Guide to the Hardwoods and Softwoods We Use

Identifying and understanding different types of wood can be confusing. Since there are over 200 types of wood in the world, it can be hard to know what properties and attributes make one type of wood different from another. If you’ve wondered about whether or not a specific wood is a softwood or a hardwood,…

Different hardwoods combined in a serving board
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Identifying and understanding different types of wood can be confusing. Since there are over 200 types of wood in the world, it can be hard to know what properties and attributes make one type of wood different from another.

If you’ve wondered about whether or not a specific wood is a softwood or a hardwood, and what makes one type of wood a softwood or a hardwood—stay with us! This article will answer all your questions about the different types of softwoods and hardwoods used in carpentry.

Here’s a guide to the different types of hardwoods and softwoods we use in our projects:

What Are Softwoods and Hardwoods?

Softwoods are a type of wood that shrinks less than hardwoods and has a lower density than hardwoods. When wood dries, it shrinks in size. Softwoods, like pine and spruce, shrink less than hardwoods, like oak and mahogany. This is because the amount of resin in the wood is higher.

Resin is responsible for that sticky sap you find when you cut a pine tree, and it’s what makes softwoods sticky when cut. Because softwoods have more resin, they don’t dry out as quickly as other types of wood, making them less susceptible to shrinking.

Hardwoods are a type of wood that has a higher density than softwoods. Hardwoods, like oak and walnut, are heavier than softwoods, like pine and spruce. Hardwoods are also less porous than softwoods, meaning they hold less moisture in the wood. A higher density and lower porosity means hardwoods tend to be more durable and last longer than softwoods.

Hardwoods vs. Softwoods: Which Is Better for Woodworking?

Although softwoods are less prone to shrinking than hardwoods, they also aren’t as strong. Because they contain less resin than hardwoods, softwoods don’t have the same durability or longevity as hardwoods.

This is why hardwoods are usually used in more construction and furniture projects. Hardwoods are also more expensive than softwoods like pine and spruce, which is why they’re often used in high-end furniture and flooring.

Softwoods are used in more outdoor projects and as framing timbers in construction, since they’re less prone to shrinking than hardwoods. Although softwoods are generally less durable than hardwoods, certain types of softwoods, like cedar and redwood, are more durable than other types of softwoods.

Differences between hardwood and softwood

There are many differences between softwood and hardwood, but the two most significant are density and moisture retention. Hardwoods have a higher density than softwoods, so they are heavier and less prone to shrinking.

Hardwoods also retain less moisture in the wood than softwoods, making them more durable. While softwoods are less prone to shrinking than hardwoods, they also don’t retain as much moisture as hardwoods. This means softwoods are less durable than hardwoods and don’t last as long.

Wood types we use

There are many different types of wood in the world, but the different types of wood you’ll likely encounter while woodworking are softwoods and hardwoods.

There are many different types of softwoods and hardwoods, but the below are some of the most common types used in carpentry and are all woods we use in our projects in varying degrees:

American Walnut Hardwood

American Walnut

American walnut is a hardwood that’s used for making furniture and cabinets. It’s a durable wood that can be easily sanded, stained, and finished. It has a dark, rich colour that looks great with dark tones in furniture, cabinets, and other home decor items.

This hardwood is sensitive to changes in humidity, so it’s not a great choice for outdoor furniture. It also doesn’t take stain well, so you may get blotchy wood when you stain it.

Olive wood grain pattern

Olive Wood

Olive wood is a type of hardwood that’s often used for making cutting boards and kitchen utensils. It’s a beautiful wood with a rich, dark brown colour that’s used in many high-quality kitchen items.

Olive wood is denser than other hardwoods, which makes it a great choice for cutting boards and kitchen utensils. It’s a sustainable wood that’s grown and harvested in the Mediterranean region.

Elm wood grain pattern

Elm

Elm is a hardwood that has a wide range of uses in construction, furniture making, and cabinetry. It’s a naturally beautiful wood with a tight grain pattern and rich brown colour. Elm is also resistant to insects and rot, making it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture and structures.

Elm is a very stable wood that works well for furniture, cabinetry, and other woodworking projects. It’s beautiful but also easy to work with, making it a great wood for beginners. Because it’s such a stable wood, elm is also a good choice for wooden bowels for piano keys.

Lime wood with limes on top

Lime

Lime is a softwood that’s used in construction, furniture making, and other woodworking projects. It’s a naturally white wood that’s often painted or stained to add colour to walls and other furniture items.

Lime is a softer wood that can be easily scratched, so it’s not a great choice for wooden bowls or other items that need to be durable. It’s also a bit more expensive than other softwoods.

Sycamore tree with catkins

Sycamore

Sycamore is a hardwood that’s often used in construction, furniture making, and other woodworking projects. It’s a naturally brown wood that can be stained, painted, or left uncoloured.

Sycamore is a common type of hardwood, making it relatively inexpensive. It’s a durable wood that can be used in many different ways, making it a popular wood for woodworking projects.

Yew tree well maintained in a decorative garden. Shaped to oval.

