The Ultimate Guide to Wood Types


Even as the modern furniture has evolved quite dramatically over the years, making way for the MDF, veneer and glass as popular furniture material, the wooden furniture pieces have still retained their popularity among the homeowners who look for durability and class.

Indeed, the wooden furniture offers a host of unique features including contemporary styling, wide variety, versatility, and durability.

However, the very choice of wooden furniture comes with some responsibility. Wooden furniture pieces can be delicate, expensive, and need proper maintenance for long life.

Therefore, it makes sense to learn a bit about the different types of wood and their inherent qualities. Before you choose that exquisite wood for your furniture, it pays to know the types of wood you can pick!

So, let’s take a look:

Broadly speaking, wood is divided into hardwood and soft wood.


Hardwood lumber comes from deciduous trees and is generally more expensive due to its durability and fine grain.

Some of the popular hardwood lumbers are:


Color: White to pale brown in color.

Hardness: 4 on a scale of 1-5

Grain: Straight grain

It is easier to work with ash wood because of its hardness plus it’s easier to apply stain on ash.It is used in making chairs, dining table, doors and flooring.


Color: Birch is available in two colors- white and yellow.

Hardness: 4 on a scale of 1-4

Grain: Curly grain, spread out far apart.

Birch is hard to stain and tends to get blotchy. It is, therefore advisable to paint the furniture made with Birch.It is generally used for making fine furniture.


Color: Cherry heartwood is reddish-brown and the sapwood is white in color.

Hardness: 2 on a scale of 1-5

Grain: Fine, straight grain ranging from reddish brown to blond.

Cherry is very popular and an overall great wood; easy to work with, stains and finishes well with just oil, and ages beautifully.It is often used for carved chairs, clean-lined Shaker-style tables and cabinets.


Color: Reddish-brown to deep-red tint.

Hardness: 2 on a scale of 1-5

Grain: Straight grain and medium texture.

One of the great furniture woods, it takes stain very well and looks great with just a coat of oil.


Color: Creamy white hardwood with a reddish tinge.
Hardness: 5 on a scale of 1-5

Grain: Fine, straight grain.

Maple is available in hard and soft variety, but both are harder than many other woods. It is quite often stained to look like mahogany or cherry. Maple is chosen for heavy-use items, like dressers and kitchen cabinets.


Color: Red and white

Hardness: 4 on a scale of 1-5

Grain: Swirling, water-like pattern and tiger-stripe pattern with yellow rays and flecks.

Oak is moisture resistant, therefore used in outdoor furniture and flooring. Staining on oak needs to be done skillfully.


Color: White with some green or brown streaks.

Hardness:1 on a scale of 1-5

Poplar is not a very beautiful wood, so it’s hardly used in fine furniture, but it’s a good choice for drawers where it won’t be seen. It takes paint better than stain.


Color: Golden-brown

Hardness: 3 on a scale of 1-5

Teak is beautiful, has an oily feel and is highly weather-resistant.Though it is becoming rarer and rarer, it is the staple for fine outdoor furniture.


Color: Rich chocolate brown (heartwood) and yellow (sapwood)

Hardness: 4 on a scale of 1-5

Grain: Straight grain

Walnut is typically clear-coated or oiled to bring out its color. It is used to make head-boards, ornate antique-style dining tables and mantels. Can be used for intricate carving, as accents and as inlays.


Softwoods come from coniferous trees and are generally less expensive. It’s also relatively easy to find sustainably grown softwoods (woods grown on farms to ensure an endless supply of wood).

Some of the popular softwood lumbers are:


Color: Reddish

Hardness: 1 on a scale of 1-4

Grain: straight grain

Western red cedar is relatively soft and has a slightly aromatic smell. Being moisture resistant, it is used for outdoor projects such as deck and patio furniture and building exteriors.


Color: reddish brown tint

Hardness: 4 on a scale of 1-4

Grain: Straight, pronounced grain

Douglas fir is most often used for building; however, it’s inexpensive but doesn’t take stain very well, so use it for furniture only if you intend to paint them.


Color: yellowish or whitish

It is often used in rural homes and for rustic feel and farmhouse style furniture. It stains rather quickly (seal the wood first) and takes paint well. Hence, it is ideal for kids’ furniture. However, being a softwood, it’s rather susceptible to scratches and dents.


Color: Reddish tint

Hardness:2 on a scale of 1-4

Grain:Straight grain

Redwood is mostly used for outdoor projects because of its resistance to moisture. Blend beautifully with stable; if you are using a beautiful grain pattern, use stable wood on the other parts of the furniture.

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  • Ellon Labana