You may have heard reference to hardwood, softwood, or even engineered wood while shopping around for wood furniture. What’s the difference? Which type would better suite your lifestyle? What should you consider while prioritizing your investment? Let’s get familiar with some common terminology concerning wood crafted furniture.

Furniture is made of different woods that can be categorized as hard, soft, or engineered. What types of wood are prevalent in these three categories?



Hard wood is derived from both deciduous trees like oak, cherry and birch, and evergreen hardwoods including mahogany, teak and walnut. Deciduous trees that lose their leaves during winter grow in temperate climates while evergreens typically grow in tropical or subtropical areas. Their seeds grow inside fruits like acorns and they are broadleafed.

Oak is available in red and white varieties. It’s strong and stable with an attractive grain. The sapwood of cherry is white while the heartwood is reddish-brown. Cherry stains well, ages beautifully, and is easy to work with. Birch is available in yellow and white varieties. It typically doesn’t stain well and is more ideal for painted furniture. Mahogany has a reddish-brown to deep red tint with a straight grain and is easy to stain. Teak is a beautiful, golden-brown hardwood and is highly resistant to weather conditions. While the sapwood of walnut can be pale, the heartwood is a deep, chocolate brown, and it finishes and stains well.


Most woodworkers love to work with hardwoods. The array of colors, textures and grain patterns makes for some truly unique furniture.



Coniferous trees like pine, fir, cedar and redwood produce soft woods. These trees typically grown in cold climates. They have needle-like leaves and their seeds grow in cones. Softwoods are normally yellowish or reddish in color. They also grow relatively fast and straight, and are easier to work with than hardwoods.

There are many varieties of pine and it is comparatively easy to carve and stain. Fir has a fairly indistinct straight grain and so is ideal for painted furniture. Cedar is an aromatic wood that endures moist environments and is ideal for outdoor furniture as is redwood.

Engineered Hardwood

Plywood and particleboard are the two kinds of composite wood, or engineered wood. Plywood is made of several slices of wood glued together under high pressure. After lumber is milled, the remaining wood chips and fibers are glued together under heat and pressure to form particleboard. Engineered wood products are versatile and are designed to optimize the strength and characteristics of wood.

Veneer is used in woodworking and is composed of thinly sliced wood glued onto a base panel. The veneer process has been around for centuries. Typically higher quality wood is layered over a more affordable wood and allows for decorative patterns.

large collection of wood textures

Consider your wood source when evaluating what type of furniture is ideal for your lifestyle. Furniture made from hardwood is generally considered to be high quality as it’s durable and ages well. Softwood can also produce quality furniture, but it may be easier to scuff and scratch.  Softwood trees grow comparatively quickly to hardwood trees, so the softwood products are also typically less expensive.  Oak, Cherry and Maple are some popular woods harvested from sustainably grown forests. More Eco Conscious consumers may want to consider investing in furniture made from sustainable wood.

Our sales team at Zak’s Furniture is available during regular store hours or via telephone at 423-282-4951 to assist you in selecting quality wood furniture that will best accommodate your lifestyle.

Written by zaksfacts