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Hardwood or Softwood: What’s the Difference?


Wood is generally classified as one of two types: hardwood or softwood. There are many different species of hardwoods and softwoods with varying qualities, but this classification helps distinguish between the type of trees from which the wood comes. Specific wood types are more beneficial than others for certain projects because of their unique characteristics. Here are some common traits of hardwoods and softwoods and a few of their main uses.

Hardwoods (Angiosperms)

The term “hardwood” refers to wood that comes from flowering trees (angiosperms). This wood type is generally denser than softwoods, making it stronger and more durable. Hardwood is usually more valuable because of its strength, which also makes it ideal for projects that need to resist wear and decay, such as flooring and furniture. However, some hardwoods, such as balsa, are softer than softwoods, and some wood classifications, such as maple, refer to several species that can be hard or soft. (For more information on hard and soft maple, click here to visit our previous blog post.) Hardwoods have vessels (pores) for transporting the sap within the tree that can be seen in the end grain. The end grain patterns and intricate motifs of hardwoods make them aesthetically pleasing for projects where the wood is visible.

hardwood versus softwoodHardwoods are often used for:

  • Flooring
  • Furniture
  • Utensils
  • Boats
  • Baseball bats
  • Instruments
  • Model aircrafts (Balsa)

Click here for a complete list of our domestic and imported hardwoods.

Softwoods (Conifers)

The classification of “softwood” applies to wood that comes from cone-bearing trees (conifers). Softwoods have much simpler structural features, such as a lack of pores, and are not as diverse as hardwoods. There are only a few dozen principle softwood species compared to the innumerable species of hardwoods.

hardwood or softwoodSoftwoods are often used for:

  • Panels
  • Plywood
  • Particle board
  • Dry erase boards
  • Toys

If you have a specific project in mind and would like help determining the ideal wood type to use, Cherokee Wood Products can help. Please call (909) 920-5430 or fill out an information request form to learn more.

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