Hardwood Vs Softwood and the Pros and Cons of each

Deciding on what timber to use can be somewhat difficult to begin with.

All timber is placed under two categories- Hardwood and Softwood. It very much depends on the characteristics, workability and density of the wood as to what category it will be placed under and what it is best used for. However some woods are used for a number of different reasons and so making sure you get the right one is very important.

Choosing what type of timber products you need for a specific DIY project in and around the house? Establishing the differences between hardwood and softwood can be crucial and weighing up the pros and cons as well as where the wood is best suited and what it is typically used for. Its about gathering up all the key pieces of information on the types of wood before making your final decision and hopefully meaning you'll make the right one.

The three types of wood that we commonly deal with here at Ruby are Iroko, Cedar and Larch. Iroko is a yellow-brown and very durable hardwood used in external and internal joinery whereas Cedar and Larch are both softwood materials although very durable and sturdy and both very popular due to their colour.

Hardwood Timber

Hardwood is very versatile although commonly used for flooring and projects which requires strength and durability. It can also be used for fencing, cladding, outdoor decking and buildings. Deciding what type of hardwood to use for these types of projects however is crucial and some hardwoods will offer characteristics which would be better suited for the job. Iroko is a very versatile hardwood and very durable due to being resistant to rot and insect attack. As a hardwood, its one of the easiest to work with meaning less hassle when it comes to making and cutting the wood back to your desired measurements.

Pros of Hardwood

- More durable due to the fact that they have come from trees which are slow growing meaning a higher density than softwood adding to their strength.

- Applicable to a wider range of jobs and projects due to the long lasting effect.

- They are very much easy to maintain over time and dents and scratches can be fixed very easily.

- Trees that the hardwood comes from have a dense cellular structure giving the timber incredible strength and toughness.

- The appearance of Hardwood is normally very pleasing on the eye and there are a range of hardwoods with different colours and grains making it perfect for almost any contemporary living setting.

Cons of Hardwood

- The trees that the hardwood comes from has a really slow growth rate meaning that it takes much longer for hardwood forests to restore back up and can then also mean there is a shortage of this wood and the availability isn't great for periods of time.

-Hardwoods are generally much more expensive and therefore not accessible to all customers. Having said that, you get what you pay for and generally speaking, hardwood is worth your money and time.

- Because of the density and strength of hardwood, it can be very complex to work with during construction.

Softwood Timber

Softwood is very much an adaptable building material and is commonly used for feature walls, doors and windows, ceilings and furniture. It has a really smooth and classy finish which is why its used the majority of the time for features at residential and commercial places. Softwood comes from gymnosperm trees which don't have pores but actually rely on medullary rays and tracheids to transport water which is why softwood has a lower density. Also, because they are so plentiful, softwood is also very economical and there is a timber of your choice for pretty much any project.

The surface is much softer than hardwood although still strong and because of this, they are much easier to work with and can be transported easier because they are lighter. They absorb adhesives and preservatives much easier than hardwoods and are resistant to things like bacteria, moisture and fungi allowing your boards to stay in good condition for longer periods of time.

A good type of softwood would be cedar which is naturally rot resistant and therefore commonly used for outdoor spaces and designs. Because of its strength, cedar can last for around 30 years and is very popular within this industry. Another type of softwood which we use here are Ruby is Larch. Its a very popular softwood due to its characteristics of tough, waterproof and durable. As a softwood, it is very strong giving it that cutting edge over other types when deciding what sort of softwood would be best and also opening up your options as to what you can use it for because of its characteristics. 

Pros of Softwood Timber

- It is much easier to work with and can be used for a number of different reasons and applications

- Softwood forests are very active and the trees grow much quicker. They are also considered a much more renewable source.

- Compared to Hardwood, they are considerably more cheaper due to the fact that they can be sourced easier

Cons of Softwood Timber

- Softwood is not always suitable for high amounts of use like floors for example and can be easily worn down after periods of time.

- They actually have a poor fire resistance which should be considered carefully before placing them down in different areas where they might be exposed to those sorts of environments.

- Due to the lower density in softwood compared to hardwood, it also means that its weaker and less durable and therefore might not be appropriate for certain situations.

To conclude with, I would start by advising you to really think about what type of timber you are going to need and what will suit your project the best. Its really important that you get the right material for the job so that it suits the project your working on and matches the needs. Hopefully, by reading this it has allowed you to gain valuable information about Hardwoods and Softwoods and also an insight as to what type of timber we usually deal with here at Ruby UK.