Hollow Core Vs Solid Core Door Debate

By Todd Fratzel on Doors

Hollow Core Vs Solid Core Doors

It seems as though every time we build a house for a customer they have a hard time choosing between traditional solid wood doors (typically a solid MDF core with a finish veneer) and hollow core doors. The question always seems to be:

Which are better? Solid Wood Doors or Hollow Core Doors?

Hollow Core Door

Solid Core Doors

Solid core doors can range from solid uniform wood door sections (wood species is the same throughout the cross section) or doors made with a solid core (usually MDF or similar) with thin layers of veneer wood glued to the outside ready for paint or stain.

  • Solid Door Pros – solid wood doors are great for sound dampening, insulating properties, damage resistance and value to potential buyers.
  • Solid Door Cons – Solid doors certainly have benefits but they also cost approximately 50% more, they are heavy and more prone to shrinkage and expansion due to temperature and moisture changes.

Hollow Core Doors

Today hollow core doors are are installed in a majority of low to moderately priced new homes. Hollow core doors have made great strides in quality compared to the early years when they were extremely flimsy and cheap. Hollow core doors have a wood frame around the perimeter of the door panel, usually one to two inches in depth. The surface is either hardboard or plywood with corrugated structural cardboard stiffeners throughout the center of the door for stiffness.

  • Hollow Door Pros – Hollow core doors are cheaper, lighter, and less likely to warp, shrink and swell. Hollow core doors also take paint much better than solid wood doors.
  • Hollow Door Cons – Hollow core doors are prone to damage from unruly kids, slamming doors into stops and other impact loads. Hollow core doors are also much harder to modify and repair due to the hollow nature.

Economics Typically Drives The Choice

We actually have hollow core doors in our new home and I don’t regret the decision at all. Today I priced a 2/6 x 6/8 hollow core colonial style door and a solid door, both with pre-hung jambs. The difference in price is $78 vs $114. $36 doesn’t seem like a big deal, however, our new house had over 20 doors for a total difference of $720.

The bottom line really is cost in my opinion. Hollow core doors have performed very well for our house and will likely serve us well over the years. At the time I needed to cut costs wherever possible so it was a wise decision. If we had solid doors I know they would last as long as the house.

Photo Credit: schnaar

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Trisha says:

    Hi there

    I currently have a sub builder grade hollow entrance door no window. I was given an old (30 year old) hollow core door with a 2′ square window. (FYI: I would love to have a window at my front door. I am not in a position to be able to buy a new door and this one was free. I understand that if I put on a storm door this would help with the insulating factor, but could I not somehow (and don’t laugh) insulate this old hollow door myself – perhaps with that spray foam insulation stuff? (are you laughing?!)

    Thanks, Trisha

    • Todd says:

      @ Trisha – I’m not sure where you live but a hollow core door will most likely be either cold or hot. A hollow core door also provides substantially less security in my opinion. Trying to install spray foam inside the door without warping it would be quite challenging as well. I suggest you look at a recycled building material facility for an inexpensive insulated door.

  2. vijay says:

    Exactly the information i was looking for. Correct me if i am wrong.
    Panelled doors and Flush doors, both come under the category of Solid core doors.
    Also what are the best ways of insulating hollow core doors.
    Thanx for the article

    • Todd says:

      @ Vijay – Actually paneled doors and flush doors can be purchased in both hollow and solid versions. Flush doors are just smooth flat surfaced doors while paneled doors have depth and relief to them similar to a hollow panel door.

  3. vijay says:

    Great, that clears it up.
    Just to make it easier for me i would say
    if there is no hollow – it would be solid.
    Anything hollow would make it Hollow.

  4. Bob Kurzeja says:

    I question your suggestion that solid doors are better at sound proofing than hollow doors. I tapped on one side of both types and heard a dull thud from the hollow door and a sharp ping from the solid door. This makes sense since dense materials such as metals and solid wood transmit sound better than porous materials, like foam and air. I am looking for a wide custom door and fear a solid door might transfer too much sound. Comment?

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Bob – You may be correct with respect to a direct “tap” of the surfaces, but in general terms of sound, solid doors out-perform hollow ones. We’ve used both hundreds of times over the years and there is a fairly significant difference in performance when it comes to noise.

  5. i have hollow core doors they are old they warp split and crack at the bottom, one door will not close its sticks real bad, takes 10 minutes to get open!!!! i want new doors one room is real cold ,which is better solid or hollow????

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Catherine, both can be good doors, just depends on budget, and level of quality. Solid doors are more “realistic”, heavier, and for some people, more beautiful. It all comes down to how much you want to spend.

  6. Rick says:

    I currently have hollow core doors.
    Can I replace just the door to solid,
    Or do the frames differ from hollow to solid ?

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Rick – In most cases you can definitely change the doors. You’ll want to confirm that the hinge placement is the same and the same style before ordering the doors. In some cases, you may need to use longer hinge screws to more firmly secure the door frame.

  7. jimmy says:

    size of and location of solid wood blocking on HC drs. and size of lock solid blocking? Is it standard for all HC doors?

  8. Joni says:

    I am currently converting a back entry into a pantry. I would like to use a solid surface door (as opposed to one with a glass insert) so I can use the back side of the door for storage such as a spice rack, baskets to hold cleaners, or hang a broom. Which type of door works best in your opinion – hollow core, solid core or wood?

  9. Bruce says:

    Hi Todd,
    New Hampshire boy here, former civil engineer now retired and living in SE Florida. Are manufacturers now filling their hollow core doors with some material to improve sound and insulating properties? If so, who?
    Thanks for the help, stay warm.

  10. Angela says:

    Can you be more specific about your comment to Bob.
    Bob – “You may be correct with respect to a direct “tap” of the surfaces, but in general terms of sound, solid doors out-perform hollow ones. We’ve used both hundreds of times over the years and there is a fairly significant difference in performance when it comes to noise.”

    What are the “general terms of sound …” you are referring to? and how do you measure the “significant differences” that you mentioned?

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