The Six-Panel Door: Basics and Components

  • Why Install a Classic Six-Panel Door in Your House?

    Six Panel Door
    Six Panel Door. Spiderstock / Getty Images

    The six-panel door, often called a stile-and-rail door, gives your house instant style. This door has been around for hundreds of years and it's still in wide use today. It has several advantages.

    Advantages Include:


    The stile and rail construction provides flexibility to the door, allowing it to expand and contract with changes in humidity. This prevents cracking and splitting. Also note that many of the newer doors do have the 6 panel style.

    Classic Looks.

    Because of the...MORE faceting provided by the stiles, rails, and panels, the six panel door catches the light and produces attractive shadows. This gives the door a 3-D appearance that adds highlights to your room.


    Not all 6 panel doors are created equally. You will find panels and stiles with many different dimensions, giving each one a unique look.


    Rail:  Rails are the horizontal members of a door.  These include the top rail, lock rail (middle), and bottom rail.

    Stile or Mullion. Stiles are the vertical members of a door.  Stiles may also be called mullions.  Windows too have a similar vertical element called a mullion.

    Panel:  The panels of a six-panel door are usually of different paired sizes.  For visual balance, the largest panels tend to be in the middle, with the smaller panels at top and bottom.

    Casing is not actually part of the door itself.  Casing, also known as trim, is the very outer-most wood perimeter of the door. It is attached to the door frame, not to the door itself.


    What About Pressed Hardboard Six-Panel Doors?

    Typically, six panel doors that are not natural wood are either pressed hardboard--think Masonite pegboard without the holes--or MDF. While hardboard doors are typically not architecturally correct, MDF doors from TruStile or SUPA and others are.

    Which Is Better:  Wood or Pressed Hardboard?

    Paint grade, non solid-wood doors perform better than solid wood doors during climate changes such as from low to high humidity. A good rule of thumb is that a piece of wood doesn’t forget it used to be a tree, thus wood retains its ability to absorb and expel moisture, causing the wood fibers to expand and contract. This is what causes doors to stick. It is also one of the reasons stile and rail doors are made with floating panels.

    Pressed hardboard--and even MDF doors which are true stile and rail doors--have the advantage of not expanding nearly as much as solid wood doors.  Additionally, non-wood doors don’t show unpainted wood when humidity levels cause the bare wood to be revealed. And, since these doors aren’t solid wood, they don’t crack and split.

    What Are "Stile and Rail" Doors?

    All doors that are not flush can be referred to as stile and rail doors, although it is more appropriate in a door made of separate components, rather than a pressed door.