When purchasing a wood door, you can’t just go with any old wood and call it a day. Different species of wood have different properties, and each one brings its own pros and cons to the table for different applications.
Today, we want to talk about interior doors and choosing the best wood for interior doors. We’ll have pros and cons for the various wood species discussed, along with other information about why a certain type of wood is a good choice for interior doors.
Let’s get started.
Why is Interior Wood Choice Important?
You might be wondering why you should even care about interior wood doors. After all, they’re indoors. So, they won’t be exposed to the elements at all unless your home is severely compromised, then, you have much bigger problems than what type of wood your doors are made out of.
Well. there are some very good reasons.
First, there’s the price to performance value. Since an interior door isn’t going to be exposed to the elements, you probably don’t need to shell out the money necessary for water-resistant and otherwise incredibly durable doors. However, you still want them to look great and perform well over a long period.
Then, you have to consider the different threats interior doors face. Such as having kids. Kids tend to slam bedroom doors, run into them when they get rowdy, and otherwise abuse doors even if they don’t mean to. You also have to consider the abuse they’ll go through when you go to move furniture or do other things that might result in accidental damage to your doors. If you go too cheap, your wood door probably won’t survive a good knock from a recliner or table you’re moving.
Finally, the appearance of the wood is important. There is a huge visual difference between teak and cheap fiberboard, even if you paint the wood. If you make the wrong choice, it can clash with your home’s aesthetic design, and it can even drive down your home value by quite a bit. This is a big deal if you’re ever going to sell the home.
As you can see, it’s still important to make a good choice with interior doors. They might not be exposed to rain, hail, and tons of sunlight, but they’re still going to face abuse, and they need to be visually appealing.
Types of Wood for Interior Doors
In this section, we’re going to go over the various wood species used to make interior doors, the pros and cons each of them has, and what situations they’re best in so we can help you choose the best wood door for both single interior doors and double interior doors.
Some wood varieties are better than others, but they all have a place on the market.
1: Compressed Wood
These are the cheapest doors you’re going to get for the interior of your home. They’re made of finely mulched wood that is held together with a bonding solution and compressed until it creates a wood board. This isn’t an optimal material for a door, but it does have its advantages.
This type of wood door is insanely cheap. Since it’s not solid, uses what is essentially rejected material, and can be made dirt cheap, the savings involved with that are passed down to you.
There aren’t many other pros, but you can count the ease of painting this type of door a pro to a degree. It’s more of a requirement. The wood isn’t aesthetically appealing. So, you want to put a nice, thick coat of paint on all of its surfaces for it to look decent. Luckily, the surface of this wood does accept paint fairly well.
The cons of this type of door far outweigh the pros unless you’re broke and need a door. These doors are made from several boards of compressed wood; so, they’re hollow. Pair that with the general lack of strength the wood has, and you have a hole-prone door that you need to baby to keep from destroying. You definitely don’t want to let a bad moving service rush a bunch of furniture past doors like this.
Then, you have the lack of aesthetic appeal we described earlier. You HAVE to paint these doors. If the factory paint starts chipping, you’ll notice that the door itself looks pretty crumby.
We only recommend this type of door if you absolutely cannot afford a higher quality door. These simply aren’t made to high enough quality standards to last a long time, and you’ll get more out of your investment with a solid, high-quality, hardwood.
2: Poplar Wood Doors
Poplar is the second most popular wood species for interior doors. It’s inexpensive, has a uniform grain, and great coloring, and is plenty strong enough to handle the abuse that interior doors are exposed to during an average day. They’re not the strongest, and they do have some drawbacks, but in general, you can’t go wrong with a poplar door.
Poplar has several pros.
First, it’s inexpensive. Yes, it costs more than some garbage compressed wood doors, but it’s still far cheaper than premium hardwood options. It doesn’t sacrifice too much performance for that kind of quality, either. It can withstand some decent slams from your kids, and while it will gouge if you run hard furniture legs into it or something like that, it isn’t made of eggshells, either.
It’s also great for painting. Poplar doesn’t have wood knots or any crazy grain patterns. So, you can skip all of the sanding and filling that you would have to do before painting other doors. Also, with its relatively light and uniform coloring, you won’t have to use tons of primer to get your favorite color to pop on it. This trait also leads to one of its biggest drawbacks, but it’s still a good thing for at least half of homeowners.
Finally, it looks great in a modern-themed home. In a log cabin or something else that has a more rustic aesthetic, you probably won’t want to use poplar.
Poplar isn’t perfect, though. The uniform, fairly straight grain of poplar makes it a horrible choice for staining. Not only will the stain have trouble sinking into the wood, but there’s also not a lot for the stain to highlight. You’ll get much better staining results with a different type of wood.
Then, you have to consider that it’s not as durable as other hardwoods. While it will definitely last a long time in the home of an elderly couple or people without kids and very little reason to constantly bring in big pieces of furniture or do other abusive things to their doors, a home with rowdy kids, or a high likelihood of gouging, is sure to leave poplar doors looking a bit raggedy within a decade.
Poplar is a great budget option, and if you have a modern-themed home, it will work great, especially if you’re not likely to abuse your interior doors much. With that being said, families that will abuse the doors every day, or people with rustic homes, should definitely go with another option in most circumstances.
