Types Of Wood For Construction (Complete Guide)

2022-11-14 09:35:06 By : Mr. eric Xiong

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When it comes to construction, wood isn’t just wood. Each type of wood has its use cases and value, with factors like climate and building size affecting the best choice for each situation. Here are some of the most common types of wood for construction and how builders use them. Melamine faced plywood

Types Of Wood For Construction (Complete Guide)

Pine is one of the most popular types of wood for construction. It’s both affordable and durable, with reliable stiffness and shock-resistant qualities. Pine has a pleasant, naturally light color that works well indoors, but it’s easy to stain to other colors. It doesn’t hold up as well in sunlight, but since it’s mainly an indoor wood, this isn’t much of a problem.

As a softwood, pine grows much faster than hardwoods. That makes it possible to create large, sustainable areas for growing pine, contributing to its affordability. 

Pine is an excellent material for furniture and frames. It’s easy to work into different shapes, and while it’s not quite as durable as hardwood, it’s better than most other softwoods. Pine is so easy to color that it’s easy to create a matching set in almost any home. Some people use it as a primary material for building cabins in cold areas, but that’s a rarer option.

Cedar is a hardy and durable softwood. In the United States, it’s available in several forms, including Western and Eastern red cedar and Northern white. It has a naturally pleasant look, so many people use a clear coat to maintain its color instead of staining it. Even better, cedar is naturally insect-repellent thanks to the oils inside it.

On top of those excellent qualities, cedar is sound-resistant and does well in damp environments that can rot other woods. As it’s both structural and decorative, there’s a lot to love here, especially since you can get it in several colors to meet specific design needs.

Cedar is a common choice for log siding, railways, and staircases. It can also be used for decorative trims, beams, and railings. Given that it’s a softwood, it works best in areas where you don’t need to use nails. Red cedar tends to be harder than other cedars, so it’s easy to cut to size.

Spruce is similar to pine, serving as a coniferous evergreen. It has a noticeable resin odor that many people enjoy, while its light body makes it ideal for areas where builders don’t expect too much stress. For context, a low-stress environment includes a person sitting on it, but not a heavy job like holding up a roof.

The wood is relatively good at resisting rot, especially if treated properly. It’s durable enough for use inside and outside homes, and some locations use it for framing and other crucial aspects of construction. However, it works just as well for furniture, windows, and other decorative areas. Its low cost helps with that, too.

Spruce comes in several notable varieties.

Spruce can be used almost anywhere in a house except places that require the most support. It’s somewhat straighter than pine, so some people use it for decorative areas like cabinets, trim, open beams, and molding. As well, spruce can work as fencing material, where it bends less than many other kinds of wood.

Ash is a light, smooth hardwood with a straight grain. It’s one of the more durable furniture options on the market thanks to being both light and generally shock-resistant. The pale look of ash gives it a finer and more upscale appearance than some other woods, and it’s often chosen by designers who want to make higher-quality furniture.

Outside of its typical uses, ash is utilized for tool handles and is sometimes acquired to match tables or other things inside their houses. No wood is impervious to damage, but ash is much more robust, so it does well in areas with a lot of traffic or impacts.

Ash is typically seen in furniture. People also use it for cabinets and flooring, which can go through far more bangs and impacts than wood in most other areas of a home. It absorbs stains relatively well, leading some to darken it to match other furniture.

Birch is a hardwood tree that typically grows in clusters of pale-barked designs. It’s one of the toughest materials on the Janka hardness scale, with a rating of about 1260. Despite that, birch trees aren’t big enough to create construction lumber, so a more typical technique is making durable plywood with it instead.

Plywood is usually a cheaper option in construction, but birch plywood breaks from the standard expectations by being tough enough to hold up to notable wear and tear.

Birch is routinely used for furniture as it offers a good balance between price and performance. It’s reasonably attractive and takes stains well, both of which make it a good option. It tends to be the most affordable option for solid wood cabinets, where its high strength means it holds screws and nails with no trouble.

Poplar is a hardwood that mainly sees interior use in construction. It has a straight grain and a broadly uniform texture, with a medium density that makes it a little heavier and sturdier than alternatives. The wood is primarily white, with some brown or green streaks running through it.

This wood is often found in smaller homes, sheds, and most interior areas. It holds paint, glue, and stains exceptionally well, so it’s commonly used for matching existing furniture. On top of that, it’s affordable, so you’ll see it in a wide range of applications.

Fir, more specifically the Douglas fir, is one of the best softwoods for construction. Douglas fir has the highest strength-to-weight and stiffness ratios of all North American hardwoods, which makes it a top choice for framing. You can see this wood not just in homes, but in commercial and industrial facilities and even bridges.

