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7 Popular Types of Softwood and Their Unique CharacteristicsΒ 


Types of softwood are wood varieties that are derived from gymnosperm trees. These trees are characterized by their thin, needle-like leaves and cone production. Many types of softwood are used throughout the building and wood crafting industries because of their wide availability and low cost. Among the many softwood types there exist a range of unique characteristics and specific applications for which they are best suited. From lightweight and resilient pine to weather-resistant cedar, the types of softwood offer a multitude of options for furniture making, construction, and other projects.

Types of Softwood

Types of Softwood

Softwoods are valuable in many types of construction and woodworking endeavors. They are typically lighter weight than hardwoods and often have better dimensional stability because of their straight and even grain. There are various types of softwood with distinct qualities that lend themselves to certain applications and uses.


Pine

Pine is a type of softwood that is derived from the Pinus genus. Pine trees are evergreen and can be found throughout the world. Pine is an abundant softwood type and is used by craftsmen in numerous applications like framing, flooring, joinery, furniture, cladding, and fencing. Common types of pine are Eastern white pine, Ponderosa pine, and Scots pine.

Pine Characteristics

  • Weight – Pine is lightweight in comparison to other types of softwood. This means that it is easy to handle and transport.
  • Density – Pine is a low-density softwood, so it is susceptible to dents and scratches.
  • Grain – The straight grain pattern of pine makes it easier to cut and shape and adds to its aesthetic appeal.
  • Color – The color of pine ranges from pale yellow of the outer ring layers to pale red of the heartwood.
  • Workability – The lower density of pinewood means that it is easy to cut and shape. Pine sands smoothly and accepts stain and finishing coats well.
  • Stability – Even though pine is less dense, it has good dimensional stability. It does not shrink and warp if it has been properly dried and stored. This makes it a good option for structural applications.
  • Cost – Pine is abundant and is available in many regions around the world. This makes it one of the most affordable softwood options.
  • Strength – Pine has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, so while it is lightweight, it is also strong. It is not as strong as the strongest softwoods, but it has adequate strength for structural projects.

Spruce

Spruce is part of the Picea genus. Spruce is a type of coniferous tree that grows in the Northern Hemisphere, primarily in North America and Europe. Spruce has excellent sound properties. This means that it helps promote resonance in musical instruments.

Spruce Characteristics

  • Weight – Spruce is a moderately weighted softwood variety.
  • Density – The density of spruce is in the medium range, not as lightweight as common pine, but not as dense as Douglas fir.
  • Grain – The fine, even texture and straight grain of spruce give it a clean and uniform appearance.
  • Color – Spruce is light in color, ranging from pale white/yellow to reddish brown.
  • Workability – The modern density and low resin of spruce gives it good workability. It is easy to cut and shape, and it accepts stains and paints well.
  • Stability – Spruce exhibits low shrinkage, so it is useful in construction and joinery.
  • Cost – Spruce is a medium-cost softwood, more expensive than common pine but less expensive than cedar.
  • Strength – Spruce has a high strength-to-weight ratio. It has good bending strength, compression strength, and tensile strength.

Cedar

Cedar is part of the Cedrus genus. Builders and craftsmen value cedar for its unique natural resistance to rot and pests. Cedar also has a pleasing aroma so craftsmen utilize it in chests and closets for clothes. Many types of cedar exist throughout the world, including Western Red Cedar, Spanish Cedar, and Eastern Red Cedar.

Cedar Characteristics

  • Weight – Most cedar varieties are considered lightweight, though this can range according to different types.
  • Density – Cedar is considered a light to medium-weight softwood.
  • Grain – Cedar has a fine and even grain with an even texture.
  • Color – Cedar has a warm brown-reddish hue that is enhanced by wood finishes.
  • Workability – Because of its even texture and lightweight, cedar is easy to cut, shape, and finish with both hand and power tools.
  • Stability – Cedar has a low moisture content, so it is dimensionally stable. It is less prone to shrinking and warping even in varying humidity conditions.
  • Cost – Most types of cedar are more expensive than other softwood types.
  • Strength – Cedar has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, exhibiting good bending strength, compression strength, and stiffness.

