If you are using a timber solution for your next cladding, panelling or decking project, you have to choose between hardwood and softwood timber options based on the specific needs of your project.
Timber is classified as hardwood or softwood depending on its physical makeup, with the characteristics of each timber varying in terms of appearance, density, and workability.
To be absolutely sure of your choice, you will need to understand the difference between hardwood and softwood, the various pros and cons, and the workability of the timber in a given application.
Combining style and performance, authentic hardwood timber comes from angiosperm trees, which have elements that distribute water and nutrients throughout the wood. The pores in the wood grain handle all the distribution, allowing the remaining timber grain to become denser. Species of these deciduous trees include Eucalyptus, Balsa, Mahogany, Blackbutt and Spotted Gum.
Hardwood timber delivers a whole range of benefits including longevity and long-term durability; easy maintenance as it’s easy to clean, and scratches and dents can be fixed; high strength thanks to the timber’s dense cellular structure; visual appeal with a choice of colours and finishes to suit almost any contemporary setting; and higher fire resistance than softwood.
One basic downside to choosing hardwood is that hardwood forests take longer to replenish due to the tree’s slower growth rate. In an application, hardwood is harder to work with due to its density. This timber is also more expensive, with ongoing costs incurred on refinishing hardwood floors in high traffic areas.
Hardwood timber applications
Ideal for applications where durability and strength are of upmost importance, hardwood is most commonly used for flooring, but can also be used for cladding, panelling, buildings, fencing, boats and outdoor decks.
A highly versatile timber offering a stunning, seamless finish, softwood comes from gymnosperm trees, which do not have pores. These trees rely on medullary rays and tracheids to transport water and produce sap, resulting in a lower density.
Softwood trees are evergreen with species including Cedar, Douglas fir, Pine and Hemlock.
In terms of workability, softwood scores over hardwood as it is easier to work with and can be used across a broad range of applications. Since softwood trees grow much faster than hardwood, they are considered a renewable timber resource. Softwood timber is also cheaper and easy to source.
However, softwood’s lower density means it’s weaker and less durable, which is why ‘hard’ softwood options with a higher density such as Juniper and Yew are preferred in applications. Softwood is not recommended for high traffic areas as it does not wear as well as hardwood over time. Its poor fire resistance is another disadvantage.
Softwood timber applications
Softwood timber is most commonly used for feature walls, ceilings, furniture, doors and windows. It’s a versatile building material, and its beautiful finish helps create stunning features for residential and commercial projects.
Urbanline’s hardwood and softwood solutions
Urbanline Architectural offers a quality selection of real timber solutions consisting of both hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwood options include Blackbutt, Red Ironbark, Spotted Gum and Jarrah among many more, and the softwood selection consists of Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock.
Urbanline’s panelling and cladding options are available in a range of hardwood timbers to suit commercial and residential projects. Hardwood species Jarrah and Spotted Gum offer weather, fire and termite resistance, making them ideal for outdoor applications including wharf and bridge construction.
Softwood options such as Hemlock and Western Red Cedar are recommended for cladding interiors and exteriors. Urbanline offers a range of softwood timber cladding options for contemporary feature walls and ceilings.
Both hardwood and softwood timber options offer impressive construction benefits across a wide range of applications. Choose your timber based on your application and design objectives for the short term and the long term.