You’d be forgiven for having a look at the title of this article and having a little chuckle to yourself, thinking we’ve completely lost the plot! Surely softwood is soft and hardwood is hard, no? It can’t be much simpler than that, you might think. But no, the terms softwood and hardwood don’t refer to the density or hardness of the wood itself. These are terms that refer right back to the tree and how it reproduces itself.
Trees, without exception reproduce by producing seeds, but the seeds of different trees vary and it is this that lies at the heart of the difference between a soft and a hardwood. Trees that produce hardwood are known as angiosperms and produce seeds that are covered, either with a skin or a shell. Such seeds could be fruits or nuts. Softwoods on the other hand come from trees that are known as gymnosperms. The seeds of this type of tree have no covering althought they might fall to the ground in some form of protection eg. the hard cones of a pine tree, but are subsequently distributed by the wind over a broad area.
Another difference between angiosperms and gymnosperms are the fact that angiosperm trees shed their leaves in the winter months, which means that they belong to the deciduous family of trees and gymnosperms don’t, they remain green all year round. It is this that gives rise to their name, evergreens. This means that deciduous trees produce hardwoods and evergreens produce softwoods.
So is there any difference in density? There is some truth in the fact that evergreens are, in general less dense than deciduous trees, but there again, Balsa wood throws this argument to the sharks. Balsa wood, which is classified as a hardwood is one of the lightest, least dense woods you can find. So there you have it, there’s no density or weight requirement to be classified as a hardwood, it’s all to do with reproduction.
Here is a summary of the essential differences between soft and hardwood:
|Originates from||Deciduous trees||Evergreen trees|
|Examples||Oak, Teak, Mahogany||Pine, Spruce, Fir|
|Price||More expensive||Less expensive|
|Density||Typically harder (but not always)||Usually softer (but not always)|
|Colour||Generally dark||Almost always light|
|Structure||Lower sap||Higher sap|
What does this mean in flooring terms?
When it comes to wood flooring, there are two types: engineered and solid wood. Engineered wood flooring is made up of layers of ply that are bonded together to create a solid and stable core board, which is then topped off with a solid wood top layer or lamella. Solid wood flooring, as its name suggests is made up of solid planks of one species of wood.
Although pine flooring is reasonably common and popular because of its low cost, it is less resistant to wear and tear than the likes of oak. As you’ll have gathered from the introduction of this article, pine is a softwood and oak is hardwood. In most cases, wood flooring, irrespective of whether it is engineered or solid, is made from hardwood because it tends to be more resilient.
Hardwood flooring is an investment and in some people’s opinion will even add value to your home or make it easier to sell because it is such a popular flooring solution these days. When it comes to choice, the selection of hardwood flooring is growing almost on a daily basis. This means that no matter whether you are hoping to create a highly modern or traditional looking interior, there will be an option to suit your styling. Both dark and light coloured hardwood floors will add real charm and style to any style of interior as well as standing the test of time.
Easy to maintain and good-looking, hardwood flooring really is the way to go if you want to make an interior statement without breaking the bank. No matter whether you decide to fit your floor on a DIY basis or get the professionals in, you could have your new floor before you thought possible. Why not take a few minutes to browse our website right now?