From the earliest evidence of civilisation, timber has been used in construction. It has been used in everything from primitive farming equipment to elaborate dressing tables. Ultimately, wood remains one of the most important materials for architects and furniture makers in all corners of the globe.
Whether you’re looking for sash windows, casements or doors, flooring, choosing furniture, or simply interested in woodwork, there is lots to learn about the world of timber and how to optimise it in our DIY pursuits.
A fundamental factor to consider when selecting a timber type is whether it is a hardwood or softwood. Here, we will cover the essentials of what you need to know about these two classifications, as well as the advantages of each type.
What Do We Mean by Hardwood & Softwood?
‘Hardwood’ and ‘softwood’ are the most common ways to categorise different types of timber. Despite what the names suggests, hardwood does not actually feel harder than softwood. However, hardwood is generally denser and more durable than softwood, although there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Hardwood trees are those with broad leaves, known as ‘dicot’ trees, and they tend to grow slower than their softwood counterparts. The result of slower growth is generally a denser wood. Popular hardwood types include oak, sapele, ash, birch, teak, ebony, cherry, eucalyptus, dogwood and mahogany.
Softwood trees are usually conifers, which are a type of gymnosperm tree. The wood is less dense and easier to work in certain construction activities. Popular types of softwood include redwood, pine, spruce, hemlock, yew and cedar. Softwood easily absorbs treatments such as varnish and polish.
Uses of Hardwood
Hardwood is useful to many people in different professions and around the home. The most common hardwood applications include:
- Burning as fuel
- Windows & Doors
- Flooring and other surfaces
- Cooking equipment
- Musical instruments
Benefits of Hardwood
Easy to Maintain
Hardwood is easy to clean and maintain, which is one of the main reasons why it is so often used in flooring. Besides the occasional dust and clean, hardwood doesn’t need too much to keep it looking great and functioning perfectly.
Strong & Durable
The density of hardwood makes it tough and long-lasting. Oak, for instance, is a very strong wood, making it versatile for use in furniture as well as construction. You’ll see it on everywhere on your trips to IKEA as well as in dining rooms across the country.
Many people enjoy the appearance of hardwood, making it a popular choice for home improvement materials and furniture. Not only does it look appealing, but it is a warm surface that helps you conserve heat in your home.
Uses of Softwood
Softwood is just as useful as hardwood but does have other applications. Softwood has different applications from hardwood, including:
- Windows & doors
- Home woodwork
- Structural beams
Benefits of Softwood
Softwood is relatively cheap compared with its hardwood counterpart. If you do have the option between them, you can save money by choosing softwood.
Softwoods take less time to grow, which means that it’s easier to replenish those that are cut down. They are therefore generally a more sustainable option of timber than hardwoods.
Durable with Correct Treatment
If given the right treatment and maintained correctly, softwood can last up to 60 years. This makes it even more of a cost-effective option for those looking for quality wood with exceptional longevity.
The Bottom Line
So, which is better: hardwood or softwood? In short, they both have their applications in our day-to-day lives so neither is better than the other. Some projects will work better with hardwood while some with softwood – it all just depends on what you want to achieve, and how big your budget is.
Whether you’re interested in furniture design, woodwork, or general DIY, it always helps to understand the reason behind certain material choices. We hope you’ve found this post useful when it comes to deciding between hardwood and softwood – and good luck with all your future DIY endeavours.