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Hardwood vs Softwood: What’s the Difference?

Different types of construction projects call for different kinds of timber. Both hardwood and softwood can be used for everything from structural to decorative. But what is the difference between these two types of wood?

Different types of construction projects call for different kinds of timber. Both hardwood and softwood can be used for everything from structural to decorative. But what is the difference between these two types of wood? You might be reading this and thinking ‘how can you write a whole blog on something so self-explanatory? Surely softwood is in fact ‘soft wood’ and hardwood is ‘hard wood’’. But it’s not actually that simple, the terms softwood and hardwood don’t necessarily refer to the density or hardness of the wood itself. Confused? Let us explain.


The Difference

Softwood and hardwood are distinguished in nature in terms of their reproduction rather than their end appearance and attributes. In general, hardwood comes from deciduous tree’s which lose their leaves annually. Softwood comes from conifer, which usually remains evergreen. The trees from which hardwood is obtained tend to be slower growing, meaning the wood is usually denser.


Hardwood is considered the ultimate versatile material, with applications ranging from exquisite veneers and furniture, musical instruments, flooring, construction and boatbuilding. It is a material of real beauty, available in countless combinations of species, specifications and colours. Because of their condensed and more complex structure, hardwoods generally offer a superior level of strength and durability. The most common types of hardwoods include Oak, Teak, Sapele, Iroko and Meranti. As these grow at a much slower rate and require longer drying times, these factors drive up the cost of the wood. Hardwoods tend to be much more resilient than softwoods and are often reserved for projects that require maximum durability. Hardwoods such as beech, maple and walnut are usually reserved for bespoke joinery projects, crafting furniture, wooden flooring and fine veneers. These types are hardwood are most suitable for these tasks as they desire particular aesthetic characteristics, such as colour and woodgrain.


At Arnold Laver we have experience with hardwood gained over decades of meeting the exact timber requirements of companies and individuals. We carry what we believe to be one of the widest timber-based product ranges in the UK, and we pride ourselves on the high standards of timber. We aim to be able to meet virtually any hardwood requirement from stock. When we can’t, we’ll source it specially. We also offer a full machining service and can supply everything from a simple length of timber to intricate mouldings.


Softwood is renowned for its versatility and strength. Sourced from all over the globe, with a large breadth of applications and a remarkably aesthetic appeal, softwood can be used across a broad range of internal and external projects – from furniture and flooring to decking, landscaping, external joinery and structural applications. Softwoods are more readily available and easily manipulated. They also develop at a quicker pace, leading to lower cost levels. They are flexible, lighter in weight and less dense than most hardwoods. Softwoods are commonly used for interior mouldings, the manufacturing of windows, construction framing and generating sheet goods such as plywood and fibreboard.

At Arnold Laver we have the broadest and most comprehensive range of softwood species and grades to cover all timber requirements. We have a core range of softwoods held in stock at all of our branches, backed up by daily supplies from our National Distribution Centre. As well as standard products, bespoke requirements are our speciality, with machining, grading and treatment facilities available group-wide.

Softwood and Hardwood Characteristics

Uses of Softwood and Hardwood

In many cases, hardwoods and softwoods are both used for many of the same purposes. Generally, though, softwoods are cheaper and easier to work with. As such they make up the majority of all wood used in the world, with about 80% of timber being a softwood. Softwoods have a wide range of applications and are found in building components including components (such as windows and doors), furniture and fibreboard.

Though hardwoods are often more expensive and sometimes more difficult to work with, the benefit is that most (though not all) are denser, meaning they will last longer than softwoods. For this reason, hardwoods are often found in high-quality furniture, decks, flooring and construction that is designed to last.

As the timber experts, Arnold Laver has extensive in-house production facilities for the machining and manufacture of both hardwoods and softwoods. We have modern and well-equipped factories located across several of our Depots, allowing us to provide an effective and timely service for a range of manufacturing requirements. If you have an upcoming project and are unsure what timber is most suitable, give us a call and we’ll help you determine the best option.

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