Wood Types

Some common wood types found in the USA

Softwoods

Softwoods are coniferous—they produce cones. They are evergreen and often resistant to decay as they produce a resin known as tannin. It is this resin that gives them their unique scent.

Pine

Pine is a workhorse of North American lumbers and is quite common. Among the various types they share some common characteristics. It is a moderate wood—moderately heavy, hard, strong and resistant to decay. Pine is frequently used as a building material and is often used in framing.

Eastern White Pine

Grows in New England, around the Great Lakes and as far south as South Carolina. The wood is light, straight grained, easily worked but not very strong. This particular wood is popular in cabinet making and interior applications.

Short Leaf Pine

Moderately heavy, strong and hard. Shortleaf Pine grows from Virginia to as far as eastern Texas. This “Southern Pine” is common in structural construction work as well as interior finishing. Shortleaf is also used in recycled materials such as plywood.

Longleaf Pine

A yellow, resinous wood, once abundant in the same states as shortleaf but closer to the coasts and farther south into Florida. The areas where this species used to grow have been replaced with faster growing varieties such as Loblolly, leaving reclaimed Longleaf the only real source. Boards were originally cut in wide dimensions of up to a meter, which makes reclaimed planks of Longleaf highly desirable for flooring.

Eastern Hemlock

Grows around the Great Lakes, New England and as far as Virginia, Hemlock is light, soft and brittle. Was used for rough and structural construction work.

Spruces

Spruces are light, soft and not generally very strong. Spruces are sometimes used for lumber but often as pulpwood. Cedar is a more common spruce lumber and protects many houses across North America as shingles, due to its resistance to decay.

White Spruce

Grown around New England and the Great Lakes, White Spruce is used as pulpwood, interior trim and sometimes as parts in cabinet making.

Northern White Cedar

Again found in New England and around the Great Lakes, this tree produces a wood that is light, soft, durable, brittle, coarse-grained and fragrant. It holds up well outdoors and is popular for use as posts, rails and shingles.

Atlantic White Cedar

This tree grows in coastal areas only, from Maine to North Carolina and in parts of Western Florida. The wood is light and not very strong though. Like Northern White Cedar, is well suited to the outdoors and is popularly used for shingles.

Eastern Red Cedar

This type of tree grows all over the eastern United States. Eastern Red Cedar grows slowly and is extremely dense. The wood is pinkish to brown and fine grained. It is also resistant to decay which makes it popular for outdoor use. The aroma repels moths, which also make it a popular wood for the making of drawers, wardrobes and chests.

Hardwoods

Hardwoods are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves or fruit. They produce flowers or fruits as opposed to cones. In the tropics, however, they are often evergreen and do not shed their leaves.They have broad leaves and tend to be odorless. Therefore, they are not very resistant to decay. They are popular as flooring and in furniture making.

Beech

American Beech grows all over the eastern USA, from Maine to Florida and as far west as Alabama and the Midwest. It produces a strong and heavy wood which is shock resistant and also easy to bend when steamed. It is also quite durable. Beech is difficult to work with hand tools and is prone to splitting when nailing. Beech’s heavy weight makes it readily distinguishable from most other hardwoods. It is light in color with conspicuous rays. Beech is commonly used in cabinet making and as flooring.

Reclaimed Maple

Maple grows all over the eastern United States and Canada. Maple wood is typically heavy, strong, stiff, mostly straight grained and has a high resistance to shock, though it is prone to shrinkage in change of seasons.  Popular as flooring, Maple is also often used in bowling alleys and dance floors.

Reclaimed White Ash

Found in the North and North Eastern United States, from Minnesota to Maine, White Ash is heavy, hard and strong. Yet, it has a low resistance to decay. If you have an old gardening fork or spade, chances are the handle is made from Ash. Ash bends well and is used in furniture making, especially in the curved parts of chairs.

Reclaimed Walnut

Walnut grows slightly inland from the coasts but grows everywhere in between. Like the hardwoods mentioned above, it is hard, strong and durable. Walnut is easy to work with—it stains well and works easily with hand tools. The heartwood is chocolate brown or darker, sometimes with purple streaks. Walnut is used for fine furniture making and interior finishes.

Hickory

Hickory grows all over the Eastern United States. Hickory is hard, strong, heavy and exceptionally shock resistant. Though some woods are harder, the combination of strength and shock resistance makes Hickory a truly unique and distinctive wood. Hickory is prone to considerable shrinkage and must be carefully treated to prevent this.

Oaks

There are numerous types of oak trees, though they are grouped as either red oaks or white oaks. The properties between the two groups are similar though the main difference is that red oaks are very porous and thus not used in cooperage, while white oak is the polar opposite – the only successful wood at tight cooperage. Oak is heavy, hard and shock resistant, though is prone to shrinkage with changes in seasons and, like many hardwoods, has a low decay resistance. Oak is most popularly used as flooring but is also used in cabinet making and boats.

Janka Scale

The Janka scale is a measure of a woods hardness. The scale measures the pounds force required to embed a 0.444″ steel ball half it’s diameter into the wood. The scale is often used as a factor to determine the suitability of a wood type for flooring. Though other things must be considered such as climate and thus shrinkage, traffic and aesthetic.

Species Janka Rating
Hemlock 500
Spruce 500
Cedar 580
Douglas Fir 660
Yellow Pine Short Leaf 690
Yellow Pine Long Leaf 890
Black Cherry 950
Teak 1000
Black Walnut 1010
Heart Pine 1225
Yellow Birch 1260
Red Oak, Northern 1290
American Beech 1300
Ash 1320
White Oak 1360
Hard Maple 1450
Hickory 1820
Jarrah 1910
Merbau 1925
Santos Mahogany 2200
Brazillian Cherry 2350
Brazillian Walnut (IPE) 3800