It is capable of holding up under earthquakes and relatively high winds. Firwood retains its size when it dries and is durable enough to resist decay better than most options. In addition, it’s coarser and usually requires high-quality power tools instead of hand tools.

Fir is an excellent option for framing and the central structure of a house as it’s the kind of wood to rely on where you need the most help. People also use it for furniture and cabinets, where its impressive strength resists damage. Finally, fir is a common choice for flooring as it can handle the impact of people walking over it.

Hemlock is a lightweight softwood that offers an excellent balance between strength and cost. It’s tougher than many hardwoods on the market, but since it’s widely available the prices stay down. Dry hemlock holds paint well, though it needs more aging than some other woods to reach this point.

This wood type typically weathers to a brownish-red color, which is noticeably nicer looking than the gray color others move toward.

Hemlock is a structural wood, meaning you can use it for framing and subfloor areas. Many use it for roofs and interior features like stairs. It’s ideal for any area that needs to support a lot of weight, traffic, or impacts, but it’s not as resistant to rot as others. That means it needs to stay in drier areas of a home.

Teak isn’t a well-known wood in North America, but it’s one of the highest-quality options if you can get ahold of it. Teak is naturally waterproof and holds up outstandingly well in wetter environments, including outdoor use. What’s more, teak is durable, with a pleasant aroma and natural resistance to decay.

Teak works well with flooring, furniture, and decorative areas. It doesn’t warp over time, and its aesthetic appearance makes it great for sitting on. Teak tends to be expensive, so most people prefer to use it for decorative areas instead of hiding it somewhere it might get overlooked.

Oak is one of the toughest and most reliable hardwoods on the market. While the trees are slow-growing, oak has a naturally impressive appearance, resistance to insect damage, and inherent longevity. If you’re looking for durability in a building, using oak for the core areas is typically the recommended option.

It works everywhere in a house, particularly in the framing and other structural elements. Moreover, as it can handle heavy loads in large structures, it’s often the best choice for central elements. Oak works for furniture, flooring, cabinets, and almost anything else you want. Still, it can be a little expensive, so be thoughtful in your application.

Maple is a hard domestic wood with excellent stiffness, density, and overall strength. Like other high-quality woods, it typically requires power tools instead of hand tools. Sugar maple has a Janka hardness of 1450. That beats out some types of oak, and that’s quality aside from making a delicious topping for pancakes and waffles.

It is widely available and relatively affordable but doesn’t stain as nicely as many other kinds of wood. Experts can use it to make thinner furniture, but it can be hard to manage unless you know what you’re doing.

Maple can be found in flooring and furniture, where its hardness holds up well. However, since it’s heavy and gets expensive if you buy it in bulk, many people hesitate to use it for structural elements. Indeed, it’s best as an indoor wood, as it’s not as resistant to rot as many other options.

Cherry is a comparatively durable hardwood. Although freshly cut wood can be pale, it quickly darkens to a striking reddish-brown color. It typically has a fine, straight grain and a smooth texture.

Since it’s easy to work and shape, cherry has diverse applications. Nevertheless, it can be somewhat difficult to stain, meaning many prefer to focus on its natural color.

Cherry is good for furniture, molding, doors, and floors. It’s easier to work with than oak or maple but not quite as strong as those woods. Cherry is also rarer than some other wood types. Although not truly expensive, it can be hard to get in larger quantities, so most people who buy this limit its use.

Walnut is a domestic hardwood with a rich brown color to it. It’s relatively forgiving in workability, with a high strength rating. Walnut is widely available in stores, so it’s easy to get for larger projects. Unfortunately, it’s expensive due to its popularity, so be prepared to pay a premium for walnut.

You’ll find walnut is frequently used to make cabinets, floors, and veneers. Thanks to its natural strength, walnut is used for higher-quality furniture, serving as a reliable support.

Beech is a finely-pored, pale wood with enough strength to serve in central load-bearing applications. It bends well when steamed, allowing for new designs, and beech is widely available in many areas. However, beech doesn’t resist weathering nearly as well as many other kinds of wood, so it needs to stay indoors or use a quality sealant.

It isn’t especially common in the US, but it’s usable for everything from structural elements to chairs and similar furniture. Beech can be effectively used as a core resource for plywood and other specialty products, where its natural qualities come to the forefront.

Mahogany is a tough wood with a dark, reddish-brown hue to it. Its natural appearance is so coveted that many stains try to mimic the look with other wood. Mahogany sees extensive use in commercial projects, where its aesthetic appeal serves as an indication of quality. It’s particularly popular in traffic-heavy areas, as it can hold up to decades of use.

It’s one of the most common woods used in furniture and flooring, which makes the most of its qualities. Several companies make plywood with it, which further enhances mahogany’s natural qualities and delivers more strength for load-bearing applications.

