Hardwoods vs. Softwoods: What’s the difference?

The two classifications of wood are hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwoods and softwoods vary in appearance and cellular structure. 

Hardwoods are deciduous trees with broad leaves that drop in the fall. Deciduous comes from the Latin word deciduous, which means tending to fall or falling. They also produce seeds within ovaries (acorns, beechnut, etc.). Maple, Oak, Cherry are a few of the many hardwoods.

Hardwoods can be used in structural applications but are used primarily for appearance applications like furniture, cabinets, mouldings, paneling, and flooring. Hardwoods are also more expensive than softwoods. They grow much slower, there is less of it, and it takes more time to break the log down into lumber. Hardwoods are also dried to 6-8% moisture content (based on region). More time in kilns adds cost to the lumber. 

Hardwoods don’t always produce hard, dense woods. Some softwoods are denser than hardwoods. For example, Southern Yellow Pine is denser than Basswood.  

Softwoods are conifers or evergreens. Conifers have needles, and most have cones that contain seeds. Softwood lumber will tend to have more knots than hardwood lumber. Softwoods used in most structural applications are only dried to 19% moisture content. At 19% mold cannot grow. 

Softwoods are used for appearance applications, and have a distinct character. 

You can use softwoods or hardwoods for your projects. You just want to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and utilize what best fits your project.

We do not sell softwoods at Fine Craftsman Lumber. Hardwood is what we know and what we do best. Most local big box stores (Home Depot, Lowes, and Menard’s) sell these products and can do it more economically. 

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