Hardwood vs. Softwood

When thinking of the difference between hardwood and softwood, it seems like it should be a no-brainer. Hardwood is hard and softwood is soft. Right? Well, the truth is, that’s not entirely true. The difference has little to do with the density of the wood. Rather, it can be traced back to the way the tree reproduces.

Trees reproduce by producing seeds. Hardwood trees are angiosperms. This means they are trees that produce seeds with some sort of covering. An apple or acorn are some good examples of what these types of trees produce. Softwood trees, on the other hand, are gymnosperms. Their seeds have no covering. A pine tree is a prime example of a gymnosperm as it has seeds that grow in hard cones and are then released into the wind to spread over a wider area.

Now that we know a bit about the origin of softwood and hardwood, let’s look at how they play out in a practical sense.


Although the terms hardwood and softwood refer to the way trees reproduce and not the actual density of the wood, in general, most hardwoods are denser and sturdier. However, this is not always the case, for example, balsa is one of the lightest, least dense woods there is and it is still considered a hard wood.

But for the most part, the density that is found in hardwoods make them ideal for applications that require durability. Therefore, they are often found in high quality furniture, decks, flooring, construction and other applications that must be long lasting.  

Softwoods are often found in building components like windows and doors. They can also be found in paper products and fiber board.


Hardwood floors have a higher density than softwoods.


Hardwood is typically more expensive then softwood.


Hardwood trees have a slower growth rate than softwood trees.

Shedding of Leaves

Hardwood trees shed their leaves in the cooler weather while softwood trees maintain their leaves year-round. This makes softwood an obvious choice for Christmas trees.

Fire Resistance

Hardwood tends to be more fire resistant than softwood.

Examples of Hardwood and Softwood Trees

Some trees that fall into the hardwood category include the following:

  • Alder
  • Balsa
  • Beech
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Mahogany
  • Walnut
  • Teak

Here are some examples of softwood:

  • Cedar
  • Douglas Fir
  • Juniper
  • Pine
  • Redwood
  • Spruce
  • Yew

Now that you have a better understanding of the difference between hardwood and softwood, you can determine which types of wood will be right for your reclaimed wood projects. At Urban Wood Goods we are proud to make goods that are beautiful, unique, sustainable and made to withstand the test of time.