Mango wood is relatively rare as a type of wood for construction in the United States. Indeed, it’s mainly tropical and isn’t widely available unless you special-order it. It’s on the soft side for hardwood, though still durable, and it has a unique grain pattern featuring irregular dark spots. That can enhance its appeal in decorative areas.

As it has natural water resistance, mango is a reasonable choice for outdoor furniture. It’s also excellent for large furniture like beds because it’s tough and light. Some people use it for frames due to its visual impact or veneers to enhance appearance. Although technically usable as flooring, mango will wear out faster than most other hardwoods.

Sal wood is another little-known wood in America, as it’s more often seen in areas like Nepal and India. It starts light, though exposure to sunlight will slowly darken it to another color. Sal is impressively water-resistant and wards off pests like fungi and termites without difficulty.

While it isn’t as aesthetic as other options like teak, its impressive durability makes it popular for door frames, some support beams, and framing areas. It’s quite a bit heavier than some other options, though, so it needs good support. It doesn’t work well for exterior doors, though it does hold up well under the cold.

Sal wood is frequently used in construction and window framing elements. It’s excellent for moist areas of the house, where its natural resistance can stop water from moving through the wood.

Laminated veneer lumber is a composite material that shares many characteristics with larger structural timbers. It’s strong and uniform, with better resistance to warping, shrinking, and twisting than conventional lumber. This type offers outstanding support in framing, and since it’s made with wood that’s not ideal for traditional lumber, there’s a lot of supply.

Exact recipes for making LVL depend on the manufacturer. Still, a typical composition is about 96.54% wood, 2.43% of specific resins, and 0.03% additional filler material. 

Since it’s mainly a structural component, it sees a lot of uses in areas such as beams, rafters, and trusses. A few companies produce it in wall and floor panels, which are usually strong enough for load-bearing purposes. It’s quite fire-resistant, making it great for defensive areas intended to significantly slow the rate of fire spreading.

High-density fiberboard is an affordable composite material that mixes wood fibers with resin before compacting them under significant pressure. Reflecting that, high-density is the strongest and most durable option in the fiberboard family.

However, while moderately tough, fiberboard doesn’t have the structural strength necessary for any load-bearing areas. Moreover, it has poor moisture resistance, permanently swelling if it absorbs too much water. That makes it ill-suited for important parts of a home.

High-density fiberboard is a popular choice as a subfloor material. It offers a solid foundation for proper flooring, with minimal shifting when people walk over it. Some people also put a veneer on top of high-density fiberboard for flooring or use it for furniture and cabinets. As a low-cost material, high-density fiberboard appeals mainly to budget-focused buyers.

Medium-density fiberboard is similar to high-density fiberboard but has less wood by volume in a piece of the same size. MDF is about 82% wood fiber, with a hard and flat surface. Companies often put veneers on top of MDF, which gives it a great appearance while keeping costs down.

MDF works well for gluing, doweling, and laminating, but it doesn’t hold up quite as well in moisture. They also have some safety concerns with the formaldehyde unless you seal all sides of it.

MDF is mainly used indoors, where it’s possible to protect the wood from moisture and damage. Due to its flexibility, schools have utilized it and it also does well as a cabinet material. More unusually, some people install it with pipe organs as its specific density makes it an excellent choice for reflecting sound.

Plywood is a composite material with many thin layers of wood glued together. Layers get rotated 90 degrees to face in different directions, significantly increasing their strength and resistance to splitting. Higher-quality versions may have more rotations for each sheet, which further improves its quality.

Plywood is available in many forms and with different base materials, which affects its final quality. Companies don’t have a universal standard here, so it’s crucial to check the specific attributes of plywood before using it.

Read More: How to Waterproof Plywood (Do It Right The First Time)

Softer plywood may see use with roofing, floors, and walls in homes. Harder plywood can see use on floors for commercial and industrial areas. Plywood isn’t quite strong enough for core structural elements, but it does work for walls and covering many non-essential areas.

Plywood is available in larger, flatter boards than many other products, so it’s often used in areas that might be too big for other wood products.

Pressure-treated wood is an unusual product for specific areas in construction. The method of making it varies depending on the chemicals and purpose, but the result is wood carefully modified for outdoor use. That usually involves chemicals that help the wood resist both insects and rot.

Although originally made with arsenic, most companies use copper as the primary ingredient these days, which increased the price but made pressure-treated wood much safer to work with. Pressure-treated lumber tends to swell more than other woods, so it can throw off paint. It’s better to use a clear sealer or a stain instead.

Pressure-treated wood works well for decks, buried posts, and areas with contact with the ground. Many people also use this wood for playground structures, where pressure-treated wood’s resilience to pests helps keep the area free of problems.

Although generally water-resistant, pressure-treated wood is not ideal for marine applications.

