"Have nothing in your home that you don't know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." —William Morris.
For any home improvement investment you're planning to make, you’ll need to be informed about each and every detail, as ultimately you’re the owner of the final project. If you have wood as a spec for any of your designs, the species of wood you’re going to use is essential. You may feel lost and disoriented when it comes to knowing the difference between the differing characteristics among the many species of wood available. That's why we’re here to show you the main differences between these two main wood categories: hardwoods and softwoods.
Let’s dig deeper!
What are hardwoods?
Hardwood trees include species like oak, walnut, beech, chestnut, maple, hickory, mahogany, teak etc and are all angiosperms (reproduce with flowers). These trees grow at a slow pace and because of this factor usually increases their cost value because it contributes to their durability as well as their strength. They can be found in temperate and tropical forests all over the world. Most of them are deciduous trees, which means that their broad leaves change color and fall off in winter (1). Hardwood is most often used for flooring including barnwood flooring, but it can also be used for cladding, paneling, buildings, fencing, boats, and outdoor decks, among other things. In addition, this category of wood works well for both home and business projects since it consists of boards that are all extremely versatile.
What are softwoods?
The origin of softwoods can be traced back to gymnosperm trees. These trees include evergreen conifer trees (2), in contrast to trees with broad leaves such as oak and beech, softwoods include douglas fir, pine, cedar, spruce, larch and the infamous redwood tree. These trees have needle-like leaves that maintain their green color throughout the entire year. Softwoods are used for many things, like building materials (windows and doors), furniture, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), paper, Christmas trees, interior moldings, and many more wood products.
What Are The Differences Between Softwoods And Hardwoods?
In this part we'll go over the distinctions between these two categories of wood one by one so that you can easily tell them apart.
Hardwoods differ in that they include visible pores for the passage of water and nutrients, as well as being denser than softwoods. Using a microscope, one may view this structure in action. For softwoods, they have a cellular structure that is simpler. Cells known as longitudinal medullary rays and tracheids (3), which do not have apparent pores, carry water throughout softwood trees.
Softwoods are typically less expensive than hardwoods since they are easier to obtain, more absorbent, and grow faster than hardwood trees. But the price of any particular hardwood or softwood depends on the product and species chosen, as well as the amount needed.
Both hardwood and softwood are 100% recyclable, but softwood is often considered to be the more eco-friendly alternative because it absorbs more carbon dioxide. As a result of their rapid growth, softwood trees can be replanted far more quickly than their hardwood equivalents. But if you buy hardwoods from forests that are sustainably sourced and managed well, you won't have to worry because you'll know they are also safe for the environment.
As the name suggests, hardwoods are almost always more enduring than softwoods. Hardwood trees are more densely grown due to their slower growth rate and more condensed structure. There is one exception, balsa wood, which is indeed considered a hardwood, but it is much lighter and softer than most other hardwoods. Generally speaking, more volume always corresponds to higher intensity and long-term utility. Because softwoods are less dense, this makes them easier to use for many woodworking projects. Often more strength is not what you want in your wood depending on its application. So it always depends on what your project and objective is.
Perhaps the greatest difference between softwoods and hardwoods is how they are compared globally. Hardwoods have a stronger reputation and generally are thought of with a higher level of sophistication than softwoods. This is particularly true about American hardwoods. The global demand for hardwoods compared to softwoods definitely set them apart.
In the end, it is undeniable that both hardwoods and softwoods are different and have their individual characteristics. But, we can agree that both of these categories of wood have their unique qualities when it comes to buying your upcoming wood products.
If you want to learn more about lumber products then definitely take a look at our line of wood products and request a free quote.
(1)-(2)-(3) Duffield Timber, “Hardwood vs. Softwood: What Are The Differences?”, 21 October 2021 https://duffieldtimber.com/the-workbench/categories/timber-trends/hardwood-vs-softwood-what-are-the-differences