Q&A / 

Replace Hollow Core Doors With Solid Wood

DEAR TIM: I would like to switch out the interior doors in my house. My current doors are hollow core and have a simulated wood grain that I don't care for. The house I grew up in had delightful solid wood doors. I really miss the feel of solid wood doors. Can you still get traditional solid wood doors? If so, what kind of styles and options are available? Tom B. Tampa, FL

DEAR TOM: Welcome to the club! My wife and I also share your feelings about hollow core doors. Hollow core doors are a fantastic product because they allow lumber mills and door manufacturers to efficiently use wood products that used to be wasted. The trouble is these hollow doors are simply not a substitute for a solid wood door.

This is the door to our kitchen pantry. Look at the next photo to get a close-up view of the raised molding around each raised panel. Now that is a classic detail!

This is the door to our kitchen pantry. Look at the next photo to get a close-up view of the raised molding around each raised panel. Now that is a classic detail!

If you just want the feel of solid wood and the appearance of the door is not too critical, you can buy hollow core styled interior doors that have a solid core. This core is made from engineered wood products that help conserve our wood resources. These are great choices if you wish to help soundproof a bedroom, bathroom, powder room or some other room in a house.

The traditional solid wood doors that were common in houses built 100 or more years ago are still available. Possibly the most popular wood species used is white pine. It is not uncommon to find that these doors have solid wood raised panels. But the structural stiles and rails that make up the vertical and horizontal components that surround the raised panels, can often be different pieces of solid wood that are covered with a high quality veneer skin. Make sure you keep this in mind if you decide to sand a door heavily. Too much sanding will erode the thin veneer.

I recently purchased some gorgeous solid poplar 4 panel doors that look exactly like ones I have refinished in 100 year old Victorian houses. These doors are made from solid pieces of poplar and I had my choice of four different profiles for the raised panels. Different manufacturers have all sorts of door styles to match just about any architectural time period. I had my doors customized for just a small up charge. The door company installed a custom milled piece of molding around each raised panel to give the doors a unique 100 year old look.

To really whet your appetite imagine ordering your new doors and being able to specify that the door company use oak, cherry, maple, mahogany, and knotty pine or several other species. These choices are available and the finished doors will take your breath away.

The cost of the solid wood doors is higher than what you will pay for a hollow core wood door. But you do not need to mortgage the farm to get them. I purchased my customized solid poplar doors with a full 3/4 inch thick solid poplar door jamb for less than $200 apiece. (September 2000)

The locksets I put in are authentic as well.  They are full-mortise and you use a skeleton key to lock them.

The locksets I put in are authentic as well. They are full-mortise and you use a skeleton key to lock them.

If you really want to make your new doors look like old doors, why not finish them off with authentic hardware as I did? Solid brass square tip hinges are readily available from major hardware manufacturers. Many hinges you find on most modern doors are rounded. This is done because the spinning router bits that are used to create the recessed hinge area simply can't make crisp 90 degree angle corners. You can even purchase accessory kits for the hinges that transform the hinge pins into the old ball style or Victorian chimney style finials.

To complete the transformation, you can also install new high quality old fashioned lock sets that use traditional skeleton keys. This hardware comes with different styled forged solid brass knobs and back plates. You can even get the old fashioned crystal knobs if you like. The total cost for the lock set, back plates and knobs is often less than $90.

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