Oriented strand boards are instantly recognizable thanks to the many pieces of wood matted together in an uneven pattern. Although it looks weak at first glance, OSB boards are better at holding loads than plywood. Several versions exist, with some more suitable in damp and outdoor environments.

Although affordable and functional enough to replace plywood in many areas, oriented strand board may have the worst visual appearance of any of the types of wood for construction. They’re difficult to paint because of the irregular surface, so most people use them as support for another building layer.

Oriented strand boards mainly see use as sheathing, providing resistance to the elements and a place to attach other materials. It sees use as a roof cover, floor underlayment, and in some I-joist areas. More rarely, people use it for furniture, but it’s not as popular there.

Bamboo is a surprisingly durable material, and it sees frequent use in Asian countries where it grows plentifully. Thanks to fiber orientation, bamboo has better tensile strength than steel, while the presence of water and silicate acid means it’s exceptionally fire-resistant. Bamboo is elastic enough to survive earthquakes while light enough to easily carry.

However, bamboo isn’t quite durable enough for structural support in most modern buildings. It also shrinks more than any other wood product, and it needs a little extra treatment to resist insects and fungi. These potential issues are manageable, but it does take some additional effort.

Bamboo is most popular for making walls, where it serves as an affordable and renewable material. There have been attempts to blend bamboo with plastic to create a stable, durable material. Beyond that, bamboo is particularly effective as scaffolding for making larger structures, which is a secondary use in construction.

Outside of direct construction, bamboo has been turned into furniture. It matches well with most Asian-style decorations, and bamboo furniture is light enough that even many older homeowners can easily lift and move it around.

Redwood is a relatively rare and expensive option that grows mainly along the western coast of the United States. It has impressive natural strength, making it suitable for indoor and outdoor use. Redwood has minimal resin, so it’s not very flammable, a fact that came to the forefront in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and the fires that followed it.

Despite its strength, redwood is much softer than many other kinds of wood, to the point it’s quite susceptible to scratches. That makes it a poor choice for anything people touch, though some still use it for furniture. More unusually, redwood has been known to cause allergic reactions in people.

Redwood is both an interior and an exterior wood, though it requires a lot of maintenance if it has any exposure to the elements. Its impressive resistance to fire is inherently appealing, and since it has no particular odor or taste, it’s been used to create wooden vessels for holding liquids.

Redwood is most common as a structural material near the forests where it grows. Too much further away and it becomes one of the most expensive options. Yet, it’s as strong as more widely-available materials like oak.

Acacia is a flexible and practical wood for many projects. It does well in structural roles like support beams but it does just as well for making furniture. More unusually, acacia is often the wood of choice for making wooden dowels, which help pieces of lumber fit together. Acacia is water-resistant and serves well indoors and outdoors, including as chairs and benches.

However, its most notable quality is its hardness. Acacia can hit up to 2300 on the Janka scale, which is significantly harder than the already-durable oka. As if that wasn’t impressive enough for such a hard wood, it grows in just two to three decades, making it one of the fastest-growing options on the market.

Unfortunately, quality acacia is expensive. It’s also quite challenging to work with because of its exceptional hardness, and it’s heavy enough that it’s best to limit it to areas with a lot of structural support.

Acacia does exceptionally well in furniture and flooring, where its outstanding hardness lets it hold up to even punishing home environments. Acacia is waterproof and doesn’t absorb moisture, so it’s much easier to clean than other flooring materials. Given its hardness, acacia has been used for support beams.

FSC Certified isn’t a type of wood. Instead, it’s a designation that a product meets the Forest Stewardship Council guidelines. The FSC’s fundamental guidelines focus on forestry and wood products that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable.

The primary goal of maintaining integrity with forest management is ensuring that wood and wood products remain perpetually available. Proper management can ensure that forests remain large and healthy without sacrificing humanity’s ability to use forests to improve people’s quality of life. Wood is integral to construction in the United States, and the FSC supports that.

The FSC-certified label can apply to any wood or forest-based product. That means it can be relevant for everything from the structural frame boards inside a house to flooring, furniture, and products like wooden plates. Almost any type of wood on this list can meet the qualifications for FSC certification.

There are many types of wood for construction, each with unique characteristics, applications, and benefits. Some woods are sturdy and well-suited to earthquake-prone areas; others are waterproof, making them ideal for flooring. While there isn’t one best wood, knowing more about each kind ensures you get a material that works for the project it’s being used for.

Chief Building Officer at Green Building Elements and joined us after successfully running the building design website InformeDesign and as a business owner and architect at Alexander Architecture, which served the New York City Metropolitan area. Prior to running his own firm, John was an architect at Gensler in Boston which is the largest architecture firm in the United States. John holds both a bachelors and masters degree in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design. John currently runs The 1 Percent program of Public Architecture. You can connect with John on LinkedIn.

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Types Of Wood For Construction (Complete Guide)

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