Hardwoods and Softwoods: What is the Difference?

Examples of softwood and hardwood.

What’s in a name? For starters, Clark’s Hardwood Lumber sells a wide variety of wood types, including hardwoods and softwoods.

In our inventory, there should never be a difference in terms of high quality, but the materials are suited for different purposes. Let’s start with a look at where they come from in nature.

Tree species that produce hardwood are those with broad leaves, such as maple, ash, oak, mahogany, teak, cherry and walnut. Softwood trees are those with needles including pine, cedar and cypress. Hardwood is denser and more durable. This is why it is ideal for flooring.

You might ask what about pine flooring? Ideally, that is heart wood pine, or the wood cut from the interior or heart of a longleaf pine tree. This species is common in the southeastern U.S. and you may have heard of people longing for or finding antique heart pine wood flooring. At Clark’s, we sell heart pine lumber (rough) and keep it in stock as 4/4 x 8, 4/4 x 10, and 4/4 x 12.

What about cypress trees and wood? Softwoods come from conifers (trees with cones). We categorize cypress as a softwood. That said, the heart of cypress is durable and has been used for centuries for fencing, beams and docks because they are resistant to moisture.

Aromatic cedar is available at Clark’s as rough, milled and in slabs. These are great for home interiors. Our slabs can be made into tables, mantels and bars. Other softwoods available at Clark’s include reclaimed wood from barns and other spaces.

Woodcrafting – Which Kind?

Hardwoods are typically used for furniture making and wood crafting because of the beauty of the hardwood grains and colors. Hardwood is used for projects that require wood that really stands out and performs, such as guitars. Our exotic woods fit this category. Exotic woods, such as rosewood and zebrawood, are often found as accents in boxes and other intricately crafted projects.

On the other hand, wood carvers tend to use softwoods because they are easier to make precise cuts with hand tools. Hardwood can be hand-carved, but can present challenges because of its density and features that could get in the way, such as knots.

When it comes to cutting hardwood for furniture and other projects, we recommend you familiarize yourself with the different kinds of saws, and blades for them. If your project requires unique specifications, we offer custom millwork performed onsite at Clark’s. We can cut moulding, siding and flooring exactly how you need it. Customers that appreciate this capability range from custom home builders and general contractors to furniture makers and do-it-yourselfers.

A great thing about visiting Clark’s Hardwood Lumber is we encourage our customers to tour the buildings to see, touch and smell all the amazing hardwoods and softwoods we have. Our staff can help you quickly find what you need and give advice for your project’s needs.