Hardwoods vs. Softwoods

posted 5/31/2018 in Kreg Tool Tips: Wood Buying by Kreg Tool Company

Hardwoods vs. Softwoods

When you buy boards, you’ll find them broken into two categories: softwoods and hardwoods. These names can be a bit misleading because not all softwoods are soft or all hardwoods hard. Here are the differences you need to be aware of.

Softwood
Softwood boards are cut from the same species that you may find in the outdoor and construction lumber areas. In the case of “boards,” though, these boards have a better appearance. Home centers carry cedar and pine, and some may have “whitewood,” which can be any combination of spruce, pine, fir, and a few other species.

Softwoods are cut to standard thicknesses ranging from 1/4" to 3/4", widths from 11/2" to 1/2", and in standard lengths. To fully understand sizing, see Nominal vs. Actual Dimensions. Prices are stated per board.

Pine boards (and occasionally whitewood and cedar) are also divided into a couple of “grades:” Common and Select. Common boards have more defects, such as knots, and sell at a lower price than Select boards that have fewer defects.

Hardwood
Home centers commonly carry oak, maple, and poplar hardwood boards, while lumberyards and specialty wood dealers have additional choices. Hardwoods are “premium” boards, meaning you’ll pay a higher price. But, they also offer beauty and durability that makes them great for furniture, cabinetry, and more.

In home centers, hardwoods are cut to standard thicknesses ranging from 1/4" to 3/4", and in standard widths that range from 11/2" to 8" and even 10". To fully understand sizing, see Nominal vs. Actual Dimensions.