Hardwood vs Softwood: What’s the Difference?
When it comes to flooring or furniture, there are two main types of wood - hardwood and softwood. But what’s the difference between the two? And which one is better for your home? Let's check out.
What Is Hardwood?
Hardwoods come from angiosperm trees such as deciduous trees that have dense wood and shed their leaves in winter. The bark on a hardwood tree is typically thick and rough. The wood obtained from a deciduous tree is dense and strong.
The history of hardwoods is a long one, dating back thousands of years. Hardwoods are a type of wood that is dense and strong, making it perfect for construction and other heavy-duty tasks. Over the years, hardwoods have been used for a variety of purposes, from building ships to crafting furniture.
Today, hardwoods are still popular among builders and craftsmen. They are often used for flooring, cabinets, and other high-end projects. In addition, many homeowners choose to use hardwoods in their homes because of their beauty and durability. Some of the most common hardwoods include oak, maple, ash, and cherry.
What Is Softwood?
Softwoods come from gymnosperm trees such as coniferous trees, meaning trees that keep their needles year-round. These trees grow cones and have needles instead of leaves. The needles are usually green and stay on the tree for at least two or three years.
Softwoods have been around for centuries and have been used for a variety of purposes. The first softwoods were used as construction materials, but they have also been used for making furniture, boats, and other objects. Today, softwoods are still commonly used for construction, although they are also used in a variety of other applications.
One of the main reasons that softwoods are so popular is that they are relatively easy to work with. They are also relatively affordable, which makes them a popular choice for a variety of applications. Some of the most common softwoods include pine, fir, cedar, and spruces.
What are the Differences between Hardwood & Softwood?
The main difference between hardwoods and softwoods is that hardwoods are deciduous trees (they lose their leaves in the winter), while softwoods are coniferous trees (they keep their needles throughout the year). But the differences between the two are not limited to this. Let us look at a few others.
Cellulose and lignin are two main components that make up the cell walls of trees. Cellulose is a carbohydrate polymer, and lignin is a type of phenolic polymer. Hardwoods have more cellulose and less lignin in their cell walls than softwoods. This difference in composition makes hardwoods more difficult to break down into pulp than softwoods.
The cell walls of hardwoods are thicker than the cell walls of softwoods, which makes the cells of hardwoods more resistant to damage. Also, the cell cavities of hardwoods are smaller than the cell cavities of softwoods, meaning the cells of hardwoods can hold less water, making them less susceptible to rot.
The main difference between hardwoods and softwoods is the type of wood grain. Hardwoods typically have a more pronounced wood grain, while softwoods typically have a more subtle wood grain. This is due to the way that the cells of the wood are arranged. Hardwoods have cells that are arranged in concentric circles around the tree's trunk, while softwoods have cells that are arranged in long and parallel lines.
Hardwoods are stronger than softwoods due to the denser composition of the hardwood cell walls. The cells of hardwood are packed more closely together than those of softwood, which gives the wood its greater strength. In addition, the lignin content of hardwoods is greater than that of softwoods, lending the wood added rigidity.
Durability is a measure of how well a material resists wear and tear. Softwoods are generally less durable than hardwoods. This is because they are less dense and have fewer natural oils that protect against wear and tear. This makes hardwood a better choice for floors, cabinets, and other high-traffic areas in your home.
Softwoods are also more susceptible to moisture damage, which can lead to rot or decay. On the other hand, hardwoods are more resistant to moisture damage and tend to last longer overall. Softwood is still a good option for many applications, but it may not be as durable as hardwood.
The cost difference between hardwoods and softwoods is largely due to the density of the wood. Hardwoods are typically denser and more expensive than softwoods. This is because hardwoods are more durable and can withstand more wear and tear. They also tend to have a higher aesthetic value, making them more sought after for certain applications.
The density and hardness of hardwoods make them more difficult to work with, requiring more time and effort. Softwoods are easier to work with and less expensive as a result. Though softwoods are cheaper, they are less strong and durable when compared to hardwoods.
