Hardwood Vs. Softwood: Understanding the Difference

As a leader in the forest products industry, the experts at AIFP know a thing or two about hardwoods and softwoods. In today’s blog, we discuss the difference between hardwoods and softwoods and highlight some of the perks of softwood lumber.

Hardwood Vs. Softwood

The difference between hardwood and softwood has less to do with the consistency of the wood and more to do with the type of tree that produces the wood. While hardwood is typically denser, it’s defined by its source: deciduous trees, which lose their leaves annually. Softwoods, on the other hand, come from evergreen trees with needles and cones.

Examples of Hardwoods & Softwoods

Some popular hardwoods include hickory, mahogany, maple, oak, and walnut. Popular softwoods include cedar, Douglas fir, pine, and spruce.

What is Hardwood Lumber Used For?

Generally speaking, hardwoods and softwoods can be used in the same type of applications, depending on the specific density of the wood type. Because hardwood trees take longer to grow and mature, hardwood lumber tends to be more expensive than softwood lumber and harder to work with, so it tends to be used for smaller projects like furniture construction, fine woodworking, flooring, and cabinetry.

What is Softwood Lumber Used For?

Softwood grows much faster and makes up much of the world’s timber, so it tends to be more affordable than hardwood. Softwood lumber is used for residential and commercial construction, decking, fencing, siding, furniture, and plenty of other construction and manufacturing applications.

The Perks of Softwoods

At AIFP, we trade a wide range of softwoods, including cedar, spruce-pine-fir, and Southern yellow pine. Softwoods have some essential benefits that make them a great option for a wide range of construction and manufacturing projects.


Because of their composition and density, softwoods tend to be easier to work with than hardwoods. While they have a softer surface that is flexible and versatile, it doesn’t tend to compromise its strength and durability. Not only are softwoods lightweight, but they have a smooth texture that’s easy to cut and holds nails and fasteners particularly well. They also easily absorb finishes like varnish, urethane, paint, and oil for added beauty and protection.


Softwood trees have a very fast growth rate compared to hardwood trees, and they’re easily regrown, making them a more sustainable option. In fact, softwoods make up roughly 80% of all timber, making it an abundant option for construction and manufacturing.


Not only do softwoods trees grow abundantly, but they’re easy to source, quick to regrow, and they have a very short market life, making softwood lumber much more affordable than hardwood lumber.

Other Benefits

While softwoods in general have some overarching qualities that make them appealing, specific types of softwoods have different perks. Cedar, for example, contains natural oils that deter insect attacks and prevent warping, rotting, and shrinking, making it a good choice for outdoor applications like fencing, decking, and siding. Alternatively, Southern yellow pine has a unique cellular structure that makes it a preferred species for pressure treatment, which can protect lumber against the elements.

Where to Buy Softwoods?

At AIFP, we leverage our strong relationships with mills and suppliers to deliver the best softwood lumber at the best prices. We’re experts in the lumber industry, where we focus our trading on softwoods like Southern yellow pine, spruce-pine-fir (SPF), and cedar wood, as well as plywood, industrial products, and steel products. Contact us today for a truck load or rail car quantity of lumber. In the meantime, check out our lumber blog, where we cover everything from what you need to know about cedar fencing to why you should apply to the AIFP trader training program.

Jump Start Your Career

Up for the challenge? We'll give you the tools to excel. AIFP is continually growing. We recruit new traders year-round.