Types of Wood for Furniture [3 Main Types]

If you are planning on buying wood furniture, it is important to understand the different types of wood. What are different types of wood for furniture?

The three general types of wood used for furniture are hardwood, softwood, and manufactured or engineered wood.

Hardwood furniture is the best looking and the most durable. Furniture made of softwood has its own unique qualities. Manufactured or engineered wood offers the best in workability and affordability.

The best wood to use to build furniture is hardwood. But it is getting more difficult to source hardwood. That is why the wood industry invented engineered wood to take up the slack.

However, like softwood furniture, manufactured or engineered woods are not as strong and durable as hardwood. 

Read on to learn more about the different types of wood for building furniture, their individual qualities, and the best woods for furniture.

Types of Wood for Furniture

types of wood for furniture

The three basic types of wood used in furniture building are hardwood, softwood, and manufactured or engineered wood.

Hardwoods are harder than softwood. Manufactured wood is made by processing and combining separate wood materials into wooden boards.

1. Hardwoods

Hardwoods are the hardest of the three types because their structure is more complex. The softwoods’ structure is not as complex, so they are relatively ‘softer.’ What differentiates hardwoods from softwoods is vessels or pores in the wood’s structure.

This type of wood is sourced from deciduous trees. The majority of these trees grow slowly.

2. Softwoods

Approximately 80% of the world’s timber production comes from softwoods. Most of these woods came from the Baltic region, such as Russia and Scandinavia, and other countries like China and North America.

Softwoods are less dense than hardwoods. They are used as finishing timber, structural carcassing timber, and furniture making. Softwoods are sourced from evergreen or coniferous trees, which grow faster than hardwoods.

3. Engineered Woods

These are human-made woods, which are also called manufactured woods. They are not solid woods but are composite of different kinds of woods combined to make wooden boards.

Manufactured woods were developed because of the shrinking natural wood source for building, construction, and furniture making. Engineered wood can reduce the overall cost of materials and optimize wood production.

Human-made woods are constructed from the by-products of timber, which can either be hardwoods or softwoods. MDF, a type of engineered wood, is constructed from recycled wood materials.

Plywood, another human-made wood, is made of several wood layers that are glued together to make wooden boards.

The best wood furniture is made of hardwoods. But they are also the most expensive since they last for a long time and are getting rarer. Softwoods come in next because they also have their own distinctive qualities.

The most affordable furniture is made of engineered wood. But depending on the style and quality, they can also look elegant and stylish.

Type of Hardwoods Used for Furniture

The best-looking furniture is made from hardwood. They should because their wood grains are unique, their colors are beautiful, and they can last very long due to their strong structures.

Here are some of the best hardwoods that are used in making furniture:

1. Beech

Beech is a hard, heavy, and strong wood with small pores and big conspicuous medullary rays. It is typically used to make frames and bent parts of wood structures. This wood has a relatively clean and smooth surface, making it ideal for furniture making.

Its quarter-sawn surface manifests a pattern that is silvery fleck, while its flat-sawn surface is usually plain. Beech also ages gracefully. Furniture made of beech will maintain its good looks even after many years – if given proper care and maintenance.

2. Oak

Oak is a type of wood for furniture that some DIYers prefer to use because of its strong and beautiful wood reputation. Its unique look and eye-catching wavy grain make it ideal for mission-style furniture and arts and crafts.

The look of its beautiful grains will be enhanced more if its surface is given a clear finish. If its surface is overly stained, it will acquire a two-toned finish.

3. Hickory

types of wood

Hickory is considered one of the hardest and heaviest of hardwoods. It has been a popular source for building flooring and furniture. If a builder requires a thin but strong structural part, they will most likely pick a Hickory wood piece. This wood is also often used as a decorative veneer.

4. White Ash 

Ashwood is heavy and hard. White Ash is a species that is the most commercially important and the largest among the 16 species of Ash tree. They are cultivated in the Eastern United States. The color of its surface is white to pale with straight grains.

On a hardness scale of 1 to 10, Ash is from 4 to 5. This wood is still easy to work with. It is often used for steam-bent furniture and structural frames.

This wood responds well with glues, stains, and steam bending. It also finishes well. Ash has the ability to provide good results in both machine and hand-made furniture.

5. Birch

Among the many species of Birch, the most commercially important is yellow Birch. It is also heavy and hardwood with close grains. This wood is a good choice for furniture building because of its strength and durability.

It has reddish or light brown heartwood with light or cream-colored sapwood. Solid hardwood Birch furniture also looks elegant and stylish.

6. Redwood

The best wood that you can get from Redwood is in its heartwood. This is the part of Redwood that is the most resistant to insects and moisture. It won’t easily deteriorate. Its basic color is red, as its name suggests.

Redwood furniture with burls on them is pretty expensive. These burls are characterized by a “cluster of eyes” that are quite rare, which is why they are precious.

7. Mahogany

Mahogany is also a good furniture source because it is wonderful but is not that expensive. This wood’s color can range from reddish-brown to deep red.

It has a medium texture and straight grain. On a scale of 10, its hardness is from 1 to 5. It also receives stains very well. With a coat of oil, its finish will look astonishing.

