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Guide to Trimming Hollow Core Doors

Do you know what type of doors you have in your house? Most likely, they’re hollow core doors, since these are the most popular internal doors in use today. Even so, the phrase ‘hollow core door’ may not mean anything to you.

Read on for more information on how hollow core doors are structured, the pros and cons of hollow core doors, as well as some tips on how to resize hollow core doors.

What is a Hollow Core Door?

Wooden doors come in three types: solid wood, solid core and hollow core.

As you would expect, solid wood doors are made from thick slabs of wood. They are strong, secure and are good insulators. They are also rather costly which makes them a natural choice for external doors.

Solid core doors have a thin veneer of high-quality natural wood fixed over a core of engineered wood, such as HDF.

Hollow core doors, contrary to their name, do not have an empty void at their centre. Instead they have a thick solid frame, and a core made of plastic or cardboard. This core is usually constructed in a hexagonal ‘honeycomb’ pattern; one of the strongest structures found in nature. This makes the doors more solid, robust, and soundproof.

Hollow core doors are lightweight, easy to fit and inexpensive, which makes them a popular choice for internal doors. They are also very versatile. This honeycomb core can be contained within a variety of veneers that can be matched to any decor. They can even be made to resemble far more expensive solid wood doors.

Why Might You Need to Trim Your Hollow Core Door?

There are a number of reasons you might want to trim a door. You might have an awkward door frame in a non-standard size that makes purchasing a new door incredibly difficult. You could estimate the size or even misread your tape measure. Mistakes do happen, and can mean that when your new door turns up it’s an inch too tall for its frame.

You may even need to resize old doors. After installing a plush new carpet with a deep shaggy pile, you’ll probably notice your doors start to catch. The thicker the carpet, the more clearance it will need, but a new door might seem a daunting expense after replacing flooring.

Could it be quicker, cheaper and easier just to trim the existing doors instead?

Can Hollow Core Doors Be Trimmed?

The short answer is yes, hollow core doors can be trimmed.

Hollow core doors have a strong block outer frame, which leaves a couple of inches of solid wood at the top, bottom and sides of the door. When it comes to allowing for alterations, this frame makes them a lot more forgiving than you might think. This counts for the sides as well as the bottom and top of the door.

This answer does come with a ‘but’ though.

While it is possible to trim hollow core doors, it isn’t always advisable. Removing an inch or two to allow for a thicker carpet or misread tape measure is fine, but cut off too much and you may notice that the bottom of the door is no longer solid.

When this happens, the structural integrity of the door can be compromised. This can be fixed by reinserting a block from the bottom of the door, inside the veneer using glue. Though this may sound simple, it can be fiddly. There is a lot of potential for it to go wrong, leaving you with a door that is even more unsuitable than it was before. In general, it’s advisable to avoid going to these extremes.

That said, if all you’re looking to lose is a thin layer from your door, then read on for a quick guide on how to trim hollow core doors.

How to Trim a Hollow Core Door

What you need to trim hollow core doors:

  • Sheets or paper to protect the surface of the door
  • Tape measure
  • Masking tape
  • Guide wood
  • Utility knife
  • Jigsaw or circular saw

Instructions:

  1. Measure up

Measure how much you want to shave off the door. Make sure you measure the door frame in three places: both sides as well as the middle. This will give you the truest possible reading and minimises the risk of mistakes.

Remember, you only have about an inch and a half available to lose from the average hollow core door. If you need to take off more than that, think about replacing the door instead.

  1. Mark the door

Start by drawing a pencil line to show where you’re cutting, then grab a knife and a guide and score the surface of the door. This helps stop the door splintering when you start sawing it.

  1. Mask the door

Wrapping masking tape around the bottom of the door will also help prevent chipping or splintering. Another tip is to wrap the foot of a circular saw with tape, as this can protect the surface of the door from damage as well.

  1. Cut the door

The big moment. Use a guide and keep the saw steady to ensure a clean straight edge and minimise the risk to the door.

  1. Sand the door

Use a fine grit paper to smooth off any rough patches on the cut edge. A hand sander will obviously make this job quicker and easier, but try to be gentle and restrained, or you may wind up losing more height on the door.

  1. Finish

Obviously, what you do here will depend on the door’s appearance. You may need to repaint the bottom of the door, or simply stain and varnish it. Whichever way you need to finish your doors, ensure they are completely dry before you re-hang them. This will benefit your door and your carpet.

Trimming hollow core doors is possible, but not always easy. It can take a seasoned DIYer, particularly if you’re trying to lose a lot of width or height, and it can be intimidating if you don’t have the right tools. Hopefully this post will have helped you decide if it’s a task you are ready to tackle.

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