8 Popular Types of Hardwood and Their Pros and Cons

There is a vast array of types of hardwood and each possesses unique characteristics like grain patterns, hardness, and wood color. These differences allow wood builders to choose a particular type of hardwood based on these individual qualities according to what they need. Whether you are a beginner woodworker or an accomplished DIYer, understanding the distinct benefits and drawbacks of each hardwood type will allow you to choose the best type of wood for your project.

Typs of Hardwood

Types of Hardwoods

There are numerous types of hardwoods in two broad categories: temperate hardwoods and tropical hardwoods. Each hardwood has distinct qualities that mean that it works well for some projects and not for others.


Oak is one of the most common types of hardwood and comes from temperate forests. It is known for its strength, durability, and prominent grain pattern. There are two main types of oak including white oak and red oak. White oak is common in contemporary design because of its pale white/gray color. Red oak has a warm reddish hue.

Uses: Furniture, flooring, cabinetry, millwork, paneling, boat making, beams, columns, trusses, fences, decking, and pergolas


  • Durability – Oak is strong and dense. It can withstand heavy loads and constant wear without suffering severe damage.
  • Attractive – Oak has distinctive grain patterns that can lend texture and visual interest to flooring, furniture, and cabinetry. Oak grains can range from straight and consistent to more diverse variations.
  • Versatility – Oak is suitable for a wide range of applications. Builders use it for architectural projects as well as more decorative designs.
  • Finish – Oak finishes well from smoothness in sanding to accepting stain or paint well.
  • Availability – Oak is widely available across the world. You can find it in many forms from solid planks to veneers and engineered products.


  • Weight – Oak is dense and heavy. The weight of oak can be a challenge during transportation and installation.
  • Heavy wear – Though oak is durable, it is not impervious to sharp scratches and dents from heavy objects. Oak floors and furniture should be treated with care.
  • Susceptible to moisture – Oak is not naturally resistant to moisture, so it is prone to water damage without sufficient protection.
  • Dated – Oak has been a commonly used hardwood in homes and furniture throughout the years. Some people find the look of red oak to be out of date. White oak is a popular option in home design today.


Maple is another temperate hardwood variety. Craftsmen prize it for its light color and fine grain. Maple is extremely hard, so it works well in applications that receive heavy wear. Maple comes in many varieties including red, silver, and Bigleaf maple. Bird’s eye maple is particularly beloved by craftsmen because of its distinctive swirled grain pattern.

Uses: Flooring, cabinetry, musical instruments, cutting boards, countertops, millwork, sports equipment, furniture, and small wood craft projects


  • Durability – Maple is a dense hardwood, so builders know it for its particular hardness which makes it one of the more durable hardwoods for surfaces that receive constant wear.
  • Attractiveness – Maple has a light, creamy color and regular, fine wood grain. This provides a clean aesthetic and good background wood for many design styles.
  • Workability – Maple is hard, but it cuts, machines, and finishes well.
  • Stability – The density of maple makes it less prone to warping and shrinking due to changes in humidity. This is particularly helpful in applications like cabinetry and flooring where dimensional stability is necessary.


  • Cost – Maple is in the middle price range of hardwoods, so it is more expensive than other common hardwoods like red oak, ash, and poplar.
  • Lack of grain variation – Maple’s fine and regular grain pattern does not attract everyone as some prefer more distinct grain patterns like oak or walnut.


Cherry is a hardwood with a reddish hue that darkens over time and develops a rich patina. It has a fine texture and a smooth grain, which makes it popular for many woodworking projects. The most common type of cherry wood comes from American Black Cherry trees.

Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, millwork, musical instruments, decorative objects, architectural woodwork, veneers, and inlays


  • Aesthetics – Cherry has a natural color ranging from light reddish brown to rich red and a smooth, closed-grain pattern.
  • Aging – Cherry wood darkens over time and develops a rich patina.
  • Workability – Cherry saws, sands, and finishes well. Cherry is suitable for detailed work because of its tight, smooth texture.
  • Durability – Cherry is not as hard as some hardwoods, but it still resists scratches and dents well. It also has good dimensional stability.


  • Color variations – The color of cherry can vary, and can result in light and dark areas even within the same tree. This is not a good type of hardwood for a project that requires consistent color wood throughout.
  • Sensitivity to light – The color of cherry changes according to light exposure, so you must protect it if you do not want the color of the wood to change.
  • Cost – Cherry is not highly expensive, but it is more expensive than low-priced hardwoods like poplar and ash.


Walnut is a temperate hardwood with a distinctive dark color and prominent wood grain. Woodworkers prize walnut for its rich color, durability, and versatility. The two main types of walnut are English walnut and black walnut.

Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, flooring, decorative veneers, inlays, musical instruments, gunstocks, millwork, decorative objects


  • Beauty – Wood crafters love walnut because of its distinctive dark brown color and rich grain pattern.
  • Durability – Walnut is a dense and hard wood. It resists warping and shrinking, which makes it a good option for floors, cabinetry, and furniture.
  • Workability – Walnut cuts, sands, and finishes well. It can hold fine and intricate designs without breaking.
  • Aging – Walnut gains a rich patina over time, darkening the color and giving it a distinctive character.


  • Price – Walnut is not as abundant as other types of hardwood, so it has a higher price than more available hardwood types.
  • Color variation – Walnut wood has dark and light sections within the same piece, so some people may not prefer this stark color variation.


Mahogany is a tropical hardwood, so it is evergreen rather than deciduous. Mahogany has a rich, reddish brown color, a straight interlocking grain pattern, and exceptional durability and resistance to decay.

Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, millwork, boat building, veneers, musical instruments, paneling, decorative objects.


  • Beauty – Wood crafters prize mahogany for its rich reddish brown color with a straight, fine, and even grain pattern.
  • Durability – Mahogany is a durable hardwood with a natural resistance to moisture and insect infestations.
  • Versatility – Mahogany is a versatile wood and is useful in a wide range of applications.
  • Workability – Mahogany responds well to machining and carving. It also sands and accepts finishes like stain and varnish well.


  • Price – Mahogany is a modestly expensive hardwood variety because of its limited availability and high demand.
  • Sustainability – Mahogany is prone to overexploitation and illegal logging practices, so it is a less sustainable type of hardwood unless procured from a reputable and sustainable source.
  • Weight – Mahogany is one of the heavier hardwoods, so this can be an issue in transportation and handling.
  • Softness – Mahogany is durable, but it is not one of the harder hardwood types. Care should be taken to protect the surface of mahogany objects.


Ash is a temperate hardwood with a light to medium brown color. The grain pattern of ash is most often straight, but it can sometimes have unique rounded patterns if the wood has been stressed or succumbed to pest infestations. This is known as figured wood and is prized by craftsmen.

Uses: Furniture, flooring, cabinetry, millwork, tool handles, sports equipment, door and window framing, musical instruments, specialty items


  • Cost – Ash is one of the less expensive types of hardwood, though high-quality ash will be pricier than standard quality.
  • Appearance – Ash has an attractive light to medium brown color with a distinctive grain pattern. This makes it an attractive wood choice for many applications.
  • Workability – Ash cuts, sands, and finishes well. It is fine-grained enough to enable the cutting of intricate designs.
  • Shock resistance – Ash has excellent shock resistance, which makes it suitable for sports equipment like bats and hockey sticks.


  • Susceptibility – Ash has greater susceptibility to pest infestations of raw wood and ash wood products. Proper treatment and protection are vital for this type of wood.
  • Variation in quality – The quality of ash varies widely. Lower-grade ash has more knots, irregularities, and color variations than higher-priced ash.


Teak is a tropical hardwood primarily found in Southeast Asia. It is beloved by wood crafters for its natural durability and golden brown color.

Uses: Outdoor wood furniture, decking, cladding, boat building, flooring, cabinetry, specialty carved items


  • Water resistance – Teak has oils and resins that make it naturally water and rot-resistant. This means that teak can withstand harsh weather conditions and remain durable over time.
  • Low maintenance – The natural oils in teak preserve the wood, which reduces the need for extra protection like sealing.
  • Beauty – Teak has a golden brown color that weathers to an attractive silver-gray over time.
  • Workability – Even though teak is dense, it remains easy to saw, sand, and finish.


  • Cost – Teak is one of the most expensive types of hardwoods.
  • Sustainability – Teak is susceptible to overexploitation and illegal logging. It is vital to check the source of your teak lumber to protect the species.
  • Weathering – Teak will naturally weather to a silver-gray. If you don’t like this color, it is important to protect your teak product with a sealant to prevent this natural process.


Birch is a temperate hardwood variety with distinctive white bark. Birchwood has a pale white to light yellow color. Birch is a common wood variety for modern and contemporary furniture because of its light color and fine, straight grain.

Uses: Furniture, flooring, millwork, plywood production, firewood, cabinetry


  • Clean aesthetic – Birch’s light color and even grain pattern give it a clean aesthetic that is preferable in modern design styles.
  • Workability – Birch has modern density, so it is easy to cut, sand, and finish.
  • Cost – Birch is a more cost-effective option than high-end hardwoods like walnut and mahogany.
  • Availability – Birch is widely available in many regions and is an abundant wood type.


  • Limited strength and durability – Like all hardwoods, birch is durable and hard, but it is softer than some types, so it is susceptible to scratching and denting.
  • Susceptibility to decay – Birch is naturally less resistant to moisture and attacks from pests, so protection is necessary. This is not a good choice for outdoor applications.

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Written by Murat

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