​Choosing the Best Type of Wood for Doors (+Tips)

Posted by The Barn Door Hardware Store on Feb 23rd 2024

Doors are often overlooked until the last minute, but they’re a crucial part of your home! They aid flow, structure, and design, and you’ll be using them and looking at them constantly.

Whether you’re looking at building or purchasing a new home, or if you’re simply looking to upgrade an existing space, thinking carefully about your door selection is key.

One of the important factors when choosing a door is of course the material it’s made out of!

If you’ve decided on wooden doors, keep in mind that they are not all created equal.

While there are many different types of wood available, in this article we’ll be focusing on the three main types you’re likely to come across:

  • Hardwoods
  • Softwoods
  • Engineered woods.

Plus we’ve included tips on how to choose the right one for you! Let’s get started.


Hardwood is any wood that comes from deciduous trees: trees that lose their leaves in the winter.

In general, hardwood is dark in color, dense, and heavy. This means it lasts longer and is sturdier when used in your home, as well as usually being more expensive!

Many hardwoods are also naturally weather resistant even when untreated, especially if the tree the wood is from grows locally in your region.

There are many types of hardwoods that are commonly used to manufacture doors. However, here are a few of the most popular:

  • Oak: Oak doors are solid and heavy, providing security and temperature insulation.The wood is smooth and evenly grained when properly finished, and has a simple, classic, look that fits with many different aesthetics.
  • Walnut: Walnut is a dark wood, with a rich brown color and purple undertones. This luxurious wood is extremely hard, and maintains its shape well, making it a popular option for decorative patterned doors. It should be noted that care should be taken when placing your walnut doors, as lots of sunlight can fade these doors if they are not regularly maintained.
  • Mahogany: Mahogany is another gorgeous dark wood, reddish brown in color, that adds an air of old-fashioned sophistication to any space! In addition to their regal looks, mahogany doors are very weather-resistant and sturdy – making them a great option for exterior doors. While they also react to sunlight, the wood darkens over time – a feature that many find desirable
  • Merbau: Merbau wood is a unique timber option as it possesses natural oils sometimes called tannins. These oils keep the wood spring and moist, preventing cracking and splitting with age, as well as making it very weather resistant. However, the color of the wood may bleed when wet!
  • Cherry: Cherry is a bright and attractive type of wood, with red and/or pink undertones. It’s a great option to cheer up any room, as well as being durable and only having minor reactions to direct sunlight (either fading or darling over long periods).


Softwoods come from conifer trees – trees that have needles and remain green through the winter.

Softwood is usually lighter, both in color and weight, than hardwoods, and is slightly less durable.

However, softwood can still last for upwards of a decade and is just as weather-resistant when properly treated! This also means it’s usually a much cheaper option than hardwood.

Another thing to consider is the environmental impact of choosing your wood type; evergreens grow much more quickly than deciduous trees and are often commercially grown, meaning softwoods contribute much less to deforestation.

Some common softwoods used for doors include:

  • Pine: Pine wood is one of the more budget-friendly timber options for your doors. It’s also readily available and comes in appealing shades of light brown and golden tan, dotted with darker streaks of grain and knots. Its coloring and grain pattern adds a homey, rustic feel to any space it’s in! It’s important to properly treat your pine, as when left untreated the wood is slightly weaker than other types, and can be prone to rotting
  • Cedar: Cedar is one of the sturdiest softwoods and is fairly rot-resistant even when untreated. It comes in a range of colors, from light, whitish tan to dark red-brown, and generally has a smooth grain pattern. It’s also an excellent temperature insulator and is easily painted
  • Spruce: Spruce is a light and malleable wood, ranging from white to pale gold in color with a distinctive streaking of knots and resin channels. It’s normally very affordable and easy to shape to your needs! However, this flexibility means that it is a less durable wood type and needs to be treated to last
  • Alder: Alder is another softwood known for its distinguished knots and grain pattern. It’s a light, malleable wood type that ranges from light tan with a pink undertone and a darker red-brown in color. As this wood is usually not fully uniform in texture, it can be difficult to paint. As such, it is a better option if you prefer a natural look! It can also be prone to blemishes and is less durable in the face of rough weather than many other woods.