3: Knotty Alder
This is a direct analog to poplar in several ways, in both contrasting and similar ways. Knotty alder is very affordable, has a similar durability to poplar, and has similar coloring. However, this is far knottier, and its woodgrain isn’t nearly as uniform. That creates a completely different set of pros and cons in various areas.
In short, unless you really need a high-end door, or you’re going to be abusing your interior doors to a ridiculous degree, knotty alder and poplar are your most logical options for entirely different situations.
That’s why knotty alder is the most popular, and poplar comes in second. That’s on a market with options such as teak and mahogany for people to choose from.
Like poplar, knotty alder is very affordable, but it’s not “cheap” like the compressed doors we talked about. It also has a very high performance-to-price ratio that consumers from all walks of life are sure to enjoy. Also, like poplar, it’s very durable, but it might not stand up perfectly against super rowdy kids or hard furniture items being moved around and jammed into the doors frequently.
This is where knotty alder is different, though. Knotty alder, as the name suggests, has a somewhat crazy grain with plenty of knots. This is the opposite of poplar, and it performs the opposite when it comes to accepting paint and stain.
Knotty alder is perfect for staining. There’s plenty of complexity to the grain for stains of various colors to highlight, and the odd grain accepts it perfectly. However, it’s not very good for painting. You would have to fill in the knots and sand them heavily to make them suitable for painting; plus, painting it would cover up its natural beauty.
As such, knotty alder is better for a different aesthetic than poplar. It’s a better choice for rustic homes with “bare” wood doors. It can fit into some modern design themes, but rustic themes definitely make it shine.
In short, knotty alder is basically the same as poplar, but better for the opposite of the situation, you’d choose poplar. If you have a rustic or traditional home design, and you want to save some money while getting a high-quality door, knotty alder is for you.
4: Red Oak Doors
Red oak is an absolutely stunning wood that can fit well with both rustic and modern themes, however, it does lean heavily towards the rustic side. It can accept paint well, or it can be stained, but we have no idea why someone would want to cover such beautiful wood with paint.
However, it is a little pricier, and doors made from red oak tend to cost quite a bit more than poplar or knotty alder doors. With that being said, it’s also a woodworker’s dream. So, you can usually find doors with some fairly intricate designs if you really want fancy interior doors.
Red oak’s main advantage is that it is stunning. Its woodgrain is open, but it’s not overly crazy, and its lush red coloring is beautiful in the vast majority of settings. There’s a reason it’s commonly used as furniture wood.
However, don’t think beauty is all it has to offer. It’s also quite durable. Red oak can withstand abuse such as scrapes and gouges much better than poplar or knotty alder.
Finally, red oak accepts stains wonderfully. Almost any stain can make red oak pop in a way most people only expect from mahogany. It can be painted easily, too. However, we don’t recommend it. That’s like buying a sports car and then burying it in your garage. Let that natural beauty shine.
There’s only one real con to red oak, it’s expensive. Interior doors really shouldn’t see much abuse unless you have very rowdy kids or are prone to smacking your doors while you move furniture. So, extreme durability isn’t a necessity, and you’re paying a premium for it.
Red oak is an amazing wood, but unless you’re trying to splurge a bit, or you’re really abusive to interior doors, you don’t need to spend that much on something that isn’t exposed to the elements. Of course, if you have the money and want a great door, you can’t go wrong with red oak. It’s beautiful, durable, and while expensive, it’s still cheaper than something like teak.
5: Mahogany Doors
Mahogany doors are the cream of the crop. They boast a number of major benefits that most wood species don’t offer, and they are absolutely stunning when it comes to natural visuals and the amount of detail artisan crafters can put into them. However, you do have to expect to pay well for them. They’re not the most expensive doors, but they do cost more than the other options on this list. With that being said, they’re worth every penny, and they will easily outlast you unless you go out of your way to mistreat them.
Mahogany offers a ton of pros. Its tight, yet flexible, grain makes it incredibly hard and resistant to surface damage, but it has enough tensile strength to keep it from being brittle. It’s certainly not the type of wood you need to worry about, even if you have kids running around damaging everything. Then, you have to consider its excellent water repellent qualities when it’s stained properly.
Durability isn’t all mahogany has to offer, though. Its reddish-brown coloring and beautiful grain patterns make it one of the most attractive wood species available. If you couple that with the fact that it’s great for woodworking, you get a door that can be extremely detailed, and its natural beauty is something to behold, too.
The only real con for mahogany doors is that they can be a bit pricey. Mahogany is a premium wood, and you will pay a premium price for it.
This is the best wood you can get for interior doors. Doors made from mahogany will easily outlive you, and probably several more generations, when treated right, and that helps offset their higher initial cost. You’ll likely have to replace several doors made from the other woods we listed before you even have to consider replacing a mahogany door.
Which Wood Species is Best for Interior Doors?
As you can see, all of the most popular door options have their own pros and cons. They excel in certain situations, and they fall behind a bit in others. For example, a compressed door is really cheap with no real advantages, but red oak is expensive, and some of its advantages aren’t necessary indoors. As such, alder and poplar are almost functionally the same, but their woodgrain makes them better in opposite situations.
Take a minute to define your needs, and choose the best wood for interior doors that matches them. However, make sure you purchase your interior doors from a trusted wood door producer like Realwood Crafters. That will ensure that you get your money’s worth.