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Hardwood vs Softwood Trees – What’s the Difference?

August 5, 2022

Selecting the best wood strength and durability is important to the long-term success of your project. So knowing key differences between hardwood and softwood helps to make your decision. Let’s look at some of the contrasts between softwood and hardwood timber.

Softwood timber

Hardwood vs Softwood Differences

Many contractors can identify popular wood species and know which species are hardwood and which are softwood. For those less familiar with the differences between hardwood and softwood, we’ve got several key characteristics, uses, and other facts about hardwood and softwood timber.

DefinitionHardwood comes from deciduous trees which loses their leaves annually. Deciduous trees also produce seeds with a nutty or fleshy covering.Softwood comes from coniferous trees which remain evergreen and produce needles and cones. Coniferous trees bare exposed seeds.
UsesGarden furniture, flooring, tools, musical instruments, barrels, and decks. (Think about items that need to last.)Windows, doors, paper, Christmas trees, and home woodworking projects. (Absorbs finishes well, not good for being in exposed to weather elements.)
DensityHigher Density – harder, stronger, and more durableLower Density – easier to cut and work with, lighter weight
AestheticsDarker brown, reddish-brownPale yellow, light brown
ExamplesTeak, Elm, Oak, Alder, Beech, Hickory, Mahogany, Maple and WalnutCedar, Fir, Pine, Spruce, Redwood and Juniper.
CostMore ExpensiveLess Expensive
Lifespan15 + years with little maintenance10 years if well maintained & treated properly.
GrowthSlow growing & takes longer to dryFast growing, dries quickly, easier to cut
Fire ResistanceMore fire resistantLess fire resistant
MaintenanceVery little maintenance – only needs to be “washed” once a year to rid it from algae. Protector does not need to be applied more than once.More prone to decay – should not be exposed to weather elements over long periods of time. Recommended to use a protector and dry.

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