What Is a Luan Door?

Lee Carroll

At one time or another, you will likely replace a door in your home. If you stroll down the interior door aisle at a home improvement center, the array of choices is almost overwhelming. Prices range from nearly outlandish for custom doors to downright cheap for some plain options.

Lauan doors are ideal for closets.

Lauan doors fall somewhere in the middle. They are an economical choice that will work in most homes.

Lauan Materials

Luan, more accurately spelled lauan, is a conundrum. It is often called Philippine mahogany, but it is not true mahogany; it is more closely related to cedar. The confusion doesn’t end there. The word lauan refers to several different varieties of wood from southeast Asia. It is used to make plywood, which is also called luan or lauan. Lauan plywood is thin and usually sold at retail in 1/4-inch thick sheets. The grain is fine, and it accepts stains and sealers well. Although some lauan is pale, dense and hard, most of the materials available in the United States are reddish-toned, softer woods that are cut into thin veneer panels for plywood.

Lauan Door Construction

Lauan doors are also called hollow-core doors. As the name suggests, the doors are not solid. The framework of the door is constructed from strips and blocks of pine or another wood, and the frame is covered with a seamless sheet of lauan plywood veneer. Because they are hollow, they are also lightweight and inexpensive. Most lauan doors are sold bare, without stain, sealer or paint. This allows you to finish the door as you desire. There are no decorative details in the construction; both sides are flat and plain. Decorative trim molding can dress up a lauan door, and some companies manufacture hollow-core door murals that cover the surface like wallpaper.


Lauan doors are for interior use only. For a homeowner on a budget, they are fully-functional doors that work in any room. Consider the level of humidity, such as in a bathroom or laundry, before installing. Lauan can warp, and the glued seams can separate in a damp environment. The hollow nature will not muffle or contain sounds like a solid door can. Craft-minded people use lauan doors in interesting ways that have nothing to do with closing off a room. One door resting on a pair of short filing cabinets or another platform becomes a large, straight desk or table. Cut 8 inches off the length of a door and slip the open end over a 2-by-2 board that is fastened horizontally to the wall, and you have a floating shelf with no visible support. Fasten the shelf to the board from the bottom with 1-inch wood screws.


Lauan doors are easily damaged. If your hands are full and you kick or elbow the door to open it, you could punch a hole through the veneer. Repairing a hole discreetly is almost impossible. You need a reinforcing patch mounted inside the hole. Cover the patch with wood putty, sand and then paint the door. Pet claws will damage the veneer, but you can sand out light damage and refinish the door. Doors in high-use areas, such as a primary bathroom, should fit the doorway without rubbing. Repeated opening and closing in a tight doorway will eventually pull the veneer off the frame.