Hollow Core Doors: What to Know Before You Buy

Hands installing a hollow core door's lock

Nick M. Do / Getty Images

The hollow core door is a staple of the modern home. Used only on the interior and tending to be installed on bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and some laundry and utility rooms, the hollow core door provides the advantages of economy and ease of installation along with a few disadvantages such as durability and poor soundproofing.

Unless otherwise directed, builders often install hollow core doors in homes. They're cheap and they provide basic door functions, without costing the builder too much money or taking up too much time. A pair of workers can put up hollow core doors in an entire home in just a few hours.

Should you buy hollow core doors for your home?

When to Install a Hollow Core Door

  • To save money
  • When installing a large number of doors
  • When privacy is more of an issue than blocking sound
  • When hanging the door by yourself

What Hollow Core Doors Are

Hollow core doors are fiberboard or laminated wood doors that are much like long, flat boxes that are mostly hollow inside.

At key points within the door are cardboard honeycomb spacers that help the door maintain its structure. The edges are made of MDF or softwood such as pine.

Hollow core doors are in stock and prevalent at most home centers.

Durability is the main downside of hollow core doors. Anyone who has accidentally broken this type of door will know that it is not truly hollow. The fiberboard honeycomb structure inside the door provides strength so that the door does not bend or warp.

All hollow core doors are interior. They are inappropriate for exterior use because intruders could easily punch through the thin surfaces with a screwdriver, hammer, or even with a fist. Additionally, hollow core doors are not weather resistant. The fiberboard shell would quickly degrade when exposed to the elements.

Hollow Core Door Cross-Section
Lee Wallender

Hollow Core Door Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Inexpensive

  • Lightweight

  • Easy to install

Cons
  • Low durability

  • Poor soundproofing

  • Cannot be sanded

Pros

  • Hollow core doors are lightweight, making them easy to transport
  • Due to their light weight, hollow core doors are easy to install by one person.
  • These doors fulfill the basic function of giving a room privacy.
  • Most significantly, hollow core doors are inexpensive, with some costing less than $80. This is why most budget-conscious contractors and home builders will steer consumers toward hollow-core doors. This is one area where you can shave costs without completely eliminating a feature. Given that interior doors tend to be installed in great quantities (as opposed to the one or two doors for the exterior), saving costs can be important.

Cons

  • Hollow core doors tend to transmit sound. For better soundproofing, use solid core doors inside your house.
  • Hollow core doors' outside shells are thin and easily damaged.
  • Surfaces of veneered hollow-core doors are only about 1/8-inch thick. This thin veneer does not allow for much more than a light sanding if even that. But even that is a best-case scenario. Many hollow core doors are all fiberboard, no veneer, which means that they can only be re-painted and never sanded. The prime advantage of solid-core wood doors is that they are 100-percent wood and can be sanded, planed, filled, and painted if they become damaged.
  • Hollow core doors provide, at best, only moderate resale value, since they have become so ubiquitous. At worst, they can drag down the value of a house if that house has custom features that surpass the quality of hollow core doors. 

Should You Install a Hollow Core Door?

When you switch from hollow core to solid wood doors, you will be alarmed at how well solid wood slows the transmission of sound from room to room. Solid wood simply feels better. In addition, due to the weight, the solid door has a nice, swing to it. 

But reality and money both dictate that hollow core doors have legitimate usages in the modern home. One aspect of this reality is that, if you are replacing all interior doors, you have a lot of replacing to do. To replace every door with a solid wood or even a solid core door might cost far more than you are willing to spend. Even in a small house, you may have as many as eight to ten interior doors. Using hollow core doors can save you hundreds of dollars and vast amounts of time, as opposed to installing solid wood doors. 

Because hollow core doors are so light, they are easy to install, even for one person. They are simple to move into the house, and then from room to room. Once inside the room, their light weight aids in hanging the door on the hinges. You can hold the door with one hand while screwing the door into place with the other hand.

Solid Core MDF: Hollow Core Door Alternative

One compromise may be solid core MDF doors. These doors have a heavy, solid fiberboard interior and a wood veneer exterior. 

Solid core doors are just as good at slowing sound transmission as solid wood doors but for less cost. Heavy and difficult to handle, MDF solid core doors are best installed by professionals.