Lumber is available in 2 main categories, hardwood and softwood. Quite simply, hardwood is harvested from any deciduous (leaf bearing) tree. While softwood is from coniferous or needle producing trees. However a wood worker also needs to decide if an engineered wood product like plywood is better suited for job.
We will demystify these 3 classifications by taking a close look at 3 main choices a wood worker has to face when buying project wood.
Hardwood Looking at hardwoods first, it is important to remember that these classifications really have no bearing on true hardness of wood, not all hardwoods are "hard". Species like poplar are much softer then pine even though poplar is classified as a hardwood.
Some of more common domestic hardwoods include, oak, maple, birch and poplar although your choices certainly aren't limited to these four. For exotic species there are too many to list but teak, mahogany, rose wood and purple heart are just a few.
Softwood Softwoods on other hand include species like spruce, fir, pine and cedar and are often cheaper to buy then hardwoods. This is mainly because softwood trees grow taller and straighter than hardwood trees. This yields more lumber per log. Along with fact that most softwood is harvested domestically it is project wood of choice for most outdoor projects and for many indoor ones as well.
How do you choose project wood? There are a number of factors that need to be considered when deciding which wood to use for what project. There are no set rules stating what wood to use for an indoor or outdoor project. Basically characteristics of species will determine whether or not it will stand up to punishing conditions of outdoors or if it better used indoors.