At HINSON We are regularly asked what timber is better and what the differences are between hardwood and softwood.
People assume it is a definition of the woods density which is not always the case. The two distinctions are based on their botanical anatomy. All hardwoods have a cell structure containing four different types of cells. In comparison to softwoods that only have two, but unless you are looking very closely these differences are not easily noticed.
The main noticeable distinctions are that hardwood trees loose there leaves during the winter. Everyone has seen the beautiful colorings that the leaves can produce during the Autumn whilst softwood trees are still green and often used within the house to decorate during Christmas time.All hardwood produce seeds with a covering like an apple or a horse chestnut where as softwoods have pine cones with open seeds.
Softwoods are found mostly in the north of the northern hemisphere and can be grown very quickly on sustainable farms. This fast growth creates larger wider spread growth rings where as hardwoods are found mostly around the equator and southern hemisphere. Some species can be grown on sustainable farms but most are very slow growing making the growth rings tightly compact. Although this would suggest that the density is a key factor for either category,this is incorrect as many hardwoods are soft and non-durable such as balsa wood which is used for model airplanes.
Every species of hardwood and softwood (and there are a lot more hardwood species than softwoods) have there own properties. It is easy to assume that as the tree was grown in the open and in all the weather elements that every timber species will be fine as an external door or a window this is not the case. Once the tree is felled and the timber air dried or kiln dried the properties of the wood becomes more apparent. Hardwoods have a silica oil natural within and depending on the species some have more of this silica oils than others making timbers like teak perfect for external furniture with little to no protective coating on it where as Ash hardwood would perish in half the time. This is similar with softwood. All softwoods have sap throughout with some species having more than others. A softwood like scotch pine would be fine externally where as white wood pine with out a protective coating would not last long at all.
A list of the sustainable timbers that HINSON uses can be found here http://www.hinsoncustommade.co.uk/wood-types/