Fir

Fir is a softwood that comes from the genus Abies. Douglas fir is the most common type of fir available, but there are many other types, including noble fir and balsam fir. Douglas fir is one of the most common Christmas tree types.

Fir Characteristics

  • Weight – Fir is a moderately heavy softwood, but this is also dependent on the age of the wood and the location of the wood within the tree (e.g. heartwood or sapwood).
  • Density – Fir is a medium-density wood.
  • Grain – Fir has a straight grain with a fine and even texture.
  • Color – Fir is pale yellow to reddish brown, depending on the exact species.
  • Workability – Woodworkers consider fir moderately easy to work with. It is easy to machine and shape because of its straight grain and fine texture.
  • Stability – Fir exhibits good structural stability. This means that it is less prone to shrinking, twisting, and warping
  • Cost – Fir is a moderately priced softwood option.
  • Strength – Builders prize fir for its strength. It has excellent bending and compressive strength, making it ideal for structural applications.

Larch

Larch is a softwood from the genus Larix. This is a type of deciduous conifer, which means that while they have needle-like leaves, they lose these leaves in the fall. Larch wood contains natural oils that make it more resistant to rot and wood pest infestations.

Larch Characteristics

  • Weight – The weight of larch depends on the type of larch wood that you buy, but most larch wood has a mid to heavy weight.
  • Density – Larch is a much denser wood than other softwood varieties. It is a medium to high-density softwood.
  • Grain – Larch has a straight grain pattern and an even texture.
  • Color – Larch wood is pale yellow to reddish brown in color.
  • Workability –
  • Stability – Larch has good structural stability, so it is less prone to warping and shrinking.
  • Cost – The cost for larch wood ranges from the mid to high range but depends on the quality and source of the wood.
  • Strength – Larch wood has excellent strength and durability. Because of its bending strength, compression strength, and stiffness, builders use it for structural applications like beams, posts, and columns.

Redwood

Redwood is a softwood that comes from several species of the genus Sequoia. The ability of redwood to withstand outdoor weather conditions because of its natural oils makes it some of the most prized wood for outdoor applications. Redwood also has excellent natural thermal insulation properties.

Redwood Characteristics

  • Weight – Redwood is considered a lightweight softwood.
  • Density – Redwood has a moderate density compared to other softwoods.
  • Grain – Redwood has a fine texture and a straight and even grain.
  • Color – Redwood has a rich reddish brown color. Builders can leave this wood unfinished or enhance the color with a clear sealer.
  • Workability – Due to its moderate density and fine, straight grain, redwood is easy to cut, sand, and finish with both hand and power tools.
  • Stability – Redwood has exceptional stability. It resists shrinking and warping even in changing weather and humidity conditions.
  • Cost – Redwood is a mid-range priced softwood.
  • Strength – Builders prize redwood for its exceptional strength. It has excellent compressive, tensile, bending, and shear strength.

Cypress

Cypress wood comes from several species in the Cupressaceae family. People value cypress wood for its versatility but also for its unique oil and resin content, which gives it water resistance properties. This makes it ideal in outdoor applications like decking, fences, and exterior trim.

Cypress Characteristics

  • Weight – Cypress is a mid-weight softwood.
  • Density – Cypress is a moderately dense softwood, though the exact density depends on the part of the tree from which the wood is sourced.
  • Grain – Cypress has a straight grain and a fine and even texture.
  • Color – Cypress wood has a range of colors depending on the variety, from pale yellow to reddish brown and gray.
  • Workability – Wood craftsmen consider cypress an easy wood to work with because of its moderate density and even grain.
  • Stability – Cypress has good dimensional stability because of its straight grain and even texture.
  • Cost – The cost for cypress is in the mid-range, but the exact price depends on the wood’s quality and sourcing.
  • Strength – Cypress has good tensile, compressive, shear, and bending strength. While it is not as high as other wood species, it has sufficient strength for construction, woodworking, and structural projects.



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