Hardwood VS Softwood: What’s Best For You? 7 Differences
So, you have a wood project in mind. Where to start? The best thing to do is learn the differences between hardwood VS softwood so that you can choose the best for you. Here they go!
Different types of construction projects call for different kinds of wood. So choosing the appropriate lumber for the job is crucial to achieving satisfying results.
Determining whether a project demands hardwood or softwood is the first step in deciding what wood is best for the job.
But making the proper selection can be more complex than it sounds. Both types of wood can be used for everything, from structural to decorative. But what is the difference between hardwood and softwood?
Hardwood VS Softwood: The Difference
What Are Hardwoods?
Hardwoods come from trees categorized as Angiosperms, found in temperate and tropical forests worldwide. These trees reproduce with a flowering plant, like oak, walnut, and maple.
Hardwood is considered the ultimate versatile material, with applications ranging from exquisite veneers and furniture to musical instruments, flooring, construction, and boat building.
It is a material of natural beauty, available in countless species, specifications, and color combinations.
The most common types of hardwoods include:
What Are Softwoods?
Softwoods come from trees named Gymnosperm. These trees have needle-like leaves that usually remain green year-round, as opposed to broad leaves that shed annually.
Softwoods became trendy worldwide for their versatility of applications and remarkable aesthetic appeal. Softwood can be used in many projects – from furniture and flooring to decking, landscaping, joinery, and structural applications.
Softwoods are flexible, lighter, and less dense than most hardwoods. They also develop quickly, leading to lower cost levels. These features made them easier to manipulate and more readily available than hardwoods.
The most common types of softwoods include:
Hardwood VS Softwood: 7 Differences
1. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, while softwood comes from coniferous.
First, let’s start with the origin of both kinds of wood. Hardwood comes from Deciduous trees, which leaves change their color in the fall, die, and fall off, and then grow new leaves in the spring. They arise from enclosed seeds covered by a hard shell or fruit.
Instead, softwood comes from Coniferous trees. These trees are evergreens that keep their foliage, which consists of either scaly leaves or needles, all year round. Some famous examples of coniferous trees include pine, cedar, spruce, fir, and juniper.
2. Hardwood is stronger and more durable than softwood.
As you can imagine by the name, hardwoods are stronger and more hard-wearing than softwoods. This is because of their slower growth time and more complex, condensed structure, which results in greater density. Generally, higher density equals higher strength and durability.
Hardwoods better resist dents, divots, and scratches, so they can be ideal for construction projects that must endure significant abuse.
But that does not mean that softwoods are weak at all. In fact, pine is the most commonly used building material, making up most of the framing used in homes.
Because of their more complex structure, hardwoods generally perform better when exposed to the elements.
3. Hardwoods have a harder density than softwoods.
Most hardwoods are notably denser than softwoods, which makes them also heavier. The difference in density is primarily due to the structure of both kinds of wood. Softwood is considerably more porous than hardwood.
Having fewer pores help hardwood be structurally more robust and durable than softwood. It also makes hardwoods more water-resistant, as they have fewer holes in their structure to soak up water and moisture than more porous softwoods.
4. Hardwood is more fire-resistant than softwood.
Because of their lighter density, softwoods have more air pockets inside their wood fibers, allowing them to burn more easily. Hardwoods are denser and therefore burn less easily.
Hardwood’s fire resistance, compared to softwoods, usually doesn’t overshadow the difference in cost, which is why most homes’ wood framing is made of softwood. Still, hardwood’s fire resistance makes it ideal for applications with a greater fire risk.
5. Softwood is cheaper than hardwood.
The reason why softwood is cheaper than hardwoods is due mainly to the fact that pine trees are faster growing, easier to source, and as a result, more abundant. (In fact, it’s telling that softwoods make up roughly 80 percent of the world’s lumber.)
A pine tree can grow 2 feet or more in a year, while an oak tree will only grow about a foot per year. Pine trees can also produce more densely than hardwoods, allowing a timber company to harvest more softwood per acre than hardwood.
However, the cost of any given hardwood or softwood depends entirely on the product and species chosen and, of course, the required volume.
6. Hardwood VS Softwood: environmental impact and sustainability.
Both types of wood remove carbon dioxide and are 100% renewable. Nevertheless, softwood is usually the more environmentally-friendly option.
This is because softwood trees grow faster than hardwood ones, which means they can be replenished more quickly.
However, hardwoods can also be very kind to our planet by sourcing timber from sustainably-managed forests.
7. Hardwood VS Softwood: Different Uses
Wood from the trunk of any hardwood and softwood tree can be used for a large variety of projects. It’s safe to say that wood is an incredibly versatile resource, but what are the differences in the uses of hardwood and softwood?
What Is Hardwood Used For?
Solid and durable hardwoods are the most chosen option for any high-impact structure, surface, or construction project intended to last a long time.
Some of the hardwood uses are:
-Construction (such as timber-framed buildings)
Some niche hardwood applications include guitars, smoking pipes, and walking sticks.
What Is Softwood Used For?
It’s estimated that 80% of all wood consumed globally comes from softwood trees. Due to their less dense and hard-wearing nature, softwoods are usually employed for temporary, lower-impact construction, where time or budget may be limited.
Some of the softwood uses are:
-Building components, fixtures, and fittings
-Roof and inner wall structures
-Props and trusses in construction
Besides being easier to handle, softwood also takes finishes like paint and stain very well, making it popular for home woodworking.
Hardwood VS Softwood: Where To Buy The Best Hardwood And Softwood
If you have already decided between hardwood VS softwood, which is the best for the project you have in mind, Brazilian Lumber is the best place to buy it.
We are the #1 direct importer of the greatest lumber in the world. We have all the best tropical hardwoods and softwoods in stock and ready to ship. Contact us for more info!