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Hardwood vs Softwood: Pros, cons & best uses

Choosing a timber solution for your next cladding, panelling or decking project can be more complex than it seems at first glance.

Hardwood vs softwood, what do you need to know before making your choice?

Timber is classified as either hardwood or softwood depending on its physical makeup. The characteristics of each timber varies from appearance, to density, and workability.

Are you unsure which timber will work for your project? Identifying the differences between hardwood and softwood, the pros and cons, and where each timber works best, will point you in the right direction.

 

Hardwood

Authentic hardwood timber is praised for its unprecedented style and performance. Hardwood comes from angiosperm trees, which have elements that distribute water and nutrients throughout the wood. The pores in the wood grain handle all the distribution, allowing the remaining timber grain to become denser. Hardwood trees are deciduous, and species include Eucalyptus, Balsa, Mahogany, Blackbutt and Spotted Gum.

 

Pros:

  • Longevity: Hardwood produces a very high quality product that offers great durability over time.
  • Easy maintenance: Hardwood is easy to clean, and scratches and dents can be fixed.
  • Strength: The trees’ dense cellular structure gives the timber incredible strength.
  • Appearance: Hardwood timber is available in a range of colours and finishes, and will suit almost any contemporary style setting.
  • Fire resistance: Hardwood timber offers a higher fire resistance than softwood.

Cons:

  • Slow growth rate: Hardwood forests take longer to replenish due to the tree’s slower growth rate.
  • Workability: Due to its density, hardwood tends to be a lot harder to work with during construction.
  • Cost: Hardwoods are generally more expensive, however in saying this, you get what you pay for.
  • Refinishing: Hardwood floors in high traffic areas will require refinishing down the track, which can also be quite costly.

 

When is best to use hardwood timber?

Hardwood is most commonly used for flooring, but can also be used for a range of things including cladding, panelling, buildings, fencing, boats and outdoor decks.

It works well in residential and commercial projects, and can be used for indoor or outdoor application. Hardwood is used when durability and strength are of upmost importance.

 

 

Softwood

Softwood is a versatile timber option that offers a stunning, seamless finish. Softwood comes from gymnosperm trees, which do not have pores, but instead rely on medullary rays and tracheids to transport water and produce sap. This characteristic gives softwood a lower density.

Softwood trees are evergreen, and species include Cedar, Douglas fir, Pine and Hemlock.

 

Pros:

  • Workability: Softwood is easier to work with and can be used across a broad range of applications.
  • Sustainability: Softwood trees grow much faster than hardwood, and are considered a very renewable source.
  • Cost: These timbers tend to be cheaper, as they’re easier to source.

Cons:

  • Density: The lower density of softwood timber means it’s weaker and less durable, however there are some ‘hard’ softwood options with a higher density like Juniper and Yew.
  • Longevity:  Softwood is less suitable for high traffic areas as it does not wear as well as hardwood over time.
  • Fire resistance: Softwoods tend to have poor fire resistance unless treated.

 

When is it best to use softwood?

Softwood timber is most commonly used for feature walls, ceilings, furniture, doors and windows. It’s a versatile building material, offers a beautiful finish, and can be used to create stunning features for residential and commercial projects.

 

 

Hardwood vs softwood

At Urbanline, our quality selection of real timber solutions consists of a wide range of both hardwoods and softwoods. Our selection of hardwood species includes Blackbutt, Red Ironbark, Spotted Gum, Jarrah and more. While our softwood selection consists of Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock.

Our panelling and cladding options are available in a range of hardwood timbers to suit commercial and residential projects.

Jarrah and spotted gum offer weather, fire and termite resistance, making either a great option for outdoor uses including wharf and bridge construction.

Hemlock and Western Red Cedar serve purposefully as creative cladding interiors and exteriors. Choose from a range of softwood timber cladding options for contemporary feature walls and ceilings.

When choosing the right timber for the job, think about what you’d like to achieve in the short and long term future. Both types of timber offer impressive construction benefits across a wide range of applications.

 

Get in touch with Urbanline today

Want more advice before making your selection? Talk to our expert team today to find out more, or to receive a quote for your project.