Hardwoods are generally more difficult to work with than softwoods due to their denser and harder texture. Hardwoods have a higher resistance to being cut or drilled. The direction of the grain and tightness of the hardwood makes them stiff and difficult to chop.
The softer surface of softwoods makes them easier to work with, without having to compromise on the strength and durability of the finished product. Softwoods are more easily moulded and have a higher tolerance for mistakes, making them ideal for beginner carvers. They can easily absorb finishes like varnish, urethane, paint, and oil for additional beauty and protection.
Hardwoods tend to have a higher environmental impact due to the fact that they require more processing than softwoods. For example, hardwoods need to be milled and kiln-dried, while softwoods can be just cut and air dried. Additionally, the type of wood used can also make a big difference in the environment.
Tropical hardwoods are often illegally logged, which can lead to deforestation and other negative environmental impacts. Softwoods are less likely to be affected by pests and diseases, which can damage forests.
When it comes to sustainability, hardwoods again have a higher impact due to the processing needed. However, once the wood is processed, it can last longer and be used in more applications than softwood. This means less waste from hardwood lumber, making it more sustainable overall.
Also, hardwoods are typically slower-growing than softwoods, but they also live longer. This makes them more sustainable in the long run. Softwoods are faster-growing, but they don’t typically live as long. This means that if softwood forests are harvested too quickly, they won’t be able to regenerate as quickly as hardwood forests.
Availability of Material
Hardwoods are more abundant and easier to find, while softwoods are less common and more difficult to locate. This is because hardwoods grow slowly and have a dense grain, while softwoods are fast-growing and have a more porous grain.
There are more species of softwood than hardwood, raising the chances of availability of softwoods. Hardwoods are typically found in areas with a temperate climate, while softwoods are found in areas with a more tropical climate.
Uses of Hardwood
The use of hardwoods can vary depending on the type of wood. Some common uses for hardwoods include flooring, furniture, cabinetry, and other construction purposes. Hardwoods are also strong and durable, making them ideal for high-traffic areas.
Uses of Softwood
The uses of softwoods include construction, furniture-making, and home repairs. Softwoods are generally less expensive than hardwoods, and they are easier to work with because they are softer. Softwood is majorly used in building components such as windows, interior doors, and exterior doors. They are also used in the production of plywood and other wood products.
Selecting hardwood or softwood depends upon your project requirement and purpose. If you are looking to buy high quality building components such as hardwood doors or softwood doors, check out Emerald Door’s wide range of interior doors as well as exterior doors to suit your needs.
FAQs on Hardwood vs Softwood
Does hardwood last longer than softwood?
Yes, hardwood lasts longer than softwood because of its denser texture. Hardwoods last anywhere between 20 to 30 years without much maintenance. They are often used in construction and flooring that are designed to last for a longer span of time.
Is softwood cheaper than hardwood?
Softwood is cheaper when compared to hardwood. This is because coniferous trees grow more quickly than deciduous trees. Also, softwoods are abundant in nature and much easier to locate than hardwood. Softwood is at times used as a substitute for hardwood too.
How do I identify hardwood?
The key components in identifying hardwood are its grain, visibility of annual rings, colour, and thickness of the wood. Hardwoods contain more knots when compared to softwood. Hardwood is most commonly used in the construction of decks, flooring, and cabinets.
Which wood is best for furniture?
Both hardwood and softwood are suitable for furniture. However, there are certain factors to consider, such as quality, durability, colour, project, availability, and many more. Ensure to select the wood based on your budget and requirements.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SHABANA KAUSER
Shabana Kauser is the dynamic owner of Emerald Doors, the famous door-selling company in the UK with immense knowledge and experience in working with architecture, interior design, and home decor. She continues to share tips and technical know-how of balancing interior elements, door fittings, room aesthetics, and the like. Personally, she loves coffee, always dabbling with several blends.