, except for the hardware or accessories. Few solid wood doors are single, unified slabs of wood. Solid wood doors are now more often built with a frame-and-panel construction. Sound-blockage is good to excellent, depending on wood species. Softwoods like pine are not very sound-proof, but hardwoods such as oak and maple are excellent at blocking sound transmission between rooms. 

The classic wood panel door looks and feels like one piece of wood, though it is not. The classic six-panel door has been around for centuries and is constructed of individual panels, mullions, stiles, and rails that hold floating panels. When stained or painted, a wood panel door looks like a solid slab of wood that has been shaped with decorative contours. 

Pros

  • Solid and substantial
  • Strong
  • Excellent sound blockage qualities
  • Fire-resistance is fairly good
  • Help maintain resale value of the home

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May expand, contract, or warp

Solid wood doors can be used both for both interior and exterior doors. When used for exteriors, the wood must be finished or painted. Solid wood doors are a good choice where historical authenticity is desired. 

Hollow-Core Doors

  • Paperboard or plastic core with wood shell
  • Interior only
  • Common door in new homes

Hollow-core doors are constructed with a thin layer of wood or fiberboard applied over a core of honeycombed cardboard or plastic. Hollow-core doors are cost-saving products often used for the many interior passage doors found in a house.

Most mid-range production houses built today receive hollow-core interior doors as a matter of course. Inexpensive and lightweight, these doors are easy to install and can save thousands of dollars on construction costs, since a typical house may have a dozen or more interior doors. 

To call these doors hollow is somewhat misleading since they do have a honeycombed core placed within a solid wood outer frame, over which the surface veneer is glued. The frame and honeycomb core provides some rigidity to the door, as well as minimal sound-blocking ability. The significant amount of empty space lends the word hollow to the door and also helps make the door light so that it is easy to hang and easy to swing.

While hollow-core doors are sometimes maligned, they do have their place in the home for being vastly cheaper than either solid wood or solid core doors. If you need to install doors throughout your entire home, you can save a great deal of money by using hollow-core doors for bedrooms, bathrooms, pantries, and closets.

One downside of hollow core doors is that the edges are not covered by the veneer.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install because they are light-weight
  • Stable; rarely warps

Cons

  • Poor sound blockage
  • Poor fire resistance
  • Structurally weak
  • Exposed edges

Solid-Core Doors

  • Engineered wood core with natural wood veneer
  • Interior
  • Fire-resistant mineral core doors are available

Solid-core doors represent an interim construction method in which a fine-grade surface wood veneer is glued over a solid core made of engineered wood, such as fiberboard or Masonite. Solid-core wood doors can be used for either exterior or interior doors.

Solid-core wood doors are constructed with quality wood veneers glued over a solid core of engineered or composite wood, giving them the primary virtues of both solid wood and hollow-core doors: they are relatively affordable yet quite sturdy and solid in feel. Because of the high density of engineered wood, these doors may actually be heavier and stronger than some solid wood doors. 

These medium-priced doors are considerably more affordable than solid wood. The sound blockage is excellent. Solid-core doors offer good fire resistance when they are at least 1 3/4 inches thick. Construction makes them resistant to expansion and contraction due to humidity changes.

Some solid-core doors intended to look like painted wood use no surface veneer at all—they are solid slabs of MDF or another engineered wood, shaped and molded to give the appearance of a painted frame-and-panel door. 

Pros

  • Excellent sound blockage
  • Mid-priced
  • Good fire resistance
  • Resists warping

Cons

  • Fewer style options than solid wood
  • Difficult to install
  • Heavy