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Today we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the differences between softwoods and hardwoods. We know that lots of people often have questions when it comes to the right wood for proper use. Here at Sherwood Lumber, we are your experts to assist you in getting your project completed with beauty and quality that will pass the test of time.


What Is The Difference Between Softwood and Hardwood?

First off, the name can be deceiving, as softwoods are not necessarily softer than hardwoods. They both have an enormous variation in actual wood hardness and the range of density. Some hardwoods are actually softer than most softwoods, while the hardest hardwoods are much harder than any softwood.

Softwoods, in general, have very few species that are harvested for wood. They also represent a smaller percentage of diversity seen in wood. Softwood is a generic term used for the scientific name gymnosperm. Gymnosperm is a plant that has seeds unprotected by nut or fruit, and are often evergreen. These plants carry their seed in a cone. Pine, Douglas Fir, and Cedar are considered Softwoods.

Hardwood is a generic term for the scientific name angiosperm. These plants are often deciduous trees that have broad leaves, and carry their seeds in some variation of a nut or fruit. North American forests grow hundreds of varieties that thrive in temperate climates. Examples of Hardwoods are Oak, Walnut, and Peach trees.

So, Hardware (Angiosperm) is Harder Than Softwood (Gymnosperm)?

Not necessarily. The actual hardness of a wood varies from tree to tree. Oak and Walnut are considered hard hardwood. However, Balsa wood is classified as a hardwood but is so soft and lightweight that it is used for model airplanes. On the other hand, Douglas Fir is classified as a softwood. But it’s hard and durable enough to be used as flooring and siding.


How is Hardness and Strength of Wood Determined?

So, how hard is hard? We know that if a baseball bat comes into contact with the legs of Grandma’s antique chair, the bat is usually unaffected, and the chair, along with junior, has a rough day. Trying to figure out the type of wood to select for your cabinetry, flooring, furniture, or millwork project may take some research. This is where scientists and engineers have come together to create tests for the hardness and strength of wood fibers. Many factors are a part of the test, including resistance to indentation, modulus of elasticity, impact bending, and tensile strength.

The Janka Hardness Test is a process that measures the resistance to indentation. Scientists take a .444 inch steel ball and drop it repeatedly onto the surface of a board. The amount of force it takes to embed the ball halfway into the board gives it the Janka hardness rating. Douglas Fir gets a rating of 660 lbs. of force. The hardest commercially available hardwood is Hickory, and it is five times harder than Aspen, one of the softer hardwoods.

There are a variety of methods to test the various qualities of the wood. Modulus of elasticity measures how well the board can bend and return to its original shape without breaking or splitting. Impact bending is measured by dropping a hammer on a beam from increasing heights until the wood breaks or deflects 6 inches or higher. Tensile strength is how much force a board can handle when it’s stretched. Douglas Fir has a strength to weight ratio that is superior and is the first choice for building projects.


Is Douglas Fir Durable Enough to Use In High-Traffic Flooring Applications?

The durability of Sherwood Lumber Douglas Fir Circle Sawn Flooring allows pets and kids to play without the worry of ruining the character of the finish. You can create a beautiful and truly unique space with Douglas Fir flooring. Douglas Fir takes stain very well. The unfinished flooring enables the homeowner to be creative with a variety of stains and finishes. With the proper acclimation, installationquality finishes, and maintenance, your Sherwood Lumber Douglas Fir Circle Sawn Flooring can last a lifetime.

Is Douglas Fir the Right Choice for Exterior Siding?

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, countless numbers of the Pacific Northwest buildings and homes were sided with Douglas Fir. Many of those buildings have weathered the test of time and are still standing with original siding intact. Douglas Fir is a cost-effective siding option. It comes in long lengths, is easy to cut and install, takes a finish well, and is locally sourced, right here in Southwest Montana. Like the other softwoods, Douglas Fir is easily milled to a pattern, be it shiplap or board-and-batten. Sherwood Lumber carries many unfinished siding styles. This allows the homeowner to choose the right design for their new home construction or historic home remodel.

Let us know if you have any other questions. We can talk more about bringing beautiful Montana wood into your home. We can give you all the industry knowledge you need to make your decision. Contact us.