The woodspotter’s guide: know your wood types

The woodspotter’s guide

Your expert guide to the common wood types and how best to treat them.

Do you know your teak from your mahogany, and your pine from your oak? Read on for a woodspotter’s guide to common wood types. Each one is a very different material with its own special beauty and needs to be protected in different ways.

Before you go to work, make sure you know your woods.

First of all, there are two main categories of wood - hard and soft.

Know your softwood
Softwood is sourced from conifer trees, such as pine, fir or spruce. Softwood grows quickly and for that reason is relatively affordable. As the name suggests, it’s a pliable type of wood and easy to work with.

Know your hardwood
Hardwood comes from broadleaved, deciduous trees. Oak, walnut and mahogany are all examples of hardwoods. These are slow-growing trees, which makes hardwood more expensive than softwood. Hardwood is nutrient rich and therefore more prone to pests and fungi, particularly if used outdoors. Tropical woods such as teak are also hardwood. They have greater resistance to fungi and insects than non-tropical hardwood, but can lose their colour and become grey when exposed outdoors.


Teak hardwood

Teak (hardwood)

This tough, durable tropical hardwood has a very high natural oil content, making it water resistant and ideal for use in garden furniture. As it weathers, the wood turns a pale grey due to the removal of those oils.

Where it’s used
Teak is often used in outdoor furniture, indoor flooring and countertops.

Wood treatment
Find your teak woodcare product


Mahogany hardwood

Mahogany (hardwood)

Mahogany is a tropical hardwood prized for its consistency of colour and the beauty of its grain. It is usually associated with a deep red finish, which is actually the result of a resin stain. Natural mahogany is pink-brown in colour.

Where it’s used
Mahogany is an expensive but popular choice for making ornate furniture and panelling inside the home.

Wood treatment
Find your mahogany woodcare product[LINK]


Oak hardwood

Oak (hardwood)

This European hardwood is identifiable by its light, golden tone with a straight grain and an uneven texture. Distinct from most other hardwoods in colour, it has fewer knots and more density than softwood such as pine.

Where it’s used
Its durability makes oak suitable for a wide variety of uses, from table tops and work surfaces to flooring and timber framed houses.

Wood treatment
Find your oak woodcare product[LINK].


Walnut hardwood

Walnut (hardwood)
This straight-grained hardwood ranges in colour from dark brown to yellow. It can be notoriously difficult to tell apart from mahogany – a very similar hardwood that is often associated with a slightly deeper red tone. However, the similarities mean that treatment of both wood types is largely the same.

Where it’s used
Walnut is often used in decorative furniture, cabinetry and interior panelling.

Wood treatment
Find your walnut woodcare product[LINK].


Pine softwood

Pine (softwood)
Pine is probably the easiest wood to identify due to its distinctive pale colour and the swirling dark knots on its timber. A softwood from the temperate northern hemisphere, its versatility makes it a popular choice for home furniture.

Where it’s used
You’ll find pine used to make indoor furniture. It is also regularly used as timber in construction and in general carpentry to make window frames and flooring.

Wood treatment
Find your pine woodcare product[LINK].


Fir and Douglas fir softwood

Fir and Douglas fir (softwood)
There are two types of fir – fir and Douglas fir. Fir has a dense grain, whereas Douglas fir has a pronounced, straight grain with a red-brown tint. Douglas fir is one of the strongest softwoods.

Where it’s used
Fir is a suitable wood for use in the garden and in general construction. Douglas fir is regularly used to make windows and doors.

Wood treatment
Find your fir woodcare product[LINK]


Spruce softwood

Spruce (softwood)
Spruce is a white-coloured wood with a subtle, straight grain that has a fine to medium texture. It tends to have a medium density that is lower than that of pine.

Where it’s used
Spruce is typically used as a structural wood inside and outside the home. It is also used as a decorative plywood or veneer.

Wood treatment
Find your spruce woodcare product[LINK].


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