Difference between Hardwood and Softwood
25 August 2014
“Wood, wood everywhere, and not many people know the difference”.
Softwood and hardwood, they are basically of the same composition. It means that hard wood is a harder or a denser wood and soft wood is light or less dense, although there are a few exceptions. The difference lies in their structures in the microscopic level. This structural difference is based on the plant’s reproduction, which affects the seed structure, which is responsible for it being classified as softwood or hardwood.
Hardwood trees are known for the following:
• They produce seeds with a covering, or the ‘fruit’ which protects the seeds from harm.
• They are known as angiosperm trees. In most cases, these trees have a characteristic of losing their broad leaves every year. In other words, they are deciduous in nature.
• This category of trees include mahogany, teak, oak, elm, walnut etc.
Meanwhile softwoods have the following characteristics, which distinguishes them from hardwood trees.
• Softwood trees are gymnosperms. They produce seeds without any outer covering and let the seeds fall on to the ground. The winds carry these seeds around.
• These trees have needles, and the trees do not shed these needles. These trees are also green for most part of the year and are therefore called evergreen trees.
• Trees of this type include pine, cedar, fir etc.
Due to the difference in hardness and density, hardwood trees and softwood trees are used for specific purposes, which are as follows:
• The wood has a higher density and as a result is harder.
• Due to higher density, the wood is often heavy.
• The wood is close grained, and hence strong and doesn’t split.
• These trees take a lot of time to grow.
• The wood from these trees are expensive.
• Colour of wood is generally dark.
• Has several uses, right from construction and furniture to flooring and utensils
• The wood has a lower density and is softer as a result.
• Is lighter, thanks to the lower density
• Wood is open grained, non-porous.
• These trees have faster growth rate
• They are cheaper
• Colour of wood is lighter compared to hardwood.
• Since they are soft, they are easy to shape and are hence used for making children’s toys, furniture, etc.
Speaking of durability, hardwood is more durable than softwood because of its structure. Hardwood also has higher resistance to fire than softwood. So the use of softwood is restricted when it comes to building structures in fire prone areas.