Hardwood flooring is an excellent addition to any home. If you’re hoping to add resale value to your home in Hillsborough, Princeton, or Flemington, NJ, installing hardwood floors from Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough is a surefire way to update and improve your home. While in general, all wood flooring is referred to as ‘hardwood,’ some wood floors are actually classified as ‘softwoods.’ In general (though not in all cases) hardwoods are harder than softwoods, but some softwoods, such as Douglas fir, are harder than some hardwoods, such as chestnut. We know, it’s confusing! That’s why we wrote this post to explain the REAL differences between hardwoods and softwoods, and how it affects your flooring.

Hardwoods or Angiosperms

The terms ‘hardwood’ and softwood’ are actually misleading when it comes to the real differences between these two types of wood. The actual difference has to do with a tree’s seeds. Hardwoods are really just angiosperms, which simply means ‘enclosed seed.’ Angiosprem trees have seeds that mature in some sort of nut or fruit. Examples of angiosperm trees include Cherry, Walnut, Hickory, Maple, Teak, Mahogany, Beech, Alder, and Oak. These trees tend to shed their leaves in the fall and winter and flourish in spring and summer. Most hardwoods are denser than softwoods and grow slower. Because super hardwoods are commonly used in high quality furniture that is meant to last a very long time, it tends to be more expensive than softwoods. While these are general trends, they are not hard and fast rules. One of the softest woods, with the second lowest Janka score, Balsa, is technically a hardwood after all.

Softwoods or Gymnosperms

Softwoods are actually just gymnosperm trees, or trees whose seeds are naked, rather than enclosed. Rather than being encased in a tree’s ovary (AKA the fruit or nut), the seeds of gymnosperm trees grow on the surface of leaves or scales, and usually form into cones (AKA pinecones). Conifer trees (pines, firs, cypresses, and cedars) are the largest group of gymnosperm plants. Around eighty percent of all lumber comes from softwoods, so they are nothing to scoff at. Some examples of softwoods that are commonly used for flooring are cedar, Douglas fir, Juniper, and Pine. Gymnosperms have a lower density than angiosperms but they grow much faster. Unlike most angiosperm trees, which tend to be deciduous, the coniferous evergreen gymnosperms tend to keep their needles all year round.

Which is Better for Your Floors?

So the ultimate question is which wood is better for your flooring? hardwood angiosperms or softwood gymnosperms? Well, the answer really is that neither is better per se. It all depends on your home and what is right for your situation. It is important to note that a wood’s hardness is not the only factor in determining its quality. Modulus of elasticity, for example, measures how easily a wood species can return to its original shape after being bent. Many softwoods are better at this than brittle super hardwoods. Other things that might factor into determining the quality of wood include impact bending, tensile strength, and dimensional stability. If you’re still not sure what hardwood flooring option is right for your home, call Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough for a free, in-home consultation.