Hardwood versus softwood: Which lasts longer? This is one of the questions homeowners often ask when considering what type of wood would work best in their homes or for their other projects. With so many different wood styles and characteristics, it’s understandable if you get overwhelmed. Allow us to help by explaining the key differences between these two types of wood.
What Are Hardwoods and Softwoods?Hardwood and softwood are, more accurately, split into deciduous trees and coniferous trees. Deciduous trees refer to species that lose their leaves in the fall and regrow them in the Spring. Furthermore, their seeds—such as acorns or walnuts—are enclosed in protective shells. Coniferous trees, however, are evergreens that keep their foliage throughout the year, featuring needles or scaly leaves. Their seeds are more exposed, with pinecones being the most prominent example. Deciduous trees produce hardwood, and coniferous trees produce softwood.
Common Species of WoodTo further define deciduous and coniferous trees, let’s identify some of the common species of each type of wood.
- Oak: Including subspecies such as white oak and red oak, oak is the most common source of hardwood.
- Mahogany: One of the most valued forms of hardwood and twice as hard as oak, mahogany is used in higher-end furniture and applications.
- Teak: Possessing naturally weather-resistant properties, this hardwood is popular for outdoor applications.
- Pine: The most common source of softwood and used for most general purposes and applications
- Cedar: Cedar has weather-resistant properties that make it a viable option for decking, and it’s more affordable than teak.
Characteristics and BenefitsNow that you know what types of trees provide which types of wood, we can touch upon the characteristics of each to determine whether hardwood or softwood lasts longer.
Hardwood is, as you may expect, heftier and much more durable than softwood. A softwood such as pine may weigh 20 to 35 pounds per cubic foot, while a hardwood such as oak weighs anywhere between 35 and 55 pounds per cubic foot. As a result of this heavier weight, hardwood is, well, harder and thus more effective against dents, scratches, and general wear and tear. It’s also more effective at withstanding the elements, so most reclaimed flooring suppliers will absolutely recommend that you use hardwood for the construction of things such as decks or porches.
This doesn’t mean softwood is inferior, however. In fact, pinewood is the most common wood used as a building material. Softwood just requires that you consider carefully where you use it. If you know the wood will need to endure the elements, then hardwood will last much longer, but softwood can last just as long if used in rooms that see less foot traffic and that are protected from the weather.