How to Choose the Right Timber for your Project

There are three main types of timber that are stocked at Leominster Building Supplies, which are softwood timber, studwork timber, and hardwood timber. In this article we’ll take you through their key differences and what projects they are best suited for.

Most people assume that the difference between hardwood and softwood is that hardwood is hard and softwood is soft… However, this isn’t always necessarily the case. The classification of hardwood and softwood is actually referring to the seeds of the trees. Softwood is produced by coniferous trees – typically evergreens – where the seeds are protected by cones. Hardwood seeds are usually inside a protective casing such as a nut or piece of fruit.

Now that interesting ‘seed’ of knowledge is out the way, let’s look at the key differences in the woods themselves and what this means for your projects.

Softwood timber

Softwood timbers are often light in weight and in colour, and are usually softer than hardwoods with some exceptions. They’re cheaper than hardwoods, making them a great choice when a lot of material is needed.

Softwoods are better suited for indoor projects, as they’re an open-grain wood with a higher sap content. Their open grain means they’re susceptible to rot and moisture damage. When exposed to the elements, the wood can split and distort. Pine, larch and spruce are commonly used for fencing, as they are more durable than other types of softwoods.

Their higher sap content means they’re less suitable for oiling and staining, as the sap interacts with the stain and creates a blotchy effect. However, they’re perfect with paint – a thick coat of paint will look great on softwood, making it a great choice for home renovations or indoor furniture. Often furniture will be made out of softwood, and then covered with a hardwood finish.

Due to the wood’s porous nature, when beginning an indoor project it’s best to allow the wood to sit for a few days to acclimatise to the temperature and humidity of the area the wood will be placed. This allows the wood time to settle before starting your project, otherwise it can warp or bend afterwards, leading to further measurements or cutting/sanding.

Softwood is great for:

  • Building furniture
  • Home renovations
  • Indoor construction
  • Covered roofing structures
  • Low-traffic flooring

Common types of softwood:

  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Fir
  • Spruce
  • Larch
  • Yew

Studwork timber

Studwork timber is a type of softwood that is suitable for indoor construction, structural framing, studwork, partitions and more. As it is a softwood, it is usually inexpensive and light in weight – perfect when you need a lot of material for a big project.

It is a strong, structural timber which makes it perfect for load-bearing walls. It can also be used for non load-bearing partition walls used to separate spaces. It can also be pressure treated, which increases its resistance to rot, meaning it can be used outside once treated. The timber usually has rounded edges to make it easier to handle.

Studwork timber is great for:

  • Structural framing
  • Studwork
  • Load-bearing walls
  • Partitions

Hardwood timber

Hardwood timber comes from deciduous trees which grow slower than coniferous trees, making them more expensive. There are hundreds of species to choose from, but the most common are oak, beech, ash, mahogany, and walnut. These names are familiar, especially when you have browsed sets of furniture. High-end furniture is made from these hardwoods, however less expensive ranges are available which are made from softwoods and different types of sheet materials and then coated with a hardwood finish.

Hardwood is heavy in weight with a close grain, which means it has a good level of fire resistance and high strength. Aside from furniture, hardwoods are usually used for heavy-duty flooring, due to its durable nature. It can also be used outdoors where it can be treated with oils and stains to lengthen the lifespan of the wood. High-resistant hardwoods for outdoor use include oak, walnut, and cedar.

Hardwood timber is great for:

  • High-end furniture
  • Heavy-duty or outdoor flooring
  • Cladding and panelling
  • Construction
  • Internal joinery

Common types of hardwood:

  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Maple
  • Beech
  • Mahogany
  • Walnut

Timber Merchants

Here at Leominster Building Supplies, we are expert timber merchants that stock high quality timber in all volumes and sizes to suit any project. If you’re starting a new project and are looking for advice or supplies, give us a call on 01568 613137 or fill out our online contact form.