Softwoods might not be as coveted as hardwood, but they do have their purpose. Due to the fast growing nature of softwoods they are always more affordable than hardwoods. They may be less dense, but they are lightweight and flexible. They are easier to work with than hardwoods due their low Janka ratings. Due to sustainability and cost they are mainly used in construction framing, window framing, interior mouldings, and more. Below is a list of common types of softwoods in order from softest to hardest.
White Cedar comes in at the bottom with the lowest Janka rating of 320 lbf. It is also one of the least dense woods. It is rot resistant which makes it great for roofing, outdoor furniture, and fencing.
Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar is native to NorthWestern United States and is commonly used in home exteriors. Rot and decay resistant, many people use it for siding and roof shingles. It’s Janka rating is 350 lbf making it easy to scratch and dent.
This giant species of pine also grows throughout the Pacific Northwest. It is known for maintaining its size even when exposed to different humidity levels and temperatures. Sugar Pines are typically used in millwork and wood stencils. It’s Janka rating is 380 lbf.
White Pine may have a low Janka rating of 380 lbf but it has an incredibly high strength to hardness ratio. It is not very rot resistant so it is better for indoor projects. It cuts easily and is easy to handle for power and hand tools.
Redwood has a beautiful deep red coloring and curly grain. It’s a highly sought after softwood with a Janka rating of only 420 lbf. It is also rot resistant and it great for outdoor decking, furniture and fencing.
Next up is the Ponderosa Pine with a Janka rating of 460 lbf. It is easy to work with, has a beautiful finish and is inexpensive. These characteristics make it extremely popular for doors, cabinets, and wood trim.
Sitka has a great weight to strength ratio; however it has several cons. It does not take stains well and is hard to work with. It is a very knotty wood which dulls blades quickly. The Janka hardness rating is 510 lbf.
Though it has a Janka hardness rating of 510 lbf, Cypress wood has decent strength. Its other name is bald cypress and it has rot resistance as well, making it great for outdoor furniture and construction.
Hemlock is a dying species, that, along with several other factors, make it unpopular to work with. It is not very rot resistant and is hard to work with. Typically it is used for plywood and pallets. The Janka hardness rating is 540 lbf.
Douglas fir has a Janka rating of 710 lbf making it one of the harder softwoods. It’s commonly used in buildings and trestles due to its ability to bend, rot resistance, and hardness rating.
Coming in at eleventh on our list is the Yellow Pine. It has the highest bending and compression strength on this list of softwoods. It also has a high strength to weight ratio. These factors make it great for joists and trusses. Its Janka rating is 870 lbf.
Red Cedar, also known as aromatic cedar, has a strong smell that repels termites and moths. It has a Janka rating of 900 lbf making it the hardest softwood. Red Cedar can be knotty and vary in sizes which makes it not ideal to work with. Because of its density and bug resistance people like to use it for building decks and closets.
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