Hardwood vs Softwood

If you’re planning to build your own timber frame home, you have a lot of decisions to make. Perhaps one of the most important decisions you need to make is choosing whether to use oak or softwood on your timber frame. Both have properties making them a desirable choice for specific aspects of your home. From green timbers to air-dried oak, there are a couple of considerations when choosing the right species of wood.

Cost

Hardwoods like oak are derived from slow-growing, broad-leafed trees. This tree type takes a much longer time to mature enough to be used for construction timbers. They may be slow to grow, but that also means they have greater density and strength when used as timber. Considering all those factors, they are harder to come by and may cost quite a lot. 

On the other hand, softwoods come from quick-growing conifers that make them easy to prepare and readily available. However, this also means that they have a noticeably less dense structure. All in all, softwoods are cheaper but easier to obtain, while hardwoods are significantly more expensive but have greater durability and can last far longer than softwoods.

Water Resistance

Due to oak’s dense structure and high tannin content, it is incredibly resistant to water absorption, which means they require no weatherproofing treatment. Oak is a perfect choice for exposed frames and outdoor buildings, especially air-dried oak. This is one of the reasons why oak has been used as a construction material for decades in areas with a damp climate, just like Britain. 

That’s not to say that softwoods aren’t up for outdoor applications. They can be used outdoors, but they need to be treated to withstand moisture and water damage. Weatherproofing treatment needs to be reapplied at regular intervals to ensure the wood retains its protection and prolongs its life. Despite that level of care, hardwoods still outlast softwoods in terms of service life.

Pest Resistance

Oak is widely known for its resistance to pest infestations and fungal attacks. Because of its moisture-resistant properties and high tannin content, oak becomes unappealing to many pests. While prolonged exposure to dampness can still damage oak, it’s quite a rare occurrence. On the other hand, softwoods can be treated with biocides to minimise damage from pests, but they are still quite susceptible to it.

Appearance

The prominent grain structures and honeyed colour of oak give it a very distinctive look that’s just perfect for a home’s interior. When used outdoors, it develops a silvered, weathered look that makes it blend well with the natural features around your house. Oak is truly the best option if you’re going for Tudor- or nature-inspired look for your home.

If you like a more modern look for your home and plan on painting or staining the interior woodwork, then softwoods may be a cheaper alternative since the wood itself would be hidden from plain sight. Softwoods don’t actually have a distinctive look, and they can blend well by putting in the right paint applications. You can significantly lower the cost while keeping the oak’s visual impact by using softwoods for the main structural frame and just accentuating it with oak cladding in certain areas.

Conclusion

Choosing the right timber frame for your home ultimately depends on your budget and the look you’re going for. Hardwoods like oak are still the number one choice because of their durability, longevity, and ability to resist moisture and infestations. Softwoods is a cheaper alternative that is more commonly used in construction projects. While softwoods will always be outperformed by their hardwood cousins, with proper care and maintenance, you can extend the life of your softwood timber frames.

If you’re looking for a reliable supplier of cut to size timber, trust only Timber 2U Direct. Order your timber pieces online, and we’ll deliver them straight to your doorstep. We are proud to be right at the heart of the supply chain serving producers, manufacturers, and customers. Shop now and order your wood online today!