Choosing the right type of lumber for the job at hand is the best way to ensure good results, whether you are installing flooring in a home, building a new dresser, or constructing a backyard gazebo.
With choices ranging from common pine to exotic alder and everything in between, determining which type of wood you need should be the first step in finding the right wood for the project. However, with such a broad variety of lumber available, it can be difficult to make the right selection.
What Determines If Wood Is Hard Or Soft?
Wood is typically classified into one of two categories: hardwood or softwood. Although the difference between these types of wood may seem obvious, hardwood is not necessarily denser than softwood, so the names are a bit misleading. The difference comes down to the type of seeds that the tree the wood came from produces.
If the seeds produced by the tree have a coating, such as a fruit or shell, it is considered a hardwood. The type of trees that hardwood comes from are known as deciduous, which means that their leaves will change color in the fall before eventually dying and falling off; the tree will then grow new leaves when spring rolls around.
Some examples of hardwood trees that have enclosed seeds include walnut, oak, and cherry. The most common type of hardwood is oak, which has a relatively lower cost than other species, making it a popular choice of hardwood for affordable furniture and flooring.
Mahogany, another type of hardwood, is nearly twice as hard as oak and therefore more expensive as well, but it is one of the most durable types of wood you can own. Teak, meanwhile, is known for its weather-resistant properties and is the hardwood of choice for building outdoor furniture.
Wood is considered softwood if its seeds do not have any type of coating and are dropped to the ground and left to the elements. Softwood comes from coniferous trees, which are evergreens that retain their foliage throughout the year. These trees typically have scaly leaves or needles.
Pine is the most common type of softwood that you will find at a lumber yard. It is frequently used for structural and general construction applications. Cedar is another familiar softwood suited to decking and outdoor furniture thanks to its natural weather-resistant properties.
Other Differences Between Hardwood And Softwood
Here is a look at some of the other differences between hardwood and softwood.
Softwood is nearly always more affordable than hardwood. This can be demonstrated by looking at the prices of flooring; pine floors might cost as little as $2 per square foot while oak hardwood floors may cost $15. The cost difference is largely due to the fact that softwood trees like pine grow a lot faster than hardwoods.
They can also grow more densely, which means that lumber companies are able to harvest more softwood lumber per acre than they can with hardwood. The lower price means the softwood tends to be the material of choice when budget is a concern.
Hardwoods tend to be significantly denser than softwoods, and they are also typically heavier. This is because softwood is more porous than hardwood. The reduced pores in hardwood give it stronger structural integrity than softwood, and this is responsible for its superior durability. The lack of holes also means that hardwoods are more resistant to water and moisture.
However, not all hardwoods are created equally. For example, poplar has about the same density as pine, which means it is not nearly as weather-resistant and durable as other types of hardwood.
Many people believe that hardwoods are darker than softwoods. Although this may be true in many cases, such as dark hardwoods like Brazilian rosewood and ebony, there are lighter hardwoods available such as beech, hickory and maple. Some hardwoods, such as ash and poplar are lighter in tone than many softwoods.
The reason softwoods are lighter in density is because they have more pockets of air inside the wood fibers. This means that they burn more easily. However, once hardwood does start burning, it is worth noting that it may burn far hotter and longer than softwood.
Hardwood’s fire-resistant qualities makes it a better choice for applications where there is a greater risk of fire. Keep in mind that it is also possible to get other types of lumber that have been pressure-treated to give them fire-resistant properties.
Hardwoods tend to resist dents, scratches and divots better than softwoods, making them ideal for any projects that will be subjected to a significant amount of abuse. For example, hardwoods such as maple, hickory and teak may be used for chairs or flooring.
Get In Touch With The Lumber Professionals
If you are looking for a dependable supplier of high-quality softwood, reach out to the experts at Curtis Lumber & Plywood. We stock a broad range of top-quality Southern Yellow Pine, fire retardant- and preservative-treated wood products. Our experienced staff can guide you toward the best type of lumber for your customer’s project.