Understanding The Difference Between Softwood and Hardwood

Every material has unique properties. And once you get into a specific category, you have a number of sub-types.

Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. And you’ll want to know those so you can make the right selection for the final product your customer wants. Of course, you’ll have your own ins-and-outs as you work with each material too.

So today, we’re going to take a look at hardwoods and softwoods, and some types of each.

First, The Differences Between Hardwoods And Softwoods

Softwoods mostly come from “coniferous” trees, which have needles and bear their seeds in the form of cones. Most timber comes from softwood trees. Softwood’s typically used to build furniture, doors, windows, and for paper products.

Some softwoods are harder than many hardwoods. However, for the most part, hardwoods are much harder than softwoods. Hardwoods are also used to make furniture (although it’s typically higher quality), decks, flooring, and construction components that last. You wouldn’t find hardwood trees used to make paper products.

Hardwood grows slower and usually costs more. Both woods catch fire easily, although hardwood has greater fire resistance.

Characteristics of a Few Hardwoods and Softwoods

You now have the basics. Let’s drill down into some of the specifics of various types of wood:

Softwood Types

  • Yew – This “softwood” is actually harder than many hardwoods. It has an easy-to-work-with straight grain and resists decay well.
  • Cedar – This wood has a distinct, pleasing scent. It also has a reddish color, and can be harder to work with because of its many knots.
  • Pine – Has a lighter, pale color. It resists shrinking and has a lighter weight.


  • Oak – Heavy and hard. It doesn’t break. The ring grain is prominent, which makes it useful for beautiful visual effects.
  • Birch – Has a much lighter color. The grain is somewhat wavy, while the wood itself is stiff.
  • Maple – One of the hardest woods, making it useful when your project must be durable. It also resists electrical shocks well.

So there you have it. You have a basic understanding of some kinds of wood and how they can affect the project you have in mind.