Are doors opening for you? Choosing the right one for your home, office, or studio space is critical from a soundproofing aspect. If you need a quiet environment, it makes sense that you’ll want to find the best door for noise isolation.
As doors are designed to open and close, they are one of the vulnerable points in your spaces. Unlike walls that are solid, a door is a critical place where sound can come in or go out from.
A door is a door until you need to replace one. Whether it has been damaged or broken or your needs have changed, you’re faced with choosing a hollow core door or a solid core door.
If you run your own business from home and have small children about, you’d definitely want to reduce the noise that comes into your home office, especially when the kids are awake.
If you’re a musician that loves to practice, you don’t want noise getting out and disturbing your family or neighbors.
Even in an office setting, if you’re in charge of the design, choosing office doors that provide noise isolation can be a wise investment for your team and the customers they serve.
If you think about a high-profile banking client, their privacy is extremely important. Keeping private matters private will be your biggest concern. You don’t want anyone passing by to hear this confidential information.
Whatever your reason for exploring doors for noise reduction, this post will help you discover which door suits your needs best. Keep reading and you’ll know just what to do by the end!
The Two Types of Doors for Soundproofing
It doesn’t matter if you’re building a new home or commercial space or simply renovating an existing space. When it comes to doors, the price can escalate quickly.
Knowing which door will serve your needs best will keep your costs down. If you need a completely quiet space, investing in a door that provides the utmost in soundproofing will be a viable option.
Even if the budget is tight though, you can find affordable solutions for soundproofing your doors.
The key here is learning a bit more about the two types of doors out there so you make a wise decision for what you specifically need.
Most people don’t know anything about doors except they open and close, and that the doorknobs can come with locking features.
Only those in construction or architects could wax philosophical about doors, but this post will give you a greater understanding of what to know, and as an added bonus, can help you trot out some fun facts the next time you find yourself at an event and face to face with someone in the industry.
Continue on reading and you’ll soon discover these two types of doors, what the pros and cons for each are, and how to check what kind of doors you already have to see if they are hollow core or solid core.
Hollow Core Doors
Let’s take a look at hollow core doors and what they contribute to your spaces. For starters, the name basically explains it all. The core of the door is hollow. This can have advantages and disadvantages which you’ll discover below.
For heat insulation, hollow core doors do help hold in some warmth. However, since the core is hollow, it has air pockets which means more heat will be allowed to pass through.
The interior isn’t completely empty though. It resembles more of a honeycomb which will disrupt sound waves. This honeycomb design muffles sound fairly well but won’t block it out completely.
When you think about the security of hollow core doors, they are not quite as sturdy as a solid core door.
If you’re using this on an exterior point, it can be easy for anyone that is determined enough to kick their way in. Inside a home, you might be less worried about this feature though.
Because hollow core doors are more lightweight and less solid, they cost quite a bit less than solid core doors.
This is great for fitting into tight budgets, so long as you’re not compromising other features.
For example, it’s worth it to spend the extra money on a solid core door for your home’s exterior.
It would cost far more money to endure the troubles of a break-in or worse, an assault, just to save a few bucks on buying a cheaper door.
Additionally, hollow core doors are much lighter in weight. As mentioned, you can get away with them on the interior of your home.
Few people need heavy solid core doors for every room in their home, but it has been done. Some people choose to only use solid core doors on a few key rooms in their home, perhaps a home theater, master bedroom, or home office for example.
For everything else on the interior, hollow core doors are a suitable choice. They can be adapted to be soundproof though if you need complete silence from inside or out, a solid core door will be a worthy investment.
Some people do use hollow core doors on the exterior with a few modifications to keep them strong and weatherproof since they can easily succumb to humidity.
So for these points above, it’s a good idea to check in with not just your budget but with your needs. If you think about a new home build, most homes have somewhere around 20 doors on the interior.
If you’re building a new home and want to keep costs down, you’re going to want to choose hollow core doors at most of these interior entry points.
