By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Last week we began a discussion about doors. We looked at a variety of door types — from traditional hinged doors to nifty pocket doors. This week we look at the different ways doors are constructed. If you understand your options, replacing doors can be a relatively unobtrusive and inexpensive way to spruce up the look of any space.

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The classic style and rail doors, above, adorned with glass, are designed with a bungalow in mind.

Style and rail is the classic type of door construction. The vertical pieces of wood are the styles, and horizontal rails separate the door into panels. The result is an interlocking frame that allows wood to swell and shrink without impacting the door. If you choose solid wood for this type of door, the cost will range from $150 to $600 for paint-grade wood, and $400 to $1,000 for stain-grade wood.

Style and rail doors can also be made from fiberboard with a veneer of stain-grade hardwood. This gives the look of real wood for less money (about $150 to $400), and the man-made base is more stable than natural wood. However, with this type of construction, there is limited wood for finishing, and the wood veneer can potentially separate from the fiberboard interior.

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) can also be used to create style and rail doors. This material is a strong mixture of wood fiber waste and tough adhesives. It can be molded into profiles that imitate a solid wood door. It can’t be stained, but it can be painted and takes paint well. The cost is $250—$300.

French doors — doors made of wood and glass — are also style and rail doors. This type of door allows light to pass from the outside to the inside or from one room to another. The individual pieces of glass are called lites, and the number and shape of the lites can vary depending on the design and style you want.

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French doors are a variation on the style and rail construction type.

Face-on-frame doors are the least expensive doors you can buy. They are made from two faces or “skins” fastened together over an internal frame. Hollow-core doors have skins placed over an interior filled with lightweight material such as corrugated cardboard. Hollow core can be inexpensive, but they are poor sound insulators, and they can be easily punctured. Solid-core doors have skins fastened to an interior such as particleboard. They will cost a bit more but are better sound barriers.

There are two basic types of face-on-frame doors. One is flush plywood, which is flat and unadorned. These can be perfect for a modern home but don’t do much for other design styles. The cost is $20—$30 for hollow core, and $40—$80 for solid core.

The other type of face-on-frame doors is a molded composite door. The skins of these doors are made from a mixture of wood fiber and plastic resin stamped to look like a panel door. With their more decorative style, these are the today’s standard, low-cost door. They can be given stamped with a wood grain and are stainable so they look like style and rail from a distance. However, up close they look and feel more like plastic. The cost is $40—$70 for hollow core and $50—$100 for solid core.

Choosing the right style of door can add charm and character to any space. Upgrading your doors is a relatively simple way to change both the look and feel of your home without the disruption of a more comprehensive remodeling project. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Construction of doors varies