Softwood Tree Information: Learn About Softwood Characteristics


By: Teo Spengler

Some trees are softwood, some are hardwood. So exactly what are softwood trees? What is hardwood? Read on to learn about softwood characteristics as well as other softwood tree information.

What are Softwood Trees?

Softwood tree lumber is regularly used to build houses and boats, decks and stairwells. That means that softwood characteristics of trees do not include weakness. Rather, the classification of trees into softwood and hardwood is premised on a biological distinction.

Softwood tree information tells us that softwoods, also called gymnosperms, are needle-bearing trees, or conifers. Softwood tree species, including pines, cedar, and cypress, are usually evergreens. That means that they do not lose their needles in fall and go dormant for the winter.

So what is hardwood as a tree category? Hardwood trees, also called angiosperms, have broad leaves. They usually grow flowers and fruits and go through a period of dormancy in winter. Most hardwoods drop their leaves in autumn and regrow them the following spring. A few, like magnolia, are evergreen. Common hardwood trees include oaks, birch, poplar, and maples.

Softwood Tree Information

The botanical distinction between hardwood and softwood is reflected to some degree in the anatomy of the wood. Softwood tree species generally have softer wood than hardwood varieties.

Conifer wood contains only a few different cell types. The wood of hardwood trees has more cell types and less air spaces. Hardness can be said to be a function of the wood’s density, and hardwood trees are generally denser than softwood trees.

On the other hand, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, Southern pines are classified as softwoods and have softwood characteristics. However, they are denser than yellow poplar, which is a hardwood. For a dramatic example of a soft hardwood, think of balsa wood. It is so soft and light that it is used to construct model airplanes. However, it comes from a hardwood tree.

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3 Common Types of Softwood Lumber and Their Uses for Construction

If made to choose between softwood and hardwood, most home builders might consider softwood as the more economical choice, since softwood trees are abundant and grow faster than hardwoods. But each softwood tree produces lumber with different qualities, so you should be able to carefully distinguish which ones are good for your project. To help you in choosing the right wood for your construction project, here are three of the most common types of softwood lumber and what they are used for.


Whether you’re searching for cooking wood logs, smoking chunks or smoking chunks, you’ll probably discover that most cooking wood is made of hardwood trees. Popular varieties of hardwood cooking wood include oak, cherry, hickory and pecan. Unfortunately, some people unknowingly use softwood cooking wood, believing it offers the same flavor and performance as hardwood cooking wood. While certain types of softwood can be used to grill or smoke foods, hardwood is typically a better choice for the following reasons.


Softwood is wood from gymnosperm trees such as pines and spruces. Softwoods are not necessarily softer than hardwoods. [1] In both groups there is an enormous variation in actual wood hardness, the range of density in hardwoods completely including that of softwoods. Some hardwoods (e.g. balsa) are softer than most softwoods, while the hardest hardwoods are much harder than any softwood. The woods of longleaf pine, Douglas fir, and yew are much harder in the mechanical sense than several hardwoods.

Softwoods are generally most used by the construction industry and are also used to produce paper pulp, and card products. [2] In many of these applications, there is a constant need for density and thickness monitoring and gamma-ray sensors have shown good performance in this case. [3]

Certain species of softwood are more resistant to insect attack from woodworm, as certain insects prefer damp hardwood.

  • Douglas fir - joinery, doors and heavy construction
  • Eastern white pine - furniture
  • European spruce - used throughout construction, panelling and cladding
  • Larch - used for cladding and boats
  • Lodgepole pine - roofing, flooring and in making chipboard and particle board[4]
  • Parana pine - stair treads and joinery
  • Scots pine - construction industry, mostly for interior work
  • Sitka spruce - [5]
  • Southern yellow pine - joinery, flooring and decking
  • Western hemlock - doors, joinery and furniture
  • Western red cedar (or red cedar) - furniture, decking, cladding, and roof shingles
  • Yew - interior and exterior furniture e.g. chairs, gate posts and wood turning

Softwood is the source of about 80% of the world's production of timber, [6] with traditional centres of production being the Baltic region (including Scandinavia and Russia), North America and China. Softwood is typically used in construction as structural carcassing timber, as well as finishing timber.



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