Difference between Hard Wood and Soft Wood

Hardness is the most simple method to distinguish types of wood used for furniture. Contrary to popular belief, hardwood is not necessarily harder and denser compared to softwood. In botanical or scientific terms, hardwood comes from flowering trees while softwood comes from coniferous trees. Both hardwood and softwood are used for structural as well as decorative purposes.


Hardwood comes from Angiosperms such as maple, oak, walnut and many other trees. These trees lose their leaves annually (deciduous or broad-leafed trees). As they grow slowly, hardwood has denser wood fibers (fiber tracheids and libriform fibers). An interesting fact about hardwood is that some types of hardwood can’t float in water. For example, Black ironwood is perhaps the hardest and heaviest wood that sinks in water.

Properties of Hardwood

  • It grows slowly compared to softwoods. So, hardwood is relatively expensive.
  • Hardwood is durable (less likely to decay and rot), comes with close grain, and requires low maintenance.
  • As it comes with low sap content and good fire resistance, hardwood is commonly used for wooden flooring too
  • It is also used for making furniture. However, not all types of hardwood are ideal for making furniture.

  • Softwood

    Softwood comes from Gymnosperms, which are seed-bearing evergreen trees such as pine, spruce, fir, cedar, juniper, redwood, and yew. As most evergreen trees tend to be less dense than deciduous trees, it is easier to cut them down. They also grow tall and straight, making it easier to cut long straight planks of wood.

    Properties of Softwood

  • Usually, softwood consists of tracheids and wood rays but lacks vessels.  As vessels are absent, softwood is also called non-porous wood.
  • The lack of vessels allows softwoods to absorb adhesives quickly, resulting in a better finish.
  • Softwood is commonly used in building material such as structural frames, exterior and interior wall cladding, fittings, floor coverings, formwork, and scaffolding, among others. It is also used in the paper and cardboard industry.
  • It comes with loose grain, higher sap content, and lighter color. However, it has poor fire resistance.
  • Its fine and lightweight structure makes it the best wood for furniture.

  • Hardwood vs Softwood

    Angiosperm/deciduous trees Coniferous/evergreen trees
    Rough texture Fine texture
    Porous Non-porous
    Tracheid content 5% to 10% Tracheid content 90% to 95%
    Dense Less Dense
    Not all types of hardwood are ideal for furniture making. Being expensive, they are usually used in high-end furniture manufacturing. Almost all types of softwood are ideal for furniture making. In fact, about 80% of all timber comes from softwood.
    Ex: Teak, Oak, Ash, Beech Ex: Pine, Spruce, Fir, Cedar