air dried lumber

Difference between hardwood and softwood

Whether you’re trying to add new elements of style and personality into your home or want to improve its inherent value, wood finishing is a great way to do so. When it comes to choosing the right wood finishing material for your home, there are two options for you to choose from. Hardwood and softwood are the two primary materials available for purchase regardless of where you look, so it’s essential to know the main difference between the two.

For starts, hardwood trees are classified as an angiosperm, which are plants that produce seeds with protective coverings to protect the seed from impact with the ground. Softwood trees are classified as gymnosperm, which let their seeds fall to the ground without coverings because they are light and distributed by the wind. As you can see, these two wood types are separated in Botany according to their reproduction method.

Hardwood comes from trees such as Maple and Walnut. Softwood comes from trees like spruce or pine. Continue reading to find out more about the primary differences between hardwood and softwood.

Primary Differences Between Softwood & Hardwood

While we already covered a simplistic view of the critical differences between hardwood and softwood trees earlier, let’s give you a clear definition of each.

Definition of Hardwood & Softwood

  • Hardwood- hardwood comes from angiosperm trees, which are not monocots. Species of hardwood trees have vessels that transport water through its primary root system and the wood itself. If you looked at these elements underneath a microscope, you would notice pores.
  • Softwood- softwood comes from gymnosperm trees that typically have cones or needles. Species of softwood trees use Tracheids and Medullary rays as the primary vehicle of water transportation and sap production.

Here is a quick list of some of the various species of hardwood and softwood trees in existence:

  • Species of Hardwood- Beech, Mahogany, Hickory, Teak, & Walnut
  • Species of Softwood- Yew, Spruce, Douglas Fir, Cedar, and Redwood

An interesting thing to note is that about 80% of all timber in the world comes from softwood trees. Timber from softwood trees has various uses such as furniture, building components, Christmas trees, paper, etc. Timber from hardwood trees, on the other hand, is commonly used for applications such as high-quality furniture, high-value construction projects, flooring, and decks.

While the names hardwood and softwood don’t directly correlate to either option being “stronger,” there are some notable material differences between them.

Forest Products and Wood Science

Is Balsa a Hardwood or a Softwood?

Balsa wood is very soft and light and is commonly used in model aeroplane building but it is not technically classified as a softwood. The Balsa tree is deciduous and classified as an angiosperm which is the same classification as a hardwood such as an Oak tree. The term hardwood does not refer to the density of the wood but the species of the tree.

The Wood Database

This is a great book which is full of wood species and photos of seasoned timber types. WOOD! Identifying and Using Hundreds of Woods Worldwide by Eric Meier (2015-10-10)

Choosing The Right Material For Your Needs

Hardwood tends to be a lot denser and longer-lasting than softwood timber in harsh environments. On the other hand, softwood timber has a lower density than most hardwoods; however, they cost significantly less. Hardwood trees grow a lot slower than softwood trees, leading to their dense genetic makeup.

In terms of fire-resistance capabilities, hardwood beats softwood by a high margin, which is something to consider if fire hazards concern you. For those homeowners, builders, or contractors interested in using wood on their next project, consider all of these variables so you can make the right decision.

People Also Ask

Q: What are the main differences between hard and softwood?

A: Hardwood comes from the deciduous species of trees that lose their leaves naturally. Softwood, on the other hand, is derived from the conifer species of trees that remain evergreen.

Q: Is hardwood stronger than softwood?

A: Yes, hardwood tends to grow at a prolonged rate compared to softwood trees. This enables them to develop a denser wood while creating complex wood fibre structures, leading to lasting durability and strength overall.

Q: What are the three types of hardwood?

A: Three types of hardwood include: Maple, Oak and Walnut.


Use all of the information and tips we’ve given you in this article to make the best decision about which wood type will be best for your next building or renovation project.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top