Engineered Wood

Both soft and hardwood are sometimes termed solid wood. This means that the planks are cut from a single log.

On the other hand, engineered wood is wood that has been glued together from pieces of different wood – sometimes not all from the same cut of timber!

This gives engineered wood all of the strength and durability of solid woods but makes it more uniform in appearance.

It’s also often pretreated, meaning less work for the buyer as well as being significantly cheaper.

If you’re on a budget, prioritize customizability, or just are not particularly picky about having a solid wood door, engineered wood is definitely an option to consider.

There are many different types of engineered wood. However, the most common ones you are likely to come across are:

  • MDF: Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is made from leftover wood fibers that are heated and pressed into boards or sheets. This means that MDF is more environmentally friendly than solid wood, as it reuses wood scraps. The manufacturing processes also mean that this wood is very smooth and uniform, making it very easy to work with and customize. It is also resistant to cracking, splitting, and warping due to temperature changes. However, this wood is not water resistant, so it needs to be carefully treated or only used for interior doors that are unlikely to be exposed to moisture
  • Plywood: Plywood is made from thin strips or layers of wood that are laminated and pressed together. It is often regarded as the strongest type of engineered wood. This wood is very durable – in some cases even more so than solid wood – as it is not prone to shrinking and expanding with heat or moisture. It comes in many different varieties, colors, and thicknesses, and is also easily shaped, painted, and cut. Due to its reliability, plywood is usually also the most expensive variety of engineered wood!
  • Particle Board: Particle board is made from sawdust or wood chips that are flattened and glued together to form a cohesive sheet. This means that its manufacturing process is very environmentally friendly as it is made from waste products. It is also smooth and easy to paint or cover and works well as an insulator. However, it is not the most durable wood and has a tendency to soak up water and expand. This means it is not a great option for exterior doors or doors in moisture-rich areas like bathrooms
  • Blockboard: Blockboard is formed from processed strips of softwood that are bound together to form a “block.” It is very light in weight, and is very resistant to deformation or cracking, especially in comparison with particle board. It’s also stiffer than many engineered woods, meaning it is a better option for larger or weight-bearing doors. The manufacturing process does mean that this wood is not the best at holding screws and nails, and as it is made from softwoods, it doesn’t rank among the strongest wood choices!

Choosing the Right Wood for Your Door

So now that you know all about the different types of wood available, how do you pick which one is the right choice for your doors?

At the end of the day, it comes down to your specific preferences, restrictions, and needs.

Here are some of the top things to consider when choosing the right wood for your door:


Naturally, the biggest decider for many when selecting their doors is price!

In simple terms, engineered wood is always going to be the cheapest option, followed by softwoods and then hardwoods.

This is simply due to the cost of producing these doors and the availability of materials.

If you are on a very strict budget, consider particle board or blockboard, as these are the cheapest of the engineered woods.

However, it’s also important to factor in the cost of repairs and replacements; these woods will not last the same way solid woods (and especially hardwoods) are likely to.


Hardwoods generally are more durable than softwoods and engineered woods in that they are very heavy, sturdy, and weather resistant.

However, many of these woods may require more ongoing care and maintenance to prevent cracking and/or fading than the cheaper, more processed woods (especially when untreated).

It’s also crucial to think about where your new doors are going especially for exterior doors when you live in an area that’s prone to harsh weather!


Once you’ve squared away your financial and practical needs, you can consider just which doors you like the look of!

Hardwood doors are often darker in color, and seem regal and old fashioned, but are difficult to customize.

Softwood doors are usually lighter with prominent knots and grain, giving a breezy, homey, and rustic feel. They are generally able to be stained or painted to match your preferences.

Finally, engineered wood doors are smooth and uniform, and are the easiest to customize – though they may look unfinished if they’re installed as it is!

Other Considerations

There are also other things that may factor into the decision depending on the person.

For example, hardwood doors are generally regarded as the least environmentally friendly option, as the trees the wood comes from take longer to grow and may be sourced from nature.

Another example would be the length you plan to stay in your home. If you’re renting or planning on moving soon, a cheaper, temporary option may be a better idea than an expensive, solid oak door.

No matter what you choose, there’s bound to be the perfect wood door for you out there!