What is Hardwood? Its Origins, Characteristics, and Uses

Hardwood is a type of wood that is beloved because of its timeless appeal and remarkable durability and strength. It has wide versatility and is used in many applications in interior design and construction. Hardwoods have rich colors and varied grain patterns that provide warmth, texture, and a touch of sophistication to any project. Whether elevating a home or a commercial establishment, hardwoods always bring a sense of authenticity and craftsmanship that leaves a lasting impression.

What is hardwood

What is Hardwood?

Hardwood is a wood variety derived from angiosperm trees, which are trees that produce flowers and fruit. These trees are primarily found in deciduous forests and have broad leaves and lose their leaves in the winter months. Yet there are also tropical varieties of hardwoods that are evergreen and only lose their leaves periodically rather than seasonally.

Hardwood trees have a more complex composition than softwoods, so they are much slower growing and take a much longer time to mature. Internal within their structure are pores or vessels. These pores or vessels vary in size, shape, and structure. They help contribute to the considerable density of hardwood. There is a wide variation in density and hardness. Some varieties of hardwood such as balsa are softer than many softwood types.

Characteristics of Hardwoods

Hardwoods possess unique characteristics that make them stand out from other wood types.


Because of their slower growth rate and tighter cell structure, hardwoods tend to be more dense than other types of wood, like softwood. This density helps to provide its strength and stability.


Builders value hardwood because of their superior strength. Their density allows them to resist force and withstand heavy use. This strength makes them excellent for applications that require structural integrity and load-bearing capacity. Some of the strongest hardwoods are Brazilian Ebony, hickory, ironwood, and jarrah.


Many types of hardwoods have natural durability because of their innate resistance to rot and decay. They can also withstand constant movement and scratches and dents from other objects. This makes them useful for outdoor applications and in projects like floors that have to withstand wear over time.

Grain Patterns

Hardwoods have appealing and varied grain patterns that allow craftsmen to choose different types according to the look they want. These grain patterns add to the beauty and unique look of different types of hardwoods. They can be straight, curly, fine, or burl.

Variety of Colors

When craftsmen want to vary the colors in their wood project, they look to hardwoods. Hardwoods have a gorgeous range of colors from the pale yellow cream of ash and maple to darker hues like mahogany and walnut. This diverse mix of colors allows builders to offer a wider range of design possibilities that complement a variety of styles.


Hardwoods have a dense structure which contributes to the overall stability of the wood. Hardwood types are less likely to warp and shrink over time and in moist environments.


Though softwoods are easier to work with than many hardwoods, the dense nature of hardwoods has a distinct advantage for workability. This density allows wood crafters to cut intricate shapes without breaking and to sand the surface to an extremely fine sheen.


Some hardwoods like white oak, ipe, and teak have innate properties that make them more naturally resistant to rot and decay than other woods. These have natural compounds like resin, oils, and tannins, dense structures, low porosity, and high silica contents that allow them to resist the penetration of harmful substances like water and wood pests.


Because of their dense structure, hardwoods are less prone to catching fire than softwoods. This makes them a good choice in terms of fire protection and can give valuable time for fire suppression and evacuation efforts.

Examples of Hardwoods and Their Uses

There is a wide range of types of hardwoods. Each has unique properties that make them suitable for different applications.

  • Oak – Oak is a popular and common hardwood type. Builders use oak in many construction applications including for floors, furniture, cabinetry, and interior trim. Craftsmen also use oak to make barrels, doors, beams, and posts.
  • Maple – Maple is a dense and versatile hardwood with a pale color. Builders use maple for countertops, cabinetry, floors, and furniture. Its fine-grain pattern makes it suitable for musical instruments and cutting boards.
  • Mahogany – Mahogany is a luxurious and richly colored hardwood known for its beauty and durability. It has an attractive grain pattern and excellent workability. Craftsmen use it in high-end cabinetry, furniture, musical instruments, and boat building.
  • Walnut – Walnut is a dark and distinctive hardwood that craftsmen prize for its deep color and grain pattern. Because of its high cost, craftsmen often use it in veneer form and as an accent wood, but it is also utilized in cabinetry, furniture, flooring, and gunstocks.
  • Cherry – Cherry is a hardwood with a red-brown color that darkens over time. Builders use it for high-end cabinetry, furniture, and interior millwork. Wood crafters also prize it for turnings, carvings, and other specialty wood projects.
  • Ash – Ash is a strong and light-colored hardwood with excellent shock resistance. It is useful in flooring, furniture, tool handles, and sports equipment like baseball bats and hockey sticks. Ash has a straight grain which makes it suitable for steam bending.
  • Teak – Teak is a highly durable wood with rich natural oils that resist moisture and wood pests. Builders use teak in a variety of outdoor applications like boat decks, garden furniture, and home decks.

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Written by Murat

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