You can strategically invest in solid core doors for more important spaces as mentioned too. The rest you can easily use a hollow core door for.
The interior honeycomb design contains fiberboard or sometimes veneer that holds it together and insulates it.
Hollow Core Door Benefits
Why should you consider hollow core doors?
- They cost much less than solid wood doors, making them budget-friendly
- They are lightweight
- They are easier to install
- The hollow core keeps them safer from expansion and contraction
- They’re usually pre-primed so that painting them any color is much simpler
While these are great features, a hollow core door isn’t always the right choice for your needs. Here are some disadvantages that may come about from using a hollow core door:
- They are easier to damage either accidentally or intentionally
- They can be more difficult to repair due to the honeycomb-style interior
- They aren’t as good with noise reduction or insulation
- They can feel ‘cheap’ which might be a put-off if you’re trying to sell a home
Solid Wood Doors
Now that we’ve completely covered hollow core doors, it’s time to open the door and shed some light on solid core doors made from solid wood.
Because they are made from a completely solid piece of material (generally wood, though in some commercial facilities, you’ll find steel and other heavy materials), they are much better for insulating and preventing heat loss.
As a solid piece, it’s also much more efficient at muffling sound than a hollow core door. And because of that solid body, it can stand up to much more aggression than those with a hollow interior.
With a solid core door, a criminal with malicious intent will give up after kicking numerous times. Your door won’t budge and your family and property will stay safe.
Solid core doors are definitely heavier and have less weaknesses than hollow core doors. These are ideal for exterior doors, not just to keep people out but also to protect against the weather.
They will see you through extreme rains, snow, hail, wind, and more. They do expand and contract though which can lead to cracking and warping. For this, you’ll need to counter it with regular maintenance to keep your doors in the best condition.
As discussed previously, not all interior doors need to be made of solid wood. However, they do look better. They give off a richer vibe and provide a more hushed environment.
They can also be etched and detailed to have a unique look, one that adds an architectural element to your home. If pricing is a problem though, it might be wise to cherry-pick where you want those solid wood doors in your home depending on your needs and the floorplan.
Interior doors certainly serve a purpose. For without them, we’d never have privacy in the bathroom (though parents of small children know that door or no door, there is no such thing as bathroom privacy).
Since solid wood doors are fashioned from wood, you can have a more upscale feeling inside your home when you use them. They can also be detailed, painted, or stained to make them more like works of art.
Solid Core Door Benefits
Why should you consider a solid wood door?
- They’re fantastic when it comes to insulation for your spaces
- They’re also ideal for dampening sounds
- They generate a much larger return on your investment if you’re selling your property
- They are less likely to suffer damages
- There are tons of choices when it comes to the type of wood you can select
- You can even find them in fire-rated options to ensure your family’s safety
But solid core doors do have some disadvantages too. These are important to understand before investing in them:
- They can be as much as 50% more in price than a hollow core door
- They are more susceptible to expansion or contraction from temperature and moisture fluctuations
- They are heavier which is an asset once installed, but during installation, makes them a bigger challenge
Understand Ratings for Better Sound Blocking Doors
Now that you know a bit more about these two types of doors, it’s time to understand what they mean for your soundproofing efforts. It helps to understand the basics of sound transmission to make a wise choice.
For example, on a new home build, you might have a guest bathroom near the dining or kitchen area.
Do you want your guests to feel like everyone can hear them using the toilet? If not, it would be wise to choose a door that helps block out that sound so that everyone is comfortable.
Keep reading to learn more about sound transmission and what it means for choosing your doors!
The Basics of Sound Transmission
Many ways exist to aptly measure a wall or surface’s ability to stop sound transmission. STC or Sound Transmission Class ratings are the most common.
This is a number given for the acoustical abilities of doors as well as other materials (they also do this for soundproofing curtains).
The higher the STC, the better the ability for the material to damped sound transmission.
