Lumber is divided into two main categories, hardwood (from deciduous trees) and softwood (from coniferous trees). Hardwoods vary in durability, texture, ease of use, grain style, color, resistance to swelling, warping, and bending, and other criteria.
Depending on application, the scope of the project, and the cost constraints, you can choose what type of lumber will benefit your project most.
Types Hardwood Lumber by Species
Mahogany is highly resistant to decay and offers a finely textured closed grain. Mahogany is one of the softer hardwoods, making it much easier to work with than some others. Paneling is often made of mahogany. It can also be used for fine veneers and some types of furniture.
Birch is a lightly colored hardwood that is a good substitute for the more expensive maple in terms of appearance. Birch features a closed grain and is resistant to swelling and shrinking. Birch is a good choice for making doors, cabinets and cupboards.
Cherry is a closed-grained hardwood that darkens with age to become a very beautiful reddish-brown color. It is often used to make everything from expensive furniture to caskets. It should never be stained, but it can be varnished.
Teak is a hardwood that hails from Southeast Asia. While it is similar to rosewood due to its golden-brownish color, it lacks the black highlights. Teak is very expensive, so it is often used as a veneer to cover up less expensive, less attractive woods. Teak has an open grain with medium texture. Power tools or very sharp hand tools are needed to work with teak because it is very hard.
Maple is one of the traditional American hardwoods and has been used for furniture making since Colonial times. One species of maple, which is known as rock or hard maple, is denser than regular maple. Hard maple may be a good choice because of the added strength, but it is more difficult to work with. Many bowling alley floors and old-time dance hall floors are made of maple.
Oak is a very durable hardwood that features an open grain. The coarse grain can make oak very difficult to carve or shape, so it is best used for simple furniture designs. When you sink posts into the ground to build a fence, you are very likely working with oak.
Walnut is a dark hardwood that features a striking black and brown grain pattern. Although walnut is quite hard, it is easier to work with than similar hardwoods like maple or cherry. Staining is almost never an issue since it is already dark. Walnut is also a popular wood because it resists decay and is not subject to easy warping or swelling. Walnut can be used to make furniture and is very suitable for paneling.