Yew

Yew is a hardwood that’s often used for making bows for archery. It’s a naturally dark brown wood that can be easily stained or painted to add colour to furniture, cabinets, and other woodworking projects.

Yew is a rare type of hardwood that’s difficult to find and can be expensive. It’s a naturally dark wood that may need to be stained to create a more visible colour. Yew is a durable wood that can be used in many different ways.

More woods

  • Alder – A softwood that’s lightweight and easy to work with. Alder is a great choice for outdoor projects, like decking.
  • Almond – A softwood that’s heavy and hard to work with. This type of wood is usually used for flooring and finishing furniture.
  • Ash – A hardwood that’s easy to work with, but isn’t a good choice for outdoor projects. Ash is best for furniture, cabinets, and other indoor projects.
  • Beech – A hardwood that’s easy to work with and a good choice for both indoor and outdoor projects.
  • Cherry – A hardwood that’s heavy and can be difficult to work with. Cherry is best for furniture, cabinets, and other indoor projects.
  • Maple – A hardwood that’s heavy and difficult to work with. Maple is best for furniture, cabinets, and other indoor projects.
  • Oak – A hardwood that’s easy to work with and a good choice for both indoor and outdoor projects.

With so many types of wood available, it can be difficult to know what type of wood you should use for your next project.

Softwoods, like pine and spruce, are less dense than hardwoods and are better for outdoor projects. Hardwoods, like oak and walnut, are denser and are better for indoor projects and furniture.

Whether we choose a softwood or a hardwood depends on what kind of project we’re doing and whether or not we want the project to last longer.

Hardwoods FAQs

Hardwood is a type of wood that comes from deciduous trees. These trees have broad leaves, and they lose their leaves every year. The wood from these trees is generally hard and strong.

There are a few different ways to clean hardwood floors, and the best method may vary depending on the type of finish on your floors. For example, if your hardwood floors have a polyurethane finish, you’ll want to be careful not to use too much water, as this can cause the finish to bubble. Instead, opt for a damp mop or a dry dust mop.

If your hardwood floors have an oil-based finish, you can use a slightly damp mop to clean them. Be sure to wring out the mop head thoroughly before mopping, as you don’t want to leave any excess water on the floor, which could damage the finish. You can also use a dry dust mop to clean oil-based floors.

If your floors are unfinished, you can clean them with a damp mop or a dry dust mop. However, be sure not to use too much water, as this can cause the wood to warp.

Yes, beech is a hardwood. Hardwoods are typically denser and more durable than softwoods, making them ideal for furniture and flooring. Beech is a particularly strong and sturdy hardwood, making it a popular choice for high-traffic areas.

Yes, oak is a hardwood. It is one of the most popular hardwoods used in furniture and flooring because of its strength and durability.

Pine is a softwood, not a hardwood.

Yes, ash is a hardwood. Ash is one of the hardest woods available, making it an ideal choice for furniture, flooring, and other home improvement projects. Ash is also known for its unique grain pattern, which can add a touch of character to any space.

Yes, birch is considered a hardwood. Birch is known for its beautiful, light-coloured wood, which makes it a popular choice for use in interior design and decoration.

Cedar is technically a softwood, but it is often categorised as a hardwood because of its density and strength.

Cedar wood has many uses. It is often used in construction because it is rot-resistant and has a pleasant smell. Cedar wood shavings are often used in pet bedding and saunas. Cedar oil is used in aromatherapy and as a natural insecticide.

Hardwood is a type of wood that is typically harder than softwood. It is often used in construction, furniture making, and other woodworking applications. Hardwoods are typically more expensive than softwoods, but they can offer superior strength, durability, and aesthetic appeal.

No, it is a softwood.

Larch is a deciduous coniferous tree, meaning that it is a cone-bearing tree that loses its leaves seasonally. Larch trees are typically found in cooler climates, and they are known for their rapid growth rate. The wood of the larch tree is strong and durable, making it an ideal material for construction and furniture-making.

Although larch trees are not technically classified as hardwoods, the wood is often referred to as “hardwood larch” due to its strength and density.

No, redwood is a softwood.

Yes, mahogany is a hardwood. It is a durable and strong wood that is often used in furniture and cabinetry. Mahogany is also a popular wood for musical instruments, as it has a rich, full sound.

No, spruce is not a hardwood. Hardwoods are typically defined as deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the winter, while spruce trees are evergreens that keep their needles year-round. However, there is some debate over whether coniferous trees like spruce should be considered hardwoods, as they are technically classified as gymnosperms (seed plants that don’t produce flowers).

Teak is a hardwood, meaning it is a dense, strong wood that is difficult to cut and shape. Teak is often used in outdoor furniture and decks because of its ability to withstand the elements.

Yes, it is possible to fix a buckled hardwood floor. The first thing you need to do is identify the source of the problem. If the problem is due to excess moisture, you need to address the moisture issue first.

This may involve fixing leaks, increasing ventilation, or using a dehumidifier. Once the moisture problem has been addressed, you can then start repairing the buckled floor. This may involve sanding down the raised areas, re-nailing or screwing down loose boards, or adding shims to level out the floor.

