Is hardwood actually hard wood, and softwood really soft wood?  No, not really.  What actually puts softwood in the softwood category has little to do with wood density and everything to do with its leaves.  That’s right, it’s all in the leaf.  For example, Balsa wood, technically a “hardwood” is actually a softer material which can be cut easily with a sharp knife!  So, what is the difference between the two?  Softwood lumber comes from conifer trees, which means that their leaves are needle-shaped and remain green all year round, a.k.a. “evergreens”.  Pine, Red Western Cedar, Douglas Fir and Linden are examples of some of the more popular softwoods.  Hardwood, on the other hand, such as Balsa, comes from deciduous tress, which means they have a broad leaf and lose their leaves in autumn when the weather turns colder.  Besides Balsa, some other common hardwoods are Ash, Oak, Walnut, Birch, Chestnut, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Mahogany and Yellow Poplar.

Nowadays, softwood is used much more frequently than hardwood, and particularly in house construction, including outdoor components such as fences and decks. Softwood has also become more popular than hardwood for furniture, due to its lower cost.  Hardwoods, on the other hand, are much more expensive and tend to be found in trimmings and some furniture, and in flooring.  Check out the quick video tip above on how to select good lumber for your own home improvement projects.


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