Hardwood Vs. Softwood: Differences and Uses
Hardwood and softwood are phrases that are frequently used, but what exactly do they mean? What's the difference between these two sorts of wood, and how do you use them? To answer your questions, here are the main differences between hardwood and softwood, as well as each of their uses.
What Is Hardwood?
Angiosperms, or blooming trees, are what we typically refer to as hardwood trees. Their seeds are found in flowers, which must be pollinated in order to reproduce. These are broad-leaved trees that can be found in tropical or subarctic rainforests. The majority of wood species found in the tropics are evergreen. Those in colder climates, on the other hand, are deciduous, losing their leaves in the winter. Hardwood timber is tough, as the name implies. There are exceptions to this rule, at least in most circumstances. Furniture and other durable, high-quality, and aesthetically beautiful buildings are commonly made from this heavier wood. Hardwood trees take a long time to grow, which is why they are so expensive. Balsa wood, beech, alder, hickory, mahogany, oak, maple, teak, and walnut are examples of hardwood trees.
What Is Softwood?
Softwood trees are gymnosperms, which means that instead of flowers and bulbs, they bear "bare" seeds or cones. In addition, instead of leaves, they usually have needles. These are usually fast-growing, evergreen trees that are simple to cut and process. Softwood, as the name implies, is softer than hardwood and is commonly used in construction. Softwood trees grow quite quickly, which explains their inexpensive cost. The most common examples of softwood trees include cedar, juniper, pine tree, Douglas fir, redwood, yew, and spruce.
Hardwood Comes From Deciduous Trees, and Softwood Comes From Coniferous Trees
For those who are rusty with their elementary school science, deciduous trees have leaves that change color in the fall, die, and fall off, and then grow new leaves in the spring. They come from seeds contained in a hard shell, such as an acorn or walnut, or from fruit, such as a cherry. Coniferous trees, on the other hand, are evergreens that retain their foliage, which can be scaly leaves or needles, throughout the year. Unlike seeds from deciduous trees, seeds from evergreen trees are exposed to the elements.
Hardwood Is Heavier and More Durable Than Softwood
There is a notable weight difference between hardwood and softwood. A cubic foot of oak, for example, weighs between 37 and 56 pounds, while a cubic foot of pine weighs between 22 and 35 pounds. The added weight contributes to hardwood's improved durability and, well, hardness. Hardwoods are more resistant to dents, divots, and scratches, making them suitable for building projects that must withstand a lot of abuse. Hardwoods such as oak, teak, maple, and hickory, for example, are utilized for flooring, chairs, and dining room tables. That isn't to suggest that softwoods aren't strong. Pine is the most prevalent building material, accounting for the bulk of home framing.
Not All Hardwoods Are Darker Than Softwoods
Despite the fact that hardwoods come in a variety of darker colors, not all hardwoods are dark. Ebony and Brazilian rosewood are darker hardwoods that are dark grey or black in color. Walnut is a darker brown, whereas mahogany and oak are a lighter brown. Maple, hickory, birch, and beech are lighter hardwoods. Meanwhile, ash and poplar are lighter than many softwoods. The color of pine timber varies from almost white to a more yellowish hue, whereas the color of cedar lumber is pinkish-red. A darker crimson can be found in redwood, a more exotic softwood.
Hardwood Is More Fire-Resistant Than Softwood
Softwoods have more pockets of air inside their wood fibers due to their lighter density, making them easier to burn. Hardwoods are denser than softwoods, and hence burn more slowly. Hardwood, on the other hand, burns substantially hotter and longer than softwood once it gets going.
However, the cost difference between hardwood and softwood does not often justify the difference in fire resistance, which is why most homes' wood framing is made of softwood. Nonetheless, hardwood's fire resistance makes it excellent for applications in situations with an increased danger of fire.
Softwood Is Generally Less Expensive Than Hardwood
Softwoods have more pockets of air inside their wood fibers due to their lighter density, making them easier to burn. Hardwoods are denser than softwoods and hence burn more slowly. Hardwood, on the other hand, burns substantially hotter and longer than softwood once it gets going.
However, the cost difference between hardwood and softwood does not often justify the difference in fire resistance, which is why most homes utilize softwood for their wood framing. Nonetheless, hardwood's fire resistance makes it excellent for applications with a higher danger of fire.
Because of the price disparity, softwood is usually the material of choice when money is tight and either option is available. It's also worth noting that softwoods account for nearly 80% of global lumber production.
Hardwoods Usually Have a Harder Density Than Softwoods
Hardwoods have a higher density than softwoods, which explains why they're heavier. The structure of the two different types of woods is largely responsible for the density discrepancy. Hardwood is more porous than softwood. Because hardwood has fewer pores than softwood, it is structurally stronger, which is why it possesses such durability. Hardwoods are also more water-resistant than porous softwoods because they have fewer pores in their structure to absorb water and moisture. Not all hardwoods are dense, however. Poplar, for example, has a density similar to pine, making it less durable and weather-resistant than other hardwoods.
We hope that you have enjoyed our article on the differences and uses of hardwood and softwood! If you are looking to purchase anything from hand tools to hardwood lumber online, be sure to reach out to our expert team at Bear Hollow Supply! We pride ourselves on the immense stock of woodworking-related tools and materials to ensure that we are your one-stop shop for anything and everything you could possibly need for a home project!