In Summary:

When you consider the number of doors installed in a typical home, it’s clear that careful selection of the materials in those doors can have multiplying effects.  To limit the amount of formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals introduced into your project, prefer doors that:

  1. Have a factory finish, as opposed to those that need to be finished on site.
  2. If solid core, are made with substrates that contain reduced amounts of formaldehyde: ULEF (Ultra-Low Emitting Formaldehyde), or are formaldehyde-free NAF (No Added Formaldehyde).
  3. ​Do not contain antimicrobial treatments on door knobs, hinges, or other hardware.

Here’s Why:

Doors can be made with a variety of materials and construction techniques.  Paying close attention to these materials can reduce the introduction of hazardous chemicals into living spaces.

The first such purchasing decision is to opt for doors that come prefinished, either painted, or stained and sealed.  These coatings can pose a hazard when wet, so opting to have them applied in a factory where controls are in place to protect both workers and the environment is much better than applying them on-site where these controls are not in place.

Second, the core of a door can contain significant amounts of formaldehyde.  More than 12% of a sheet of particleboard, for example, comes from a formaldehyde-based binder, which can release carcinogenic formaldehyde into a living space over the course of time.  Consult our Substrates Stoplight chart to find the best core option for your project.

Remember that even hollow core doors have an internal structure to support their facings, and that these often contain formaldehyde-based binders.  See a Common Product Profile of a Steel Door with a honeycomb core as an example of this construction.  Review product literature for the presence of these binders, or ask manufacturers about the composition of their internal structures.

Lastly, be on the lookout for door hardware - hinges, knobs, handles, etc - that are advertised as being treated with antimicrobial additives.  While it may seem like a good idea to make these frequently touched surfaces hostile to germs, the reality is that there is no evidence that these products improve our health.  However, there is evidence that these antimicrobial additives - regulated as pesticides - can leach out of their products and find their way into living spaces and the greater environment.  The choice is clear, especially when you consider that these products can also be sold at a price premium: skip antimicrobial hardware whenever possible.