Last edited 15 May 2017


Softwood is a type of wood that is cut from trees belonging to gymnosperms, such as coniferous trees. By contrast, hardwood typically comes from angiosperm, deciduous and broad-leaved trees. Trees that lose their leaves in the autumn, such as oak.

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Softwood Hardwood

Softwood trees, such as pine, cedar, spruce, larch and fir, retain their leaves throughout the year and grow faster than hardwood.

Unlike hardwood, the microstructure of softwood trees does not include vessels, as their cells are open. This allows them to act as conduits, feeding nutrients and water through the tree. These open cells allow them to absorb things such as adhesives and finishes better.

Softwood provides around 80% of all timber, and is usually supplied in long, rectangular forms such as planks, posts and rails. Softwood is commonly used in construction, in the roof and inner walls structures, as well as in other building components such as fixtures and fittings, doors, and so on. It is also the main constituent of some man-made boards, such as medium density fibreboard.

Hardwood is is typically used in furniture such as tables, chairs, chest drawers, and so on. It may also be used in applications such as window frames.

Though some softwoods are harder than hardwood (for example, balsa is a hardwood), softwood is generally less dense. This makes it easier to saw, plane, bore, nail, and so on.

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