A breakdown of the STC class is as follows:
- 25 STC: You can hear a normal conversation and clearly understand it.
- 30 STC: If someone is talking loudly, it can be understood but talking in a normal tone of voice is muffled.
- 35 STC: You can hear that someone is talking loudly but it’s not understandable.
- 41 STC: Loud talking sounds like a dull murmur.
- 45 STC: Even a loud conversation can barely be heard.
- 50 STC: Play music loudly and it can hardly be heard outside the door.
As doors as are entry and exit way to a room, they are one of the vulnerable points you’ll have to contend with when it comes to soundproofing a space.
That’s why knowing what your doors can block out and stacking those against your needs is important for making the correct door selection.
A typical hollow core door will generally feature an STC rating of 20 or 25. A solid door made with a particleboard core will offer 30 STC.
When you look at a standard wall that has a half-inch wallboard on both sides of it and just 3.5 inches of airspace, it will provide 33 STC.
The same standard wall with an insulated wall cavity will give you 39 STC. If you add a double layer of half-inch thick drywall on each side of the wall, adhere it with wood studs, and insulate the wall cavity, you’ll get 45 STC.
So what happens when you add a solid wood slab door? You’re given the peace of mind and soundproofing quality of 55 to 60 STC.
In other words, if you’re in need of silence coming from either side of that door, you need it to be a solid wood door. It will be a worthy investment.
Of course, you could modify an existing hollow core door though you won’t get the kind of soundproofing a solid core door provides.
For example, if you have a hollow core door with less than 20 STC, you could add weather stripping and soundproofing materials that could take it up to a rating of as much as 36 STC.
Should you cut the costs? Well, that depends. If privacy and silence must be had, as in our example with banking for high-end clients or running your home business efficiently, it will be worth it in the long run to use a solid door that can give you 50 to 60 STC plus the gaskets needed to block any noise from creeping through the gaps.
What’s the difference in cost? If you’re trying to land a deal while working from your home office and your children are fighting in the hallway, you’ll sound unprofessional at best.
If you’re dealing with private matters for a client and are in an office setting, you’ll want to keep those matters completely confidential.
In some instances, you really can’t put a price on the confidence that comes from knowing that no one can hear what’s going on inside that room.
Conversely, with music as the example, sometimes it pays to simply pony up the cash for a quality solid wood door so that the music you create in your studio stays inside without disturbing the rest of the world.
The Importance of Proper Door Positioning to Soundproof a Home
There’s more to it though. When you’re planning to either replace or build in new doors or windows, you need to think about where sound will travel to.
Staggering doors in a hallway is a smart design move as is positioning the way they swing. When this planning is done, it keeps sound from bouncing into adjacent rooms.
Hinged doors will always provide a better soundproofing solution. Certain hinges can also add more soundproofing capabilities.
What you really want to avoid are sliding, pocket, or bi-fold doors. These types of doors make plenty of noise on their own.
Ask anyone who has ever gone through their teen years and tried to slip in or out undetected by their parents.
The other downfall to those door types is that they don’t seal as well as doors that swing open and shut.
If you don’t care about the soundproofing in that space, then it doesn’t matter. But if you’re buying a home and plan to make a space your home office, if that space comes with a pocket door, you’re going to want to replace it or else be at the mercy of your children’s behavior on the other side of it.
It’s not that hinged, swinging doors don’t make noise. They will. But when they start squeaking and creaking, you can simply spray a little penetrating oil on there, like WD-40, to ease it back into silence.
My Take on Why You Should Buy Solid Core Doors to Block Sound
Most interior doors are those with hollow cores. As we discussed, that interior is a cardboard-fashioned honeycomb design encased with a softwood frame.
The surfaces of these doors are covered with thin wood veneers and between them, the core is filled with air.
There’s not much to keep sound from flowing through. They will muffle to an extent, but only to the point of sounding like a door is closed rather than opened.
If you need more imagery of this, imagine your kids playing together in their room with the door open. You can hear everything, loudly.
