If you’re in the market for new hardwood or softwood floors for your home, you might be surprised at the variety of wood species available nowadays.
The different types of hardwoods and softwoods options can confuse you regarding which one to choose for your home.
While you must opt for a dense and durable wood type, you might also do well to consider the differences between hardwoods and softwoods.
Knowing a few details about these varieties of wood ensures that you’ll find the right flooring for your home and are happy with your new flooring for years to come.
The Meaning Of Hardwood And Softwood Flooring
While the term hardwood flooring is often used to describe any wood floorboard, the word hardwood refers to the deciduous tree, meaning one that loses its leaves every year.
Softwood trees are usually conifer or evergreen trees, meaning that they don’t lose their leaves every year.
It is essential to note that a softwood species is not so soft or less dense than hardwood trees that it’s unsuitable for flooring.
Pine, redwood and fir trees are all softwoods but they are quite dense and strong and are used for construction and decorative purposes.
Hardwood has a more complex structure than different types of softwood and is often much slower growing as a result. The term may also be used for the trees in which the wood is derived.
These are usually broad-leaved temperate and tropical forests.
It is very resistant to scratch and dents. It should be placed in areas where there is high traffic such as living rooms, bedrooms, etc.
However, hardwoods are more expensive than softwood. The following types of hardwood are the most commonly used for flooring:
It is mostly distributed from Eastern USA and Canada. It is creamy white to light reddish brown; its grain is closed, with medium figuring and uniform grain texture.
Occasionally shows bird’s eye-figuring. Maple flooring is suitable for all domestic projects and is very popular woods commonly used for high-end refurbishments and restorations.
It can range in color from light yellow to dark brownish-red. It’s softer than red oak but is still a strong wood. Birch is no longer popular as a floor.
Beech flooring is suitable for all domestic projects, but now less commonly used for flooring. It has a reddish-brown color and very consistent grain. It is durable and has excellent shock resistance.
White oak is brown but can have a grey cast. The grain is similar to red oak, with more burls and swirls. It is harder and more durable than red oak.
The wood is very resistant to insect and fungal attacks because of its high tannin content.
Softwood flooring is less expensive than hardwood, but also less durable than hardwood floors. It is not suitable for:
- Areas with high traffic
- Rooms with heavy furniture
- Kitchens where there are constant traffic and spills
- Dining rooms where chairs will get moved often
Pine and Fir are the two types of softwood that are commonly used for flooring. These floors are very delicate since they scratch easily. So, only use them if a distressed look is desired.
It is a yellowish-brown color and contains a lot of swirls and knots. It has a natural resistance to insects and is about as hard as red oak. Pines are considered to be fast-growing trees.
This is a yellowish-tan color. This wood is about half as soft as red oak and can dent easily. It is commonly used for flooring, but you can even use it for walls and furniture.
Hardwood Vs Softwood
Longevity: Hardwood produces a very high-quality product that offers great durability over time.
Easy maintenance: Hardwood is easy to clean, and scratches and dents can be fixed.
Strength: The trees’ dense cellular structure gives the timber incredible strength.
Appearance: Hardwood timber is available in a range of colors and finishes, and will suit almost any contemporary style setting.
Fire resistance: Hardwood timber offers a higher fire resistance than softwood.
Slow growth rate: Hardwood forests take longer to replenish due to the tree’s slower growth rate.
Workability: Due to its density, hardwood tends to be a lot harder to work with during construction.
Cost: Hardwoods are generally more expensive, however in saying this, you get what you pay for.
Refinishing: Hardwood floors in high traffic areas will require refinishing down the track, which can also be quite costly.
Workability: Softwood is easier to work with and can be used across a broad range of applications.
Sustainability: Softwood trees grow much faster than hardwood, and are considered a very renewable source.
Cost: These timbers tend to be cheaper, as they’re easier to the source.
Density: The lower density of softwood timber means it’s weaker and less durable, however, there are some ‘hard’ softwood options with a higher density like Juniper and Yew.
Longevity: Softwood is less suitable for high traffic areas as it does not wear as well as hardwood over time.
Fire resistance: Softwoods tend to have poor fire resistance unless treated.
Judging the pros and cons of softwood flooring, you can easily say that hardwood is a better option. It lasts long and very easy to maintain as well as offer better fire resistance.