Hardwood and softwood are the two main types of timber to consider for construction projects. A building or structure can be significantly affected by a range of differences between the two despite their similar names.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the key differences between hardwood and softwood timber, as well as their unique properties and applications.
Hardwood and Softwood
Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional builder, understanding these differences can help you make more informed decisions about the type of timber to use in your next project.
Hardwood comes from deciduous trees (a type of tree that sheds its leaves annually during the fall season), while softwood comes from coniferous trees(a type of tree that produces cones and has needle-like or scale-like leaves that are usually evergreen).
Hardwood timber is typically denser and heavier than softwood timber due to its slower growth rate and higher concentration of fibers. The slower growth rate allows the tree to produce a denser, more tightly packed structure of cells, resulting in harder and more durable wood.
This denser structure also makes hardwood timber more resistant to wear and tear, as well as moisture and rot.
In contrast, softwood timber has a faster growth rate and a less dense structure, which makes it lighter in weight and more flexible. While this can make softwood easier to work with for certain applications, it also makes it more susceptible to damage and decay over time if it has not been treated.
Hardwood timber is generally stronger than softwood timber due to its higher density and tighter grain structure. The denser and more tightly-packed cells in hardwood timber provide greater strength and stiffness. This makes it more resistant to bending and breaking under stress.
This strength and stiffness make hardwood timber well-suited for applications that require structural support, such as beams, joists, and columns. Hardwood timber is often used in construction projects where high strength and durability are necessary. Examples are bridges, flooring, and furniture.
Softwood timber is less dense and has a more open grain structure. This makes them more flexible than hardwood. While softwood timber may be suitable for certain applications, such as in framing or as a decorative feature, it is generally not as strong as hardwood timber and may not be suitable for applications that require structural support.
Hardwood timber is typically more expensive than softwood timber.
The higher density of hardwood timber means more difficult and costly to harvest, transport, and process than softwood timber. In addition, the slower the growth rate of hardwood trees the longer they take to reach maturity. This also contributes to their higher cost.
Furthermore, hardwood timber is often used for high-end applications such as furniture, flooring, and cabinetry. This can generally drive up the demand and price of wood.
Softwood is often used for more practical and everyday applications such as structural framing.
Treatment of hardwood and softwood
The reason for this difference in treatment lies in the natural properties of the two types of wood. Softwood is less dense and has a more open-cell structure than hardwood. This makes it more susceptible to wood-destroying agents such as termites, fungi, and rot. These agents can cause significant damage to softwood over time, compromising the structural integrity of any construction made from it. To counteract this, softwood timber is treated with preservatives to help prevent these agents from wood-destroying agencies.
Hardwood timber is naturally denser and has a tighter grain structure. Thus it is more resistant to decay and damage from wood-destroying agents. This means that it does not require the same level of treatment as softwood to maintain its durability and longevity. The tight grain structure of hardwood can make it more difficult for preservatives to penetrate the wood fibers effectively.
Durability of hardwood and softwood
The durability of timber is largely dependent on the specific application it is used for. Hardwood timber is generally considered to be more durable and resistant to wear and tear. However, if CCA-treated, softwood timber can be just as durable in certain applications.
Its durability depends on a range of factors. Some factors are the type of wood being treated, the quality of the treatment, and the environmental conditions the wood will be exposed to.
Overall, both softwoods and hardwoods can be used very effectively as long as these woods are used for the correct applications, it’s installed correctly, and maintained well.
We supply and export various top-quality products namely, CCA-treated Eucalyptus (Hardwood) Poles, Untreated and CCA-treated structural timber, and timber mouldings (Hardwood and Softwood).
To read more about how to import poles and timber from us, feel free to click this link to download our guide: Step-by-step-guide