Types of wood and uses

Whether you're a home builder or a DIYer, it's vital to understand the types and applications of wood. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the key properties, applications, pros and cons of many different types of wood.

Wood is commonly categorized based on its properties, hardness, durability, and uses, and can be divided into:

Hardwood: Hardwoods usually come from deciduous trees, are denser and are usually more durable than softwoods.

Softwood: Softwood comes from coniferous trees and is less dense than hardwood.

Engineered Wood: Engineered wood is a material made from multiple layers of wood or wood chips that are glued or compressed.

Bamboo: Although not a traditional wood, bamboo has wood-like properties and is hard and durable.

The following is a description of some of the commonly used woods for each wood type:

1. Hardwood


This super popular hardwood is one of the most common woods in the United States. It comes in a variety of species, including Red Oak and White Oak. With a hard texture and pronounced grain, oak ranges in color from light to dark brown and has a natural beauty.

Applications: making flooring, boats, cabinets.


Hard and durable: excellent strength and durability to withstand daily wear and stress.
Attractive grain: rich and naturally beautiful grain, so it is often used in high-end furniture and decorative productions.
Easy to work with: oak is relatively easy to work with and can be used for a variety of shapes and carvings.
Moisture resistance: good resistance to moisture.


Heavy: can be difficult to handle and use.
Expensive: Quality oak tends to be more expensive.
Prone to shrinkage: shrinks in dry environments, so care needs to be taken with the moisture content and treatment of the wood during fabrication.
Susceptible to insects: may attract pests such as powder beetles.


Walnut, often referred to as Black Walnut is another popular hardwood that grows in the eastern United States. They produce a rich, chocolate-colored wood loved by woodworking enthusiasts and feature dark streaks and a rich grain.

Applications: high-end furniture, wood crafts, high-end hardwood flooring


Rich Color: Dark, elegant color adds warmth.
Good workability: black walnut is easy to work and carve, and can be easily crafted into a variety of shapes and designs
Fine-grained: can be polished to a high gloss finish.
Stable: not prone to warping and shrinking


Expensive: usually more expensive than other domestic hardwoods due to its regional and precious nature.
Possibly Allergenic: Some people may be allergic to the wood components in black walnut.
Slightly soft: Not as hard as other hardwoods.
Difficult to paint: Due to its high content of natural oils, it may affect the adhesion of paint and require special treatment.


Maple is a common hardwood widely distributed in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in North America. It has a hard texture and bright color.

Applications: flooring, musical instruments, and baseball bats


Hard and durable: maple has high hardness and density, good abrasion resistance, not easy to warp or crack.
Attractive: light color and uniform grain for a wide range of finishes.
Stable: resistant to warping and twisting.
Aesthetically pleasing: good decorative effect, suitable for a variety of design styles


Difficult to stain: even staining can be challenging.
Expensive: compared to some common softwoods such as pine, maple is more expensive and therefore more costly.
High drying requirements: maple is more sensitive to changes in humidity in the environment, so it needs to be dried well before use to ensure stability.
Easy to burn: tools may leave burn marks if not handled carefully.

2. Softwood


is a very aromatic wood that is insect and rot resistant. Cedar is known for its durability and beauty.

Applications: furniture making, outdoor building structures such as decks and patio furniture


Aromatic: has a pleasant and distinctive odor.
WEATHER RESISTANT: Suitable for outdoor use and resistant to rot.
Insect repellent: naturally repels moths and other insects.
Lightweight: easy to use and install.


Soft: easily scratched and dented.
Sensitive to moisture: can warp or twist.
Inconsistent color: darkens or changes over time.
Expensive: quality cedar is expensive.


Pine is one of the most popular trees in the United States. Its texture is very soft and very easy to work with. Some common varieties of pine include yellow pine, sugar pine, southern yellow pine and white pine.

Applications: building structures such as framing, siding, roof beams, etc., furniture making, wood crafts


Affordable: usually low in price, it is an affordable wood for large-scale use and low-cost projects.
Lightweight: easy to handle and use.
Versatile: suitable for a variety of applications and finishes.
Sustainable: usually from fast-growing species.


Prone to warping: Pine is prone to warping and cracking in humid environments, requiring extra protection and maintenance.
Difficulty in surface preparation: Uneven grain structure, may not be uniform enough for surface preparation and painting, requiring additional treatment.
Resin content: Sap may seep out and affect the finish.
Poor durability: low durability, susceptible to moisture, rot and insects.


