Hollow Core vs. Solid Wood and Solid Core Doors

Price, Quality, and Installation

Entrance to a quality built American home exterior
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Deciding between hollow core and solid wood doors at first seems like an easy decision.  Real wood seems like the clear choice, right?  Not necessarily.  Manufacturing innovations in the last few decades have resulted in alternatives to traditional products that are on an equal level, or better, than the originals. Engineered wood flooring and fiberglass framed windows are just a couple of examples of newer innovations that give the originals a run for their money.

Solid wood doors are fantastic--the next owner of your house will love you for having purchased them--but they are not everything.  When you consider just how many doors you need for your home's interior, this choice becomes more difficult, chiefly because of the vast price difference between hollow-core, solid wood, and the newest entrant in the world of doors, solid-core.

Basics

 Hollow CoreSolid WoodSolid Core

It Is

Honeycomb cardboard encased by fiberboard or veneer shell.Individual natural wood elements that fit together to form a single unit.Solid door but made of composite wood that is painted or faced with veneer.
Used Where?Interior onlyInterior or exterior.  If used for exterior, solid wood doors need to be painted or otherwise protected from the elements.Interior only
SolidityNot very solid.  A hollow core door feels light-weight and almost insubstantial in your hand.Solid wood doors close with greater effort and feel substantial.In many cases more heavier and more solid than natural solid wood doors because composite wood is denser than natural wood.  In addition, the fillers and resins used with composite wood adds to the weight.
Sound BlockagePoorGood to excellent, depending on wood species. Softwoods, like pine, provide little more sound blockage than hollow core doors.Excellent.  Density is a key factor in blocking sound, and solid-core doors are the densest doors of all mentioned here.
Fire-Rated?NeverPossible if 1.75" thick.Possible if 1.75" thick.
Price SpectrumVery low cost.Medium to high.Medium cost.
Best ForSupplying your house with many doors at low cost.Resale value and maintaining a historical look for your home.Blocking sound at a reasonable price.
Worst ForBlocking the transmission of sound between rooms.Price.  Quality solid wood doors are rarely inexpensive.  Also, solid wood can be affected by sharp changes in humidity levels.Self installation.  Due to their sheer weight, solid core doors always need to be installed by two people.

1. Hollow Core:  Best for Price, Worst for Sound Blockage

Hollow core doors are not truly hollow. Sandwiched between a thin press-board or wood veneer exterior is a cardboard honeycomb. The cardboard serves little purpose other than to provide structure for the outer shell and to act as a minor sound block.

Most production houses built today receive hollow core interior doors. While not the best at blocking sound or providing a solid feeling, hollow core doors are great value if you are looking to cut costs while supplying your house with large quantities of doors.

2. Solid Wood Door:  Best for Appearance, Worst for Price

Solid wood doors are 100% natural wood (except for non-wood accessories).

Before 1949, the Uniform Building Code (now called the International Building Code or IBC) mandated that solid wood doors be solid, unified slabs of wood. That changed as it became harder to log the big timber needed for single-slab doors.

The classic wood panel door looks and feels like one piece of wood, though it is not. The six panel door has been around for ages and is constructed of individual panels, mullions, stiles, and rails.

When built and painted, a wood panel door looks like it could have been milled from a single piece of wood and its various indentations routed in.

3. Solid Core Door:  Best for Sound Blockage, Worst for Self-Installation

With a Masonite or composite wood core, these doors may be painted or faced with wood veneer.

Solid core doors far heavier than hollow core and even solid wood doors.

Particle wood is extremely dense material. This makes for a slightly harder installation ​but gives you years of far better performance over the hollow cores.

Unless your home has specific architectural requirements where it would need a solid wood door, then a solid core door is one way to get a substantial door at a reasonable price. With the luan or plywood covering plus the veneer (birch, oak, fir, beech, alder, etc.), it can be difficult to tell that this is not solid natural wood from face to face.

Ohio-based Homestead Interior Doors offers solid-core (as well as custom-built solid wood) doors available online.

Masonite, manufacturer of fiberwood, is also in the business of producing solid-core doors. Masonite doors are found at local building supply companies.