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All Different Types Of Wood – Part I: What is Hardwood?

Different types of wood are useful for different applications – every timber offering unique properties for a carpenter to exploit. The craft of woodworking is more ancient than almost any other, and peering into the foundational skills of carpentry taps into knowledge and tradition that is thousands of years old. Today, wood continues to be a highly-used construction material for a vast array of projects and applications.

Learn about the differences between types of wood that are most common in modern-day construction. Find out what makes wood hard or soft, and why it matters in carpentry. And, discover what each type of wood is good for when approaching millwork, casework, and structural applications.    

All Different Types of Wood in Carpentry and Millwork

Custom cabinets, outdoor furniture, and the frame of your house all use different types of wood in its construction. In modern commercial and residential construction, wood takes many forms – some natural, and some, manufactured. The most common types of wood you encounter are different types of solid wood, including hardwood, softwood, and manufactured or plywood. 

Knowing the differences in these types of wood can make the difference between you getting what you want from your project, and being unp[lessently surprised. So, here are the main umbrella categories you encounter when it comes to the wood in carpentry and construction:

Hardwood – Leafy Trees: Common in Furniture and Outdoor Applications

Any timbers that come from a deciduous tree are considered a hardwood. In general, deciduous trees produce more dense timbers and can grow to be much older. Hardwood is preferable for any project, in which the finished result features exposed wood. 

Classic furniture and fine woodworking feature hardwood for its longevity, durability, and intricate grain structure. Hardwood is, generally, not stained or painted, unless with natural wood oil. This is because the grain and color is the attractive element of hardwood. 

The downside of hardwood can cost more than that of softwood, due to its more limited availability. Hardwood is, in general, more scars than softwood because deciduous trees are slower growing than conifers, which continue growing all year long. One way to think of it is that deciduous trees have to develop harder wood fibers to make it through the winters, in which deciduous trees are dormant. 

White Oak and Red Oak  

Oak is one of the most widely available hardwoods in North America and a popular choice for indoor and outdoor cabinets, closets, and countertops. Among the different types of oak wood, red oak and white oak are the most abundantly available and desirable for custom carpentry and millwork. And, while both types offer the same strength, white oak and red oak have different types of applications, due to the unique qualities of the different types of wood.

White oak and red oak are both rated with a hardness level of 4 out of 5, but each wood differs in functional characteristics. White oak is the more preferable of the two, because of it’s natural water-resistant qualities. Also, white oak is thought to have superior aesthetic appeal, thanks to it’s pronounced visual grain structure.

Unlike white oak – red oak is not water-resistant and will soak up moisture like a sponge. Whereas white oak has natural pest and termite resistant properties, red oak does not. These differences in characteristics make white oak the preferable choice in outdoor applications, whereas, without a weather-resistant finish, red oak is best suited to indoor applications, like cabinets, siding, and doors.

Cherry Heartwood and Sapwood

Cherry wood features many desirable characteristics for millwork, casework, and carpentry applications of all types. The color of cherry wood differs, depending on whether you are using heartwood or sapwood. It is a very popular type of wood for furniture, as it is much easier to work with than that of oak. 

On a scale from 1 to 5, cherry is rated at a hardness level of 2, which is much easier to shape for intricate millwork. When it comes to color, the heartwood of cherry features a deep burgundy-brown, while the sapwood is much lighter – nearly a pale-white color. But, since cherry is easier to mill than oak, it is also more in-demand – which makes it more expensive. When it comes to your choice of hardwood, it all depends on what it’s for and what you like.

If you’re looking into custom cabinetry, closets, countertops, or millwork for your home it helps to know the basics before perusing the wood options available. To see what different types of wood are available to update the carpentry in your home or business, talk to a professional carpenter for a free consultation.