8. Walnut

Walnut is another hardwood that has straight grains. Its color ranges from yellow to brown. On a scale of 10, its hardness is from 1 to 5. This wood is also easy to work with. But its natural source is also shrinking. In furniture making, it is often used as inlays and accents to dress up furniture pieces.

Type of Softwoods Used for Furniture

Furniture made of softwoods is also good-looking and has its own distinctive qualities.

Here are four of the type of woods for furniture that is often used to make furniture:

1. Pine

Pine is a lightweight wood that can be whitish with brown knots or yellowish in color. It has its own beauty and is quite inexpensive. Furniture made of pine lends a rustic ambiance to a room.

This is the reason why it is mostly used in country-style homes. It is also typically used to make furniture sets with heritage themes.

After pine furniture is used for many years, it will develop a beautiful and rustic patina. This wood is also resistant to swelling and shrinking. Each piece of pine wood is unique because of the distinctive type of wood grains. Pine furniture will also easily blend with other types of furniture.

2. Fir

Firwood is also an excellent choice for furniture, especially the outdoor types. It is ideal for building ottomans, picnic tables, and outdoor chairs. This wood is not easily affected by moisture and the environment.

It does not easily warp out of shape or dry and shrinks. Fir is one of the hardest softwoods, so it can be used to make outdoor furniture pieces. It can retain its original size and shape after many years of use.

3. Spruce

Spruce wood is lightweight and is typically bright in color. But this color may change from yellowish-white to reddish-white after exposure to the environment. The deepest color that it can change into is yellowish-brown. Its surface is decorated with finely striped grains.

Knotholes on the wood can be seen sometimes. When planed, its surface will acquire a dull gloss.

Spruce wood is also strong and has a good load-bearing capacity to be used as construction timber. But it is not weather-resistant, so it can only be used indoor and not for outdoor furniture.

4. Bamboo

type of woods for furniture

Bamboo can be considered softwood furniture as it has been used to make beautiful and elegant furniture pieces and indoor construction accents such as walls, ceilings, and decorative arts.

It is well-known for its eco-friendly properties and its attractive blonde color. Bamboo is actually classified as grass, not a tree. When properly processed, its properties are compared with that of other softwoods used for furniture and construction purposes.

In fact, a study has been made about its tensile strength. It was found out that bamboo’s tensile strength is 3 times more than standard construction-grade natural wood. If you are environmentally conscious, bamboo is your ideal piece of furniture.

Again, the types of wood you can use to build furniture are:

  1. Hardwood
  2. Softwood
  3. Engineered Wood

As the name implies, hardwood is harder than softwood, while a manufactured wood is a product of processing and combining wood materials into boards.

Types of Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is also called manufactured wood since it was created not by nature but by man. A typical human-made wood is composed of two layers of wood materials.

The top layer is usually made of a thin veneer made of real wood, and the bottom layer is composed of wood composite. The composite is usually made of fiber wood particles.

Plywood

Plywood is the oldest example of manufactured wood. It consists of 3 slices or plies of thin lumber, which are glued together by adhesive.

Particleboard

Particleboard is the newest form of engineered wood. They are also called fiberboard. These manufactured woods are made from small wood chips. The wood chips are broken from large wood leftover pieces from furniture or construction builders.

A wood chipper is used to break down these residual wood pieces into tiny fibers. These wooden fibers are then glued together with adhesive to form particle boards.

The Best Type of Wood for Furniture

The best raw material for making furniture is still hardwood. It combines natural beauty, strength, and sturdiness effectively. No other type of wood can match its qualities. However, it is getting more difficult to source hardwoods from their natural habitat.

Therefore, your need for the best type of wood to make your furniture will depend on your ability to acquire the material, overall qualities, and durability. Softwood is not as hardy as hardwood.

Manufactured wood can be made as strong as possible and as elegant as possible, but it can’t outlast hardwood in the area of longevity. So, it is still hardwood that is the best for furniture making.

The Most Inexpensive Wood for Furniture

The most inexpensive woof for furniture is pine. It has intrinsic beauty and is relatively hardy if you take care of it properly. Pine trees also grow quickly. That is why the world will never lose its supply of pinewood, whether for furniture or building construction.

Pine is also easily workable because it is softer. It can be made into the following:

  • Sofas,
  • Chairs,
  • Tables, and
  • Even for walls and ceilings.

This wood has been traditionally used to build log homes since time immemorial.

Conclusion: Types of Woods for Furniture

Three basic types of wood for furniture: hardwood, softwood, and human-made or engineered wood. Furniture made of hardwood is one of the most elegant and long-lasting. Softwood furniture has its own special qualities.

The most affordable and the most workable wood used in building furniture is engineered or manufactured wood. If the process by which it was made is stringent enough and the materials used are high quality, human-made wood can compete with hardwoods in beauty and durability.

Again, if you opt for hardwood, here are your choices:

  1. Beech
  2. Oak
  3. Hickory
  4. White Ash
  5. Birch
  6. Redwood
  7. Mahogany
  8. Walnut

On the other hand, your softwood options are the following:

  1. Pine
  2. Fir
  3. Spruce
  4. Bamboo

And lastly, for a manufactured wood, you can choose from plywood and particleboard.