Hardwood vs. Softwood

The main difference between the hardwood and softwood is not in their names, but the difference comes from the type of trees they came from. Hardwood comes from oak, elm, teak trees (trees which shed their leaves in the winter) and they have plump and nutty seeds, on the other hand, softwood mostly comes from evergreen conifers such as pine and spruce and they have bare and uncovered seeds.

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hardwood vs softwood

It is not necessary for Hardwood to be always harder (denser) than softwood and for softwood cannot be always softer (less dense) than hardwood. For example, yew wood is classified as softwood which is harder than hardwood and balsa wood is classified as hardwood which is the softest type of wood.

Hardwood and softwood are two different types of wood while choosing between these two you must know the difference between them.

Comparison Chart

Basis Hardwood Softwood
durable Highly durable and last for several decades Less durable
color These are dark color wood Mostly light color wood
weight Heavyweight with a rough texture Lightweight with a fine texture
fiber Fibers are close and dense In softwood, Less fiber is found
source Hardwood is collected from deciduous trees Softwood is collected from evergreen trees
Growth rate The growth rate of hardwood trees is slower

They grow faster than hardwood

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Cost Hardwood is more expensive Less expensive
Fire resistance Burn at a very slow rate Burn at a very high rate
Wood fibers Wood fibers present Wood fibers not present
Type of trees Hardwood is the wood of angiosperms Softwoods are generally gymnosperms

What is Hardwood?

Hardwood is the type of wood which comes from deciduous plants and also known as an angiosperm, a Greek term which means, “Vessel seed”. These evergreen hardwood trees can be found in tropical areas. Hard timber trees have broad leaves than soft timber trees; these trees shed their leaves usually in autumn.

Hardwoods are more durable and denser, and they grow slower than softwood. There are more than a hundred species of hardwood such as balsa which is softer than softwood, and oak has annual growth rings. Some species of hardwood with their uses are given below

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  • Birch tree, a small medium-sized tree, is one of the most inexpensive timbers which can be used for construction; yellow birch will give you the most attractive and unique flooring look. Birchwood is very dense and also burns slowly, ideal for wooden stoves.
  • Maple hardwood tree is one of the heaviest types and mostly used in sporting sectors, maple lumber can also be used for decorative purposes because of its beautiful grain patterns.
  • Polar is one of the widest type of hardwood and mostly available in northern temperate areas, polar lumber is the softest hardwood and can be used for making paper, cardboard boxes and for furniture and the interior of automobiles, also they can be used for drawers and cabinet.
  • Among all species, Oaks is the highest type in usage and highly durable and can be used for furniture, flooring, frames, moreover, oaks lumber can be used for wine barrels.
  • Walnut lumber is very hard and durable and is highly resistant to decay and produces a range of edible nuts, and the color of walnut lumber varies from creamy white to chocolate. They mostly used for making furniture, cabinets, church seats, and can also be used for dashboards in luxury cars.

What is Softwood?

Softwood comes from gymnosperm trees, a Greek term means “naked seed”. Soft timbers come from conifer trees; their leaves are usually needle-shaped. Softwoods don’t have vessels because their cells are open, which allows them to absorb more water and nutrients than hardwood.

Softwoods are used in making card products and paper pulp and are mostly used by the construction industry. About 80% of all timbers come from softwood which means softwood is four times common than hardwood.

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Softwood is very cheaper and lighter and easy to cut and shape. Softwoods take well to finish and adhesive they are a good option for furniture or cabinet making, if maintained regularly.

Softwood mostly available in a standard size which usually starts from 1.8 m (5’11”) up to 6.3 m (20’8”) in length, with other lengths at 300 mm (11 13/16”) increments in between. Most merchants prefer long length timbers for sale than small size woods, but if you want small pieces they can cut for you.

Some softwood lumber species and their uses are given below

  • These Californian trees are best for making high-quality furniture; they are famous for their long-lasting durability. They are also famous for organ pipes and artwork.
  • Pinewood is famous for being a long-lasting softwood tree and it can be used for flooring, roofing, framing, window framing, and custom furniture.
  • Cedar is famous for being especially tough, many carpenters love the smell of cedar, and moreover, this is the best option for interior designing.
  • Fir is one of the species of softwood, it is turned into pulp, and this pulp is used to make plywood and OSB.

Key Differences between Hardwood and Softwood

  1. The main difference between hardwood and softwood are botanical, hardwood timbers are usually more durable and denser than softwoods; on the other hand, softwoods are less durable than hardwoods.
  2. Hardwoods come from flowering plants and known as angiosperms; on the other hand, softwoods come from evergreen conifer trees and are known as gymnosperms.
  3. Hardwood burn at a very slow rate than softwood, on the other hand, softwoods can burn at a high rate.
  4. Hardwoods are mostly available in dark color; on the other hand, softwood is available in light colors.
  5. The Growth rate of hardwood trees is slower; however, softwood trees grow faster than hardwood.
  6. Hardwood trees have broad leaves; on the other hand, softwood timber trees have needle shaped-leaves.

Comparison Video

Conclusion

Hardwood and softwood are two different types of wood while choosing between both types we must know their characteristics. Unlike hardwood, softwoods comes in light colors, some soft timbers are not so hard that they can be break easily, and we can easily work with cutting tools on them, softwood is mostly used for paper production, floorboards, and timber. On the other hand, hardwood has more species than softwood, and hardwood is also famous for its durability and density and can be used for construction, furniture, floorboards, fuel, cooking and boat building.

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