You can’t make the right choice without knowing your options.

When building a house, adding new spaces to your home, or just refreshing existing spaces, the type of interior doors you choose can have a dramatic effect on the look and feel of your home. And whether you have French doors, pocket doors, or swinging doors, it’s important to choose the type of door panels that best fit your home’s decor and your overall design vision.

Years ago, the style of every interior door panel in a home would have been the same, but that’s no longer the case. One of the reasons for the rising popularity in transitional home styles is that it affords homeowners the freedom to mix and match door surfaces, colors, and styles. But whether you’re choosing doors for an entire home or just one room, the first thing you’ll notice when you start shopping is that you have options — a lot of options. The best decisions are made from a position of knowledge, and this article is designed to help you understand your options so you’re ready to discuss your preferences with a design professional.

What is a hollow core door?

As the name suggests, a hollow core door is mostly hollow in the middle. Hollow core doors usually have a solid interior frame that runs the entire perimeter of the door. That frame is sandwiched between two thin veneers sometimes called skins. The skins can be flat/flush, or they can be molded to resemble a traditionally made panel door. The frame can be made from solid wood, hardwood, MDF, particle board, or a combination. The frame is often thicker where the door handle, lock, and hinges are located.

In addition to the frame, there is a honeycomb or grid structure made of thin wood or cardboard that adds strength to the panel and prevents the two skins from collapsing in on each other. If the surface of the door is flat, the door skins are probably made of plywood or hardboard. If the surface is molded to look like a raised panel door, the skins might be made of fiberglass or some sort of plastic.

The main advantage of a hollow core door is price. Because they are easier to make and contain less material, they cost less than solid core doors. And due to their light weight, hollow core doors are easier to lift, move around, and install than heavier solid core doors. And if installed using less-than-best practices, they are less prone to get out of alignment if repeatedly slammed by the wind or a moody teenager than a solid core door.

Due to their lightweight construction, hollow core doors provide little security from forced entry. If Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie The Shining would have been barred by a hollow core door, Shelly Duvall’s character would not have stood a chance. Hollow core doors don’t do a good job preventing the spread of fire, don’t block sound very well, and just don’t feel as substantial or durable as solid core doors. Each raised panel hollow core door requires an expensive mold to create, so there aren’t as many configurations to choose from.

What is a solid core door?

Again, as the name suggests, solid core doors are solid. Just like hollow core doors, solid core doors can be flat/flush or made with decorative panels. Solid core doors can be made from solid wood, solid MDF, could have MDF core with a wood veneer, contain a particle board core with an MDF veneer, or any number of material combinations.

Solid core doors feel solid and luxurious, like a highly crafted piece of furniture. A well-made, properly installed solid core door should last the life of your home with little maintenance. Solid core doors are good at blocking sound and can be configured to deliver up to a 90-minute fire rating. Finding or creating panelized solid core doors that are the perfect fit for your unique project is easy, because most solid core doors are made of individual components, which results in panel and molding design combinations that are nearly unlimited.

Solid core doors require more materials and are more difficult to build, which makes them more expensive than hollow core doors. Some solid core doors are very heavy, which makes them harder to transport and install. Installing a solid core door requires heavy duty fasteners and a higher level of carpentry skill. If not installed correctly, solid core doors can shift out of alignment more easily than hollow core doors. A solid core door could cause a more serious injury if a small child got their finger pinched while it was closing.

What is a flush door?

The surface of a flush door is flat. However, the core of a flush door could be either hollow or made of solid materials. Flush, hollow core, interior doors can be the least expensive door option. But some solid, flush doors designed for high-end homes with a modern aesthetic, or flush commercial doors can be quite expensive.

What’s the difference between a door panel and a panel door?

A door panel, sometimes called a slab, is the part of the door that swings or slides open and closed. But some door panels are made up of smaller panels. While a hollow core door has a frame between two skins, the frame on a panel door is exposed — the frame is the door. The vertical members of the frame are called stiles and the horizontal frame members are called rails, and the parts between the stiles and rails are the panels.

The number of panels a door has depends on how many stiles and rails there are. If a door only has two stiles (one on each side) and two rails (one top, one bottom), then that door will have one large panel in the center. Add a rail in the middle of the door, and you have yourself a two-panel door. Doors with up to six panels are most common, but a door with very narrow stiles and rails could accommodate a dozen different panels or more.

Popular Panel Profiles and Styles

From the simplicity of a flat panel to the rustic look of a plank panel to the light-providing glass panel, these are some of the most common interior door styles and why you might want to include each in your next project.

Why TruStile, a Marvin Brand

Marvin has been an industry leading window and exterior door manufacturer for nearly 100 years. In 2015 Marvin acquired TruStile, a brand known to bring the same commitment for excellence to the interior door space as Marvin delivers in its windows and doors. Just like Marvin products, TruStile interior doors are only found at experienced supply partners with unrivaled local building expertise. TruStile partners specialize in serving contractors, home builders, architects, and design professionals who understand that it takes well-designed, heirloom-quality products to create truly special spaces for their clients. Both Marvin and TruStile are passionate about innovation and imagining new ways to help people feel healthier and happier in the spaces where they live, work, and play.