Wood doors can be assembled a number of ways, depending on the type of door and its design. When it comes to flush wood doors they are built essentially in the same manner. The doors have a core with veneers on the faces and edge-banding on the sides. There are two terms, however, that can be hard to remember. These terms are stiles and rails. So what are they and why are they important?


Stiles are the vertical pieces of the door. Stiles are an important part of the door to consider when specifying locking hardware or other hardware that will be mounted near to the stiles of the door. Particularly, stile width is important for mortise locks and exit devices because they can take up a lot of space on the door and if the stiles are not wide enough you may not be able to use that hardware. The stiles are usually going to be beveled on the edges, but they can be square edges as well.


Rails are the horizontal pieces of the door. Rails are important to consider for hardware mounted to the top of bottom of the door. Door hardware such as concealed or surface mounted closers as well as kick plates or armor plates must have enough room to be installed inside of or on the surface of the rails of the door. If the hardware requires a mortise in the top or bottom of the door be sure that the dimension of the rails will allow for it without compromising the structural integrity of the door. Generally a rail is a minimum 1-1/8″ wide or can be as wide as 5″, depending on the application.

Increasing the dimensions of stiles and rails on doors with lites can help you avoid lite lock conflicts. A lite lock conflict can occur when the stiles or rails are too narrow where hardware is installed and can compromise the structural integrity of the door.

For doors with lites, the top rail should be no less than 6″ for surface mounted closers and, depending on the hardware, the rail dimension may need to be increased. The bottom rail is usually at least 10″ wide to meet ADA requirements for a smooth surface on the bottom 10″.

Stile and Rail Wood Doors

A stile and rail wood door is constructed from many vertical and horizontal pieces that are combined with a certain number of panels on the door. The rails that are not at the top or bottom of the door are called the “cross rails”. This style of door provides a very decorative finish and a unique look to a building or space. They can be very complex or simple in construction and design.

The basic idea is that the stiles and rails are formed to hold the panels or glass lites together. Door hardware should still be a consideration when specifying these types of doors. The goal should be to achieve a pleasing design as well as a properly functioning opening.