How to Identify Hardwoods and Softwoods
Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva walks host Kevin O’Connor through the types of woods available and the best uses for each
- The terms hardwood and softwood do not refer to density but rather to the type of tree- hardwoods come from deciduous trees and softwoods from conifers.
- Softwoods grow fast and straight so they are a good option for framing material like fir and spruce. The less knots, the stronger the wood. These woods are typically dried in a kiln to prevent warping and shrinkage.
- Some softwoods like pine are inexpensive and can be used for interior trim, but they can warp and twist.
- A hardwood like maple is used for cabinets whereas oak is a good choice for flooring. Both of these are more common hardwoods.
- Fine hardwoods are denser and include species like walnut and mahogany. They’re used for balusters and decking and are more expensive than common hardwoods.
- Exotic hardwoods like purple heart and zebra wood are the most expensive and usually used for accents on fine furniture.