Three Different Types of Wood


When tackling a building project, you must use the proper materials to achieve the desired result. If you're going to be using wood, it's important to understand the different types of wood and what's best for your project.

Background Information

  • The type of wood you use for any given project will depend on several factors, including strength, hardness, grain characteristics, cost, stability, weight, color, durability and availability. Strength refers to how much stress the wood can tolerate; hardness refers to the difficulty in working with the wood. Beginniners will typically use soft wood since it's easier to work with, requires less tools and is readily available in stores.

Softwood Lumber

  • Wood is classified as soft if it comes from a cone-bearing tree or an evergreen. Some examples include pines, firs, spruces, cedars and redwoods. These types of wood are frequently used in the home construction industry for anything from outdoor projects to indoor furniture. There are two general grades for softwood lumber. "Select" grade is free from virtually all knots, while "Number Two" grade allows for small, tight knots.

Hardwood Lumber

  • Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, which shed their leaves annually. Some examples include oak, maple, cherry, birch, walnut, ash and poplar. Hardwood is more difficult to find in typical home centers or lumber yards, with the exception of red oak and poplar. Hardwood lumber is more resilient than softwood and less easily damaged. Working with hardwood requires extremely sharp tools, so it is often used by professionals rather than novice woodworkers.

Manufactured Panels

  • Manufactured wood products are commonly used in construction projects. Medium density fiberboard (MDF) and particle board are the two most common manufactured sheets. MDF is made of smaller particles so it has a smoother finish and is stronger than particle board. It is easy to work with, and its only disadvantage is that it is heavier than a comparable piece of real wood.

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