The Different Types of Wood and Their Uses in Design and Construction

Have you started a renovation project for your home, or are you simply interested in DIY projects? Whatever category you happen to fall under, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a curious beginner, understanding the various types of wood and their applications in interior design and construction is essential.

From popular hardwoods like oak, maple and mahogany to beautiful softwoods like pine, cedar and spruce, wood is extremely versatile, that’s why it’s an excellent choice for any type of home design projects.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the main characteristics of the many different types of wood, showing you some pros and cons for each wood type. We aim to provide helpful information for everyone, whether you’re a homeowner, contractor, or just starting out with a hobby project.

But before you start your next home renovation project, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Categories of Wood

Wood types flatlay

First of all, you need to know that there are three categories of wood:

  • Hardwoods
  • Softwoods
  • Engineered woods

The hardwoods and softwoods include the various types of wood in their natural state. Then, of course, you’ll find engineered woods, which often include a blend of various types of woods.

There are only a few hardwoods, which come from trees that do not produce cones or needles. Instead, these trees produce leaves and seeds. The most common hardwood species include cherry, maple, mahogany, oak, and walnut.

Meanwhile, the term softwoods doesn’t mean that the texture of these woods is actually soft. It refers to the ease with which they can be used for woodworking. These coniferous trees usually produce cones and have needles. Cedar, Fir, Pine, Redwood, and Spruce fall under this category.

Engineered wood refers to all manufactured wood products. They are also known as composite wood. The waste wood from sawmills is used to manufacture engineered wood. It is treated by using a heat or chemical process. You’ve surely heard of a few of them, such as composite board, medium density board, oriented strand board, and plywood.

Wood in Interior Design

Although many people may prefer the real wood for their homes, sometimes it makes sense to consider engineered woods. They are not only easier to access, but quite often more affordable than the woods in their true form. It really comes down to what you have in mind.

For example, if you want to use real walnut or mahogany for a project, it can be worth the investment. But if you have a few levels of flooring to cover, engineered wood might be more feasible.

That being said, you are the one who has to take all these factors into consideration. At the end of the day, you should go with your budget and taste preference before anything else. But for the purpose of this article, we decided to describe solely the two natural wood categories.

Having said all that, these are the different types of wood, as well as their uses in design and construction. Once you familiarize yourself with this list, it will make your decision making a lot easier.


Acacia wood

Typically found in Africa and Australia, acacia has more than a thousand species. It ranges in color from a light brown to a dark mahogany. Despite that, its heartwood is more reddish brown.

Prized for its gorgeous color, acacia is a durable wood that has irregular, wavy grain patterns that are unpredictable. Insect, rot and water resistant, acacia is great for flooring, as well as household items such as cutting boards and bowls.

But if you plan to use it outdoors, you should protect and seal it properly, and maintain it in order to keep it in good shape. One of the hardest woods to work with, it is a heavy wood that can crack or swell.


  • Durable: Resists wear and tear.
  • Attractive: Rich color and grain.
  • Water-Resistant: Good for moist areas.
  • Sustainable: Eco-friendly options.


  • Costly: It’s more expensive than alternatives.
  • High Maintenance: Requires regular care.
  • Variable Appearance: Non-uniform look.
  • Allergenic: May cause allergic reactions.


Ash wood design

This hardