I am often asked what the difference is between hard and soft woods and which one should be used. Being an enthusiast on the subject of wood it is a question I am always happy to answer.
Firstly it is not that hardwoods are hard while softwoods are soft. They are botanically different organisms. In general hardwood comes from a deciduous tree that loses its leaves annually, produces enclosed seeds either in a nut, such as acorns, almonds etc, or a fruit such as apples, pears etc. The plant is pollinated by birds or insects attracted to its flowers. Examples include maple, elm, balsa (yes technically a hardwood!), mahogany and sycamore.
Softwood comes from evergreen trees that form cones which emit pollen spread by the wind. Pollinated trees then produce naked seeds that drop to the ground, or again, are borne along by the wind. Such trees include pine, redwood, fir, cedar and larch.
The important thing for consumers is that various woods are suited to different applications. Redwood is often used outdoors as it is naturally insect resistant and does not need treating with chemicals. Maple and elm are perfect for flooring while balsa is idea for model airplanes. The list is extensive so if you are planning a major purchase or a DIY project and are not sure what your best options are, please give me a call, I am always happy to advise, as are the local timber merchants.
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