Close the door with a hollow core door and you will still hear what’s going on in there, just slightly more muted.
A solid core door is more efficient at blocking noise because it’s much more dense. There are many different choices that will range from pricey hardwood to more affordable options, like those made from MDF (medium density fiberboard).
As a general rule of thumb, the majority of interior doors are about 1 and 3/8-inches thick while exterior doors are 1 and ¾-inches in thickness. The thicker the door is that you choose, the better it will be at reducing sound.
And then there are doors that are designed with the exclusive intention for blocking sound. They will usually have a ½-inch-thick sound board of particle board along with an interior core of lead and a series of interlocking thresholds and sweeps.
This will no doubt be expensive, but if you’re setting up a professional recording studio and sound quality must not be compromised, this will be well worth it.
Testing the Core of Your Doors
So now it comes down to determining what kind of doors you already have to see if you need to replace them, soundproof them, or simply leave them be. How do you know what kind of door it is? Try these little tricks to find out!
■ Get into the Swing of Things
Checking the door’s weight is easy. Hollow core doors are much easier to swing open and shut. If it’s a solid core door, it will feel heavier and be more difficult to move back and forth.
■ Knock, Knock
Give the door a few raps and knock on it. If it’s hollow it will sound hollow. Knocking on a solid door will give a more muffled sound.
■ Drill It
Warning: this test should only be done if you plan on having it removed. It involves drilling a hole to see the material in the center.
When you do this, you will damage the door. So if you plan on keeping your doors, don’t do it!
When you’re thinking about installing a new door inside your home or on the exterior, make sure you think about the differences between hollow core doors and solid core doors so you choose wisely.
For exterior doors, you shouldn’t compromise on quality and solid form.
For interior doors though, you don’t need to go through the full expense of replacing them with solid core doors if it’s not in your budget. You can simply enact a few soundproofing parameters to make the best of it.
Some Additional Door Soundproofing Tips
Check out these quick tips that will help you keep things quiet!
■ Know What You Need
Determine your space for soundproofing and decide your needs. For example, you’ll have different requirements if you’re trying to convert a room in your home into a soundproofed home theater than for minimizing the sound coming from your kids’ playing down the hall.
■ Craft a Plan
Here’s where you choose the type of door you’re going for. Will you get one that’s ready-made and good for installation? Will you attempt a DIY project? Will you add soundproof curtains? It’s all up to what you decide in your needs first.
■ Stop the Gap
No matter what, the gaps in the door frames and windows must be sealed off to keep sound from escaping or entering.
Acoustic caulking will help when you put it where your door frame connects with the cement or drywall.
■ Use Sealing Kits
Sealing kits need to be used on your door jambs and sides. This should be done after you’ve checked for and corrected any gaps so that the door snugly shuts and fits in your frame.
■ Try an Automatic Door Bottom
You can use an automatic door bottom to add that final seal of soundproofing to your space.
While it’s not the easiest task in the world, soundproofing is necessary for certain things. Soundproof doors are the best option as they come ready to go, but they can be very expensive.
If you can’t afford that, you can take steps as mentioned above to soundproof your door. And no matter the door, if you’re not handy, it is worth every penny to hire a pro to help you hang a door right, even if it is a hollow core door.
Now that you know about both types of doors, you can make your decisions about buying doors for your home. Whether you’re replacing one or two or designing your new home and choosing something that fits your style, you have many options.
Keep in mind though that you don’t have to go all or nothing. Mixing it up can be an effective solution for keeping costs in check.
Pick and choose which rooms might do best with a solid core door and use hollow core doors on the other ones. By compromising with a mix of these styles, you’ll certainly save some money.
There’s little point in choosing solid, insulated doors for your pantry or a closet unless you have money to burn.
Choosing hollow core doors in those applications will allow you to save more money and perhaps flaunt it in other ways, like taking a vacation after you’ve installed your beautiful new doors.