What Is the Lightest Wood for Building?

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Light and durable woods make the best solution for construction.
Light and durable woods make the best solution for construction. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Various types of wood are used in the building and construction industry. Some types of wood are chosen because of their strength and durability. The weight of a wood can also factor into the decision to use a certain type of wood over another. This is especially true in the construction of homes and buildings with multiple stories where a strong, yet light, wood is needed for building upward without causing the structure below to collapse.

Wood Selection

The selection process often comes down to choosing the lightest wood with the greatest level of durability for the type of construction project being undertaken. Other considerations could affect your wood choice, however. For instance, some light, durable woods are more expensive or not as readily available in certain areas as other woods. The various factors should be weighed to make the appropriate selection.

Types

Redwood, cypress and cedar are the most commonly used lightweight, durable woods for building. Of these, redwood is generally considered to be the lightest and one of the most durable. However, it is not the most readily available, and it typically is more expensive than the other woods. The advantage of all three types is that they are rot-resistant and less prone to destruction by insects.

Other Choices

If you want to save money, pressure-treated wood such as pine and fir provide an economical choice. These woods tend to be extremely durable as well and are commonly used in various types of outdoor building projects. Pressure-treated lumber is usually not as light as redwood, cedar or cypress. Other choices include composite or recycled woods, but these typically are not as light either.

Balsa

Balsa wood occupies its own category, because it comes in various weights for various uses. Balsa wood is one of the lightest woods available, and its buoyancy makes it a natural choice for boats and ships. It is the lightest of the commercial woods, but it is not suitable for all projects. Balsa wood comes in weights from 4 to 20 pounds per square foot. The heavier versions of balsa are used for outdoor construction, whereas the lightest versions are often used for models and small-scale projects.

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