Understanding the many different types of wood and their uses can be very helpful for choosing the best wood for your next project. Whether you are building something out of wood or simply choosing wood furniture for your home, this list of the many wood types will help make sure you choose wood you can be happy with!
Wood is available in many different shapes and sizes. Since wood comes from trees and there are many different species of trees it is not surprising we have such a large variety of different woods to use for building.
Before we get into all of the different wood varieties and their common uses, it’s important to understand the three basic types of wood you might encounter. These three types are: softwoods, hardwoods, and engineered wood. Each of these different wood types can be used in a number of different ways.
Softwoods are the wood and lumber which are milled from conifer trees. Scientifically known as Gymnosperms, Conifer trees are any trees which have needles and produce cones. Examples of popular softwood trees used in woodworking, construction, and furniture are Pine, Cedar, Fir, Spruce, and Redwood.
Are Softwoods Softer Than Hardwoods?
Contrary to popular belief, softwoods are not named softwoods because they are “soft”. While it is true that some varieties of hardwoods are very hard and therefore more challenging to work with, the distinction between hardwood and softwood has little to do with the actual softness or whether one wood is harder to work with. There are many hardwoods which are softer than softwoods.
How Are Softwoods Like Pine, Cedar, Spruce, Fir and Redwood Used?
Most softwoods are strong and commonly used in many different building applications. Spruce, Pine, and Fir (SPF) are commonly sold under as dimensional SPF lumber at home improvement centers. These woods are often used in framing new construction, as well as building utility style structures.
Many of these woods, particularly softwoods from the cypress family are renowned for their ability to resist rot and insects. This makes trees such as cedar and redwood ideal for exterior projects, such as decking and outdoor furniture.
Hardwoods come from any trees which do not produce needles or cones. These trees are most commonly are known as deciduous trees, more scientifically known as angiosperms. Hardwoods are trees which produces leaves and seeds.
Common hardwood species include oak, maple, cherry, mahogany, and walnut. Hardwood species are not always necessarily stronger than softwoods, but many species are well known for their beautiful and distinct wood grain patterns.
There are also some woods which are considered to be hardwoods that are not deciduous trees, such as Bamboo and Palm. These plants are scientifically known as monocotyledons, but have many of the same characteristics of hardwoods and so are often classified as such. Bamboo and Palm can sometimes fall under the next classification of engineered wood.
The third type of wood you may encounter are engineered woods. Engineered wood does not occur naturally in the environment but instead are manufactured.
These boards are generally made with wood which is manipulated to have certain qualities or features. Also known as composite wood, these products are often made from the waste wood of sawmills.
Popular examples of engineered woods include Plywood, Oriented Strand Board, Medium Density Fiber Board, and Composite Board. Wood veneers can also sometimes be classified as engineered wood, since it often needs to be manipulated either through specialized cutting techniques or joining pieces together to achieve a specific size or wood grain patterning.
Now that we understand these three main types of wood, we are ready to start exploring all of the different varieties of wood you may encounter and what they are most frequently used for.