If the buckling is due to expansion or contraction of the wood, you will need to loosen the floorboards and allow the wood to expand or contract as needed. Once you have identified the cause of the buckling, you can take steps to fix the problem.

Yes, silver birch is a hardwood. It is a deciduous tree that is native to Europe and Asia. The wood is pale in color with a fine grain. It is strong and durable, making it a good choice for furniture and flooring.

Engineered hardwood floors are a beautiful and durable option for your home, but they require special care to keep them looking their best. Here are some tips on how to clean engineered hardwood floors:

  1. Sweep or vacuum your floors regularly to remove dirt and debris.
  2. When sweeping or vacuuming, be sure to use a soft-bristled brush or attachment to avoid scratching the floor.
  3. If you need to mop your floors, use a damp mop with a mild soap or cleaner. Avoid using too much water, as this can damage the floors.
  4. Wipe up spills immediately to avoid staining.
  5. For tougher stains, you may need to use a mild abrasive cleaner. Always test the cleaner in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it doesn’t damage the floor.

By following these tips, your engineered hardwood floors will stay looking beautiful for years to come.

Jelutong is a tropical hardwood that is found in Southeast Asia. The tree can grow up to 50 meters tall and has a diameter of about 1 meter. The wood is strong and dense, making it ideal for construction and furniture-making.

Softwoods FAQs

Softwood is a term used to describe wood that comes from coniferous trees. Coniferous trees are also sometimes referred to as evergreen or needle-leaved trees. Some of the most common types of softwood include pine, fir, and spruce.

Softwoods tend to be light in color and have a lower density than hardwoods. They are also generally easier to work with and less expensive than hardwoods.

Pine is a softwood.

Softwood is typically used for construction purposes, as it is a very strong and durable type of wood. It is also often used for making furniture and other wooden products. Softwood is also popular for use in paper and pulp production.

There are many different types of softwoods, but some of the most common include pine, fir, and cedar. These woods are typically used for construction purposes because they are relatively lightweight and easy to work with.

Most treated timber you’d buy from a Builders Merchants or Big Box DIY store is known as Tanalised Timber. This is usually green or orange in colour and is a process by which the wood is penetrated very deeply with an anti-rot treatment called Tanalith.

In rare cases you can still get your hands on Creosoted products (generally fence posts or sleepers) but you don’t want to use these on your veg patch as they’re quite toxic.

If you’re buying a treatment from a merchant or DIY store, you usually get anti-rot products or paint-like substances that will protect the wood.

There are a few things to keep in mind when treating softwood for outdoor use:

  • First, it’s important to choose the right type of wood. Softwoods like cedar and redwood are good choices for outdoor use because they’re naturally resistant to rot and decay.
  • Second, it’s important to properly prepare the wood before treatment. This means sanding it down to create a smooth surface and then applying a primer or sealant to help the treatment adhere better.
  • Third, once the wood is prepared, you can choose from a variety of different treatments, such as stains, paints, or oil-based finishes. It’s important to apply the treatment evenly and according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Finally, it’s important to regularly maintain the treated wood to ensure its longevity. This means cleaning it regularly and reapplying the treatment as needed.

Balsa is classified as a hardwood, although it is actually quite soft. The wood is very lightweight and porous, making it easy to work with. However, it is not as strong as other hardwoods, so it is not often used for structural purposes.

Either/or. You can get both hardwood and softwood ply. Softwood ply is “structural” and hardwood ply is “decorative” or “finishing ply”. Softwood plywood is used more in construction whereas hardwood is used more in furniture because it has a finer face. Softwood ply is pretty rough looking.

Softwoods come from evergreen trees, which are coniferous trees that have needles instead of leaves. These trees are found in locations all over the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia.

There are a few things to keep in mind when taking softwood cuttings:

  • Choose healthy, disease-free stems that are still actively growing.
  • Cut the stems at a 45-degree angle, just below a leaf node.
  • Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the cutting.
  • Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone powder or gel.
  • Plant the cutting in a pot filled with moistened potting mix.
  • Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to create a humid environment.
  • Place the pot in a warm location out of direct sunlight.
  • Check on the cuttings regularly, and water as needed to keep the potting mix moist.
  • After a few weeks, you should see new growth appearing on the cuttings. At this point, you can remove the plastic bag and continue to care for the plants as usual.

You can burn softwood in your wood stove, but it is not as effective as burning hardwood. Softwood burns more quickly and produces less heat than hardwood, so it is not ideal for use in a wood stove. If you do choose to burn softwood in your stove, make sure to use small pieces so that it burns more slowly and evenly.

There is no definitive answer to this question as the lifespan of softwood sleepers can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, such as the type of wood used, the quality of the manufacturing, the conditions under which they are installed and maintained, and so on.

However, it is generally accepted that softwood sleepers will last for around 10 to 20 years when properly cared for.

Fence panels bought from builders merchants and DIY stores are normally made from treated or tanalised softwoods. It’s the cheapest way to make a relatively strong, long lasting product that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Obviously you can get hardwood fence panels (or make them) but in mainstream terms, 99% are softwood.

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