Depending on the project you are working on, you will either need hardwood, softwood, or maybe even both. But what determines whether you need one type of lumber over the other? What are the benefits of each type? And what are the key differences between the two? Let’s find out now!
What is hardwood?
Hardwood comes from trees like oak, maple, and walnut. These trees reproduce each year with a flowering plant and generally have broad leaves that will change colors and fall in autumn.
Compared to other tree types, hardwood trees grow very slowly, sometimes requiring 150 years before being ready to harvest. Because they take so long to fully grow, hardwood is usually more complex, denser, and heavier than softwood.
What is softwood?
Softwood comes from evergreen trees like pine, spruce, and cedar. Compared to hardwood trees, softwood trees grow much more quickly, usually requiring only 40 years to grow until they are ready to harvest. Because they grow at a faster rate, these trees are usually less dense than hardwoods.
Strength and Durability
If you think that hardwoods are stronger and more durable, well, you are pretty much correct. As the name suggests, “hardwoods” are usually the more robust option because of their slow growth time and complex structure; however, hardwoods do not always have the greater density. There is such a thing as a “soft” hardwood, like Balsa, though this is less common.
Hardwoods also have greater endurance compared to softwoods when exposed to the elements like weather or foot traffic. They are also superior with fire resistance, but softwoods can be treated to last longer in the elements too. That being said, both types of wood will eventually wear and degrade if left to any elements untreated.
Cost and Environmental Impact
Naturally, because they grow faster, are easier to source, and are in greater abundance, softwoods are generally cheaper to purchase than hardwoods. However, product, species, and amount needed are all additional factors that will affect the cost.
When it comes to being environmentally friendly, softwoods are the go-to option, again because they grow more quickly than hardwoods. The good news is that if you are set on using hardwood for your next project, sourcing lumber from ethical sources like a sustainably-managed forest or from a reclaimed wood provider like Bingham Lumber is a great option that will add beauty to your project and help our environment.
If you have been deliberating on whether softwood or hardwood is the right choice for your next project, contact us today. Our specialists are here to help answer any questions you have and guide you toward the option that works best for you!