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Top Differences between Softwood and Hardwood Lumber

By October 13, 2020Lumber Species, Top Lists

Hem-fir, Doug-fir, SPF and Southern Yellow Pine are among the most common and most used softwoods, while Oak, mahogany, and redwood are the most prevalent hardwoods. Differentiating these two can sometimes be an issue since some seem to share certain physical attributes. And, as obvious as the difference between the two may seem to be, there is more to it than the names can let out. But of course the first major difference is that one is softer while the other is harder.

However, we are going to detail down to the factors that contribute to these differences. Below are the top differences between softwood and hardwood lumber.

Softness and Hardness

As mentioned above, the first and most obvious difference between the two is that hardwoods generally have more rigid and hard makeup, unlike the softwoods which are softer and more flexible. However, this is not always the case. For instance, balsa trees are hardwoods but they have an even softer and more flexible makeup than most softwoods. Additionally, the yew softwood is harder than some hardwoods. This could be a reasonable differentiating factor, but you will have to rely on other factors to tell for sure.

Ease of use/installation

Top Differences Between Softwood and hardwood lumber: Installation

Softwoods are the best choice when it comes to housing and they make more than 80% of all timbers. This is because of many reasons, one of them being their ease of installation. Because of their softness, these woods are often very easy to cut. Nailing them is also very effortless and this makes them the right choice for your home.


Logically, hardwoods are more expensive because for one, they take a longer period to grow, they require a lot in processing and they are quite robust. While the strength might act in their favor, softwoods like Douglas-fir are equally as hard yet cheaper and easier to use.


Top differences between softwood and hardwood lumber

Because of the density and lightweight of softwoods, they are best used in inner walling, roofing, doors, fencing among others. Hardwood, on the other hand, give the best results when used in decking, roads, bridges and post and beams. But, it is important to note that these functions are not exclusive to hardwoods. Southern yellow pine, which is a softwood, is among the most versatile. Besides the light projects, it can also be used in large and heavy-duty constructions like decking. Additionally, hardwoods are used in furniture making, but this is a function that even the likes of Doug-fir can be used for.


Top differences between softwood and hardwood lumber

Even without any modifications, softwoods are way beyond the hardwoods in as far as aesthetics is concerned. Softwoods are not only elegant but they also look and feel good. They are lighter and bring a remarkable vibrancy to the surrounding. Spruce is the number one softwood when it comes to attractive and decorative artistry and this makes it in quite a demand.


As expected, hardwoods tend to have a higher density than the softwoods and this is because of their solid and compact makeup. The high density of hardwoods disqualifies them from activities like walling.

Density, cost, use, aesthetics, and ease of installation are some of the top differences between softwood and hardwood lumber. However, they are not the only differentiating factors, and as mentioned above, the names do not entirely lay out the difference.