In this quick guide to wood doors we’ll focus on some of the basics that can often be overlooked or missed on commercial projects but that should be addressed early in the project to avoid delays. A lot of specifications will be so generic that they miss the important pieces required for ordering the doors. Sometimes a “copy and paste” approach is taken and you may not get what you want or you may get more than you need.

Core Types

Wood doors come with several core type options that are used in certain applications. The four most common core types are:

  1. Particleboard – Typical door core used for most doors on a project. It has a heavy duty construction that is cost effective and versatile, able to be fire rated up to 45 minutes.
  2. Structural Composite Lumber – Formed with strands of wood combined with special resins resulting in a strongly bonded core. These come at a higher cost than the particleboard core but are much more durable.
  3. Staved Lumber – Wood blocks are set together to form the core. These are not used very often due to the higher cost and the Structural Composite Lumber core is comparable in performance.
  4. Mineral Core – Made of composite noncombustible minerals. This core is used at fire rated openings from 45 minutes up to 90 minutes.


The first thing you notice about a wood door is the veneer. Wood door species and cut need to be selected followed by the finish. Common wood species include the following:

Wood Door Color Stains

  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Birch
  • Cherry
  • African Mahogany
  • Walnut

The cut you specify will effect how the grain looks as well as other factors. The different cutting options may not be available for the wood species you want. These are the four cuts you can choose from:

  1. Plan Sliced (aka Flat Cut) – This cut is available for most species. Results in a “cathedral” pattern.
  2. Quarter Cut – This cut is also available for most species. Has a tight grain appearance.
  3. Rift Cut – Available for Oak species only. Has a tight grain appearance and reduces the “fleck” in Oak.
  4. Rotary Cut – This is not available in some species like White Oak and Cherry. Results in a random grain appearance.
Flecking in Red Oak

Flecking in Quarter Cut Red Oak

Veneer Matching

Once you have specified the species and cut of the veneers, they will then be assembled somehow (the piece match). The two most common methods are book matched and slip matched.

  • A book matched veneer is a veneer that is sliced open and laid out like the pages in a book. Barber poling is more likely with book matching veneers.
  • A slip matched veneer is also sliced open, but instead of being opened like a book, the top piece is “slipped” to the side of the bottom piece so they are side by side.

Veneer Matching

Finally, the matching of the veneers on the face of the door is specified next (the face match). The three options are running match, balance match, and center match.

  • A running match will start by placing veneers at one edge of the door and then continuing across the door face until the face is covered. The remaining veneer that is left over is used to start covering the face of the next door, and so on. The veneer pieces end up being different widths resulting in a non-symmetrical appearance.
  • A balance match will start by placing a veneer at the center of the face of the door. It will have a more balanced appearance on the face of the door.
  • A center balance match will start by placing the joint of two veneer flitches center on the door face and will use an even number of veneer pieces that are all the same width before trimming. This is the most expensive option.