3. Engineered Wood

Composite wood

It is a type of lumber consisting of multiple layers of thin wood planks bonded together by adhesives. These planks are laminated in interlocking directions to form a strong monolithic structure. Plywood is usually made of hardwood or softwood and can be manufactured with different adhesives and pressures as required.

Applications: flooring, wall panels, roof structures, partitions and other structural materials


Strength and Stability: High strength and stability, not easy to deform or crack.

Versatility: Different woods and glues can be selected as needed to meet the requirements of a particular project.

Affordability: Plywood is less expensive to produce than some solid wood materials.

Environmentally Friendly: Plywood can make full use of wood waste and substandard wood, which helps to reduce deforestation and waste of resources.


Susceptible to moisture: The glued portion of plywood can be affected by moisture, causing the plywood to warp or become damaged.

Difficult to Repair: Compared to solid wood, plywood is often difficult to repair when damaged, often requiring replacement of the entire panel.

Textured appearance: Because the outer layer of plywood is usually a thin sheet of wood, it does not have the same natural and textured appearance as solid wood.

Oriented Strand Board

Oriented Strand Board, commonly referred to as OSB, is an engineered wood product that is often used as an alternative to plywood. The wood is made using strips of wood arranged in a cross-hatched pattern combined with resin and subjected to a thermal heating process.

Applications: sheathing for floors, walls, roofs


Robust: Composed of wood particles and glues, it has good structural stability and compressive strength.
Inexpensive: Compared to some other wood products, OSB is relatively inexpensive to produce.
Smooth Surface: Because it is manufactured under high pressure, OSB often has a very smooth surface that is suitable for painting, veneering or decorative treatments.
Environmentally Sustainable: Manufactured from wood waste and renewable resources, it helps reduce deforestation and environmental pollution.


Susceptible to moisture deformation: It is easy to absorb water and swell and deform under humid environment, so you need to pay attention to moisture-proof treatment when using it.

Medium Density Fiberboard

Medium Density Fiberboard (often called MDF) is another engineered wood product, similar to HDF or High Density Fiberboard, but with a lower total density.

Applications: furniture, cabinets, doors, windows, flooring, wall panels, decorative panels, packaging boxes, etc.


Smooth Surface: The surface is very smooth and suitable for painting, coating and veneering, giving a high quality finish.
Strong and Durable: MDF has high compressive strength and durability due to the uniform mixing of fibers and binders and high pressure processing.
Easy to process: Easy to cut, drill, carve and saw, and can meet the processing needs of various complex shapes and sizes.
Environmentally sustainable: The wood fiber used is usually from waste wood and renewable resources, which helps to reduce wood waste and environmental pollution.


Water absorption and swelling: Very sensitive to moisture, easily absorb water and swell and warp.
Fragility: Relatively hard but also prone to surface breakage and edge wear, requiring careful handling to avoid damage.
Limited load-bearing capacity: Compared with some solid wood or metal materials, MDF has a relatively low load-bearing capacity and is not suitable for load-bearing structures.

4. Bamboo wood


Although bamboo is technically a grass rather than wood, it can be used to build many things due to the hardness and density of the plant's stem. Bamboo grows abundantly in tropical climates and there are many different species that vary greatly from region to region.

Applications: garden furniture, garden décor, fences and privacy screens


Environmentally sustainable: a fast-growing plant that grows more quickly than many wood species and is therefore highly renewable.

Hard and durable: it has excellent compressive and flexural strength.

Lightweight and portable: Bamboo has a lower density and is lighter than wood.

Antibacterial and Anti-corrosive: Has natural antibacterial and anticorrosive properties that prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.


Susceptible to humidity: Higher water content makes it susceptible to moisture expansion and deformation.

Limited growing conditions: Bamboo usually grows in specific climatic and soil conditions, so its cultivation is limited and may not be possible on a large scale in all areas.

Relatively high price: Bamboo products are usually relatively expensive due to the high costs involved in growing and processing.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Carpentry Work

Dust masks (including some of the best dust masks available on the market): Protect your lungs from wood chips, dust, and other airborne particles. Look for dust masks with a high filtration efficiency and comfortable fit to ensure optimal protection.

Safety glasses/goggles: Protect your eyes from wood chips, dust and impurities from cutting, drilling or sanding.

Hearing protection: Reduce noise from power tools such as saws and drills to prevent hearing damage.

Now that you've learned about the characteristics and applications of different woods, hopefully you'll have an easier time choosing the right wood for your woodworking project.

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