The Difference Between Hardwood and Softwood

hardwood lumber

When choosing window treatments and even home decor, you’ve likely wondered about the difference between hardwood and softwood. Is one version stronger than the other? Does it matter? Here’s a closer look at hardwood and softwood materials:

Hardwood vs. Softwood

When you think of the words hardwood and softwood, your first thought is probably that hardwood is heavier or more durable than softwood. While that’s certainly true in most cases, it isn’t always the case. In fact, many hardwoods are lightweight, while quite a few softwoods are heavy. So, why the name? The real difference between hardwoods and softwoods actually comes from the trees themselves. 

Hardwood Trees and Softwood Trees

Hardwood trees lose their leaves during the fall months, while softwood trees have needles or cones that they keep all year long. Hardwood trees (or deciduous trees) also produce seeds that have a covering, like acorns or apples. Softwood trees (or conifer trees) don’t have a covering over their seeds. 

Hardwood trees include familiar trees like maple, oak, and mahogany, as well as basswood and yellow poplar trees. Because softwoods grow faster than hardwood trees, it is true that these woods tend to be less dense than hardwood. Of course, there are certain woods that don’t fit this rule. Balsa wood, for instance, is a hardwood that is actually soft and light. Yew trees, meanwhile, are unusually heavy softwoods. Other softwoods that you know are pine, cedar, redwood, and spruce. 

Hardwood Is a Porous Material

There are other differences between hardwoods and softwoods, too. Hardwood is porous, while softwood is not. Pores are essentially vessels that are used for sap production within the tree. Interestingly, hardwood is often placed into categories based on its pores. For example, the hardwood from oak trees is ring-porous. This means that the pores suddenly transition from small to large, with the largest pores easily visible to a person. Other trees, meanwhile, are semi-porous(similar to ring-porous, but the transition from small to large isn’t as sudden) or diffuse porous (the pores are the same size). 

Some trees may also have other pore types, such as pores that are solitary, multiple, or wavy. A hardwood’s pores, combined with several other physical features of the tree, is what helps the tree be quickly identified. Since softwood trees don’t have pores, these trees can often be identified with help from their rings and stains. 

Hardwood or Softwood: Which Is Best for Building? 

Both hardwoods and softwoods have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their use as a building material. As a general rule, since hardwood does tend to be denser than softwood, it is routinely chosen for projects requiring compact strength, such as flooring and furniture. Softwood, meanwhile, is commonly selected for plywood and even making paper. 

The Advantages of Hardwood Window Treatments

Thanks to its natural beauty and durability, hardwood has long been a favorite material for homeowners. Hardwood window treatments are as sophisticated as they are long lasting and functional. Wooden plantation shutters, in particular, actually increase the resale value of a house. 

Hardwood is versatile not only when it comes to building projects, but also in terms of design. Wood blends easily with any room theme, decor, or color choice. At Shenandoah Shutters, you can choose a rich stain for your hardwood plantation shutters, or you can select shades of white, as well as custom colors. 

Trees for Plantation Shutters

The woodworking team at Shenandoah Shutters can handcraft plantation shutters from a hardwood of your choice, such as cherry or mahogany, or you can use our traditional choices. For stained plantation shutters, we use basswood, a lightweight hardwood that is gorgeously crafted for our homes. With basswood, because it is naturally uniform in color, the stain grows richer over time. For white plantation shutters, meanwhile, we prefer yellow poplar wood. Yellow poplar wood tends to be a natural blend of a variety of colors, which results in a particularly vibrant look once it is painted white. 

Many people choose to select a material that matches the moulding in their homes or their furniture pieces. Shenandoah Shutters can work with you to design plantation shutters that match your existing furnishings. 

The Benefits of Plantation Shutters for Your Home

Plantation shutters are an ideal window treatment. Unlike blinds or curtains, plantation shutters allow you to filter sunlight in and out of your home without sacrificing privacy. Using the tilt rod, you control the louvers (horizontal slats) of the plantation shutters to create just the right ambiance for every room. 

Hardwood plantation shutters, in particular, look beautiful in any room of the house. Even playrooms and children’s rooms benefit from plantation shutters, thanks to the lack of cords or dangling materials that could be dangerous for young children. Plantation shutters are also easy to maintain. You don’t have to worry about your plantation shutters wearing down, like fabric window treatments do. At Shenandoah Shutters, you don’t even have to adjust the tension, as we don’t use a tension system. 

Plantation shutters are energy-efficient, too, so your home will naturally be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer with these shutters. The result is often reduced heating and air bills. 

Plantation Shutters from Shenandoah Shutters

Shenandoah Shutters has been crafting custom made, hardwood plantation shutters in our Richmond, Virginia woodshop for decades. We serve Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C and offer both contemporary and traditional plantation shutter options. We have creative solutions for even the most difficult window needs.We have  our own, patented Softedge design that is ideal for casements and tilt-ins, as well as anyone who simply prefers a more modern look. With the Softedge, the hinges of the plantation shutters are concealed with the shutters are closed, giving your window a clean and harmonious appearance.

Shenandoah Shutters can install hardwood plantation shutters on windows of any size or shape. You can even have plantation shutters installed on your French or sliding glass door. 

Schedule an Appointment with Shenandoah Shutters

Have you recently purchased a new home? Are you hoping to upgrade your existing window treatment? Contact Shenandoah Shutters today!  Our design consultants will measure your windows and help you plan for the perfect plantation shutters.