Timber Varieties and Uses

Know your walnut from mahogany and your softwood out of the hardwood with our in-depth lumber types glossary that will take the confusion out of your next project.

Choosing the right timber for your home, whether you’re planning on building or furnishing your house, can be a tricky task — there are so many forms to pick from! In contrast to popular belief, not all timbers are created equal, so we’ve made this handy guide to several kinds of wood that will help you to find one that is right for you.

Whether you are after new timber flooring or aren’t sure which kind of timber to define for your new dining chairs, different kinds of wood will naturally have various types of qualities. Some timbers are harder, or softer, than many others, and the range of colours available across all kinds of wood are countless.

SOFTWOOD

In wide wood conditions, there are two different classes of woods — softwood and hardwood.

Softwood comes from coniferous species like cedar, fir and pine. They grow quickly and the timber is lighter, contains coarser grain and also is not quite as strong since most hardwoods.

While in general softwoods are thought to be poor to hardwoods for several purposes, they do have their place at the woodworking world for specific tasks — and since they grow quickly they’re very economical. In construction, they are generally employed for the framework of homes and areas such as lining boards and timber cladding.

HARDWOOD

Hardwoods, by comparison, are thick, strong and stable. They’re used predominantly for piers, floors, decking and in most timber furniture.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF TIMBER

Types of timber and what you need to know about them

CEDAR

The most frequent sort of cedar is western red. As this name implies, it is pink, red in color. It is comparatively soft but straight grained and is chiefly used for outdoors for furniture, deck handrails, wall cladding and window frames since it resists rotting in moist surroundings. Relatively inexpensive.

EUCALYPTUS

The most common species in Australia is eucalyptus. Within the species, there is a massive assortment of sub-species that have various different possessions, such as colour and grain patterns. Typical ones include Tasmanian Oak (cream), blackbutt (light brown), spotted gum (mid brown) and Jarrah (red). Costs differ from inexpensive to moderately expensive.

FIR

Often Known as Douglas Fir or Oregon, this reddish-brown wood is imported from North America. While rather soft, it’s straight grain and a high strength-to-weight ratio (moderate power, low weight) and is a popular option as a rafter material in Australia. Moderately inexpensive.

PINE

Pine comes in several forms, but the main ones located in Australia are Radiata, Cypress and Hoop pine. Radiata pine is a very common house-framing timber or as timber battens but it has low resistance to termites and decay unless chemically treated. Cypress pine is prized because of its anti-termite properties, making it a popular flooring material in Australia for decades. Hoop pine is used mainly for plywood. Inexpensive.

BIRCH

Birch comes in two varieties — white and yellow. Quite common in Russia and Nordic states, birch is a fairly hardwood used for furniture and plywood. It’s one of the most inexpensive hardwoods and can be used widely by Swedish giant Ikea and by Alvar Aalto’s Finish furniture company Artek.

MAHOGANY

Among those fantastic furniture woods, mahogany is reddish-brown-to-deep red in colour. While quite common in classic furniture, it isn’t common today as it is not sustainably grown. It’s a straight grain and is of medium hardness, so it is simple for joiners to work.

TEAK

Teak is a tropical wood native to Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh. There are lots of ethical reasons not to use teak unless it is either recycled or from farm resources. Used extensively on ships and also in outdoor furniture, teak has a somewhat waxy feel and a golden-brown colour. Slow-grown teak is most likely the ideal wood there is to resist rain and sunlight, but it is currently extremely costly.

WALNUT

An American hardwood, Walnut comes with an attractive rich brown colour and a gorgeous grain. Unfortunately, now fairly costly and generally only obtainable in rather narrow boards, it’s used extensively in furniture manufacturing, and as a veneered board for cabinetry and feature walls.

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