Softwood – The Ultimate Guide to Softwood Timber
What is Softwood?
Softwood is an organic product frequently used in the construction industry. It’s produced from gymnosperm trees and is renowned for being lightweight yet considerably strong and durable.
Approximately 80% of the world’s timber is softwood, making it a much more common type of wood than its counterpart, hardwood.
As the density and hardness of each wood specie ranges vastly, softwoods are not necessarily softer than hardwoods, despite what its name suggests – in fact, some softwoods are actually harder than certain hardwoods. However, the hardest hardwoods are much harder than any type of softwood.
Types of Softwood
There’s a wide range of softwood species out there, all of which have their own unique characteristics and properties. Here we’ve explained some of the most popular species in the UK –
Also known as Scots Pine, European Redwood is a softwood specie often utilised for both internal and external building works.
It is imported from Scandinavia and is usually light in colour, typically with a yellowish shade. It’s worth noting that the quality of European Redwood is largely impacted by the conditions it grows in, such as the climate, soil and elevation. These factors can affect the wood’s density, size, knots and texture, meaning that the appearance of European Redwood can vary quite drastically.
Larch (Siberian or UK)
Siberian Larch although recently downgraded to Moderately Durable (BS EN 350-1 ) is still favoured by architects all over the world, Larch is a material suited to exterior design, particularly timber cladding.
Whereas Siberian Larch tends to have a consistent creamy colour and a tight grain, UK Larch is very light brown with frequent dark knots. Siberian Larch is also grown at higher altitudes and for long winters, meaning that it is usually more durable than that of the UK.
Western Red Cedar (Canadian or UK)
Considered very highly for its durability and sturdiness, Canadian Western Red Cedar is another softwood specie popular in the UK.
It grows slowly and therefore shows off a beautiful warm colour with very uniform fine grains. Its adaptiveness makes it useful to work with and as it has a natural resistance to decay, it’s often the chosen material for cladding. However, it’s also sometimes used to create indoor furniture due to its attractive aroma.
This softwood specie is generally imported from Canada but British Western Red Cedar is now increasing in popularity due to higher costs. The British product contains more and larger knots than the Canadian Timber which does still create a clear different between the products.
Grown in the UK as well as Canada, Douglas Fir is a soft red-brown timber that has a tight, straight grain and few knots, used for both interior and exterior joinery applications, including cladding, façades, flooring and harbour work.
It is universally recognised for its excellent strength to weight ratio, boasting the highest strength rating of any softwood.
Advantages of Softwood
- Although not always the case, softwoods are generally cheaper to purchase than hardwood species as they’re easier to source.
- Softwoods are lighter than hardwoods, making them easier to transport.
- Softwoods are easier to work with and can be used across a variety of applications.
- As softwood trees grow much faster than hardwood trees, they’re sustainable and considered an incredibly renewable source.
What is Softwood Used For?
Softwood is a versatile building material that can be used to create a broad range of stunning features – below we’ve listed some of the most common uses –
- Structural Beams
Best Stain & Treatment for Softwood
Unfortunately, the majority of softwood species don’t wear too well over time, meaning that they need to be protected with an effective treatment in order to maintain their quality and beautiful appearance. There’s plenty of treatment processes and products that can help prevent your wood from deteriorating available, our most popular product is Koppers Microshades Brunnea Treatment.
Koppers Microshades Brunnea Treatment is a unique process that impregnates wood with a blend of preservatives and pigments. Not only does it provide invaluable protection against fungal decay, but it also enriches the wood’s colour over time.
Softwood Cladding with NORclad
If you’re wanting to find out more about utilising softwood to clad your property, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team here at NORclad today. We have over 40 years of experience in supplying high-quality timber materials, and are passionate about helping people get the most out of their timber cladding and façade solutions.
See more: How to Install Timber Cladding