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Hardwood vs Softwood

by Francesca Coleman Carr

When purchasing timber windows, deciding what material to go for can be a difficult decision. A question we often get at Sash Windows London is whether to go for hardwood or softwood.

Timber is one of the oldest materials used for building, and timber in the 21st century is advanced to a level of high performance and efficiency. The term ‘timber’ groups together many different materials, which are categorised into hardwoods or softwoods. However, without knowing the meaning of this, it can be misleading.

You might have heard the terms softwood and hardwood but you might not know the differences and what type to go for. Generally speaking, hardwoods are more durable and softwoods more workable. But some softwoods can be very sturdy and some hardwoods can be very light.

The Uses of Hardwood and Softwood

Generally speaking, hardwoods and softwoods are used for the same purposes, but normally softwoods are less expensive and easier to work with. Because of this fact, softwoods make up about 80% of the timber used in the world, which might be surprising as hardwoods are more common.

Softwoods are often used for windows and doors, as well as furniture and paper.

Examples of softwoods are redwood, pine, cedar, juniper, and yew.

Softwoods grow quicker than hardwoods, whereas hardwoods grow slower and are denser.

Hardwoods are typically used for decks, floors and other types of construction that will last a long time. Examples of hardwoods are beech, mahogany, maple, oak, meranti, and walnut. Hardwoods are typically more expensive than softwood.

There are exceptions to the rule that hardwoods are harder and more durable – for example, balsa wood, which is a hardwood, is more commonly used for lightweight models – and red cedar softwood is as stable and durable as many hardwoods.

Hardwoods tend to be darker in colour than softwoods and have different types of vegetation; hardwoods normally have broad leaves while softwoods tend to have needles and cones.

Here at Sash Windows London we use Engineered Redwood as our softwood option and Red Grandis for our hardwood option.

From a sustainability perspective

The fact that there are limited areas of forestry and as well as the fact that trees that grow in the UK tend to be poorer in quality than wood from colder climates, results in us as a country importing most of our timber.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly more important in where we source our timber, both for us and our customers. Anyone importing timber into the EU has regulations for sustainability, and additionally, we have FSC certification which requires sustainability in the forests where the timber is produced.

As mentioned earlier, softwood is the more common form of timber used. This is due to the fact that they are cheaper to grow as they have a much higher growth rate.

One measure of sustainability is the carbon footprint, which means the net output of CO2 during production and use of the products. The fact that softwoods grow quicker means they don’t use up as much CO2 and also use less energy being transported into the UK, giving them a lower carbon footprint than hardwoods. If you’re looking for a more sustainable timber softwood would be the way to go.

Here at Sash Windows London we believe environmentally-friendly timber is the future.

Conclusion

What would we recommend? To this there’s no black and white answer.

Hardwoods are more durable, can last longer and look great if you are selecting a stained product, but are less easy to work with and less ecological. Our Engineered Redwood option has a high level of performance, is more sustainable and offers great value for your money.

The choice to go for softwood or hardwood is individual and completely yours, we offer the same warranties on both products.
We specialise in bespoke windows and doors and are here to help you every step of the way from initial quote to installation day. In our bright showroom in Clapham Junction we have a wide range of our products available for view, our opening hours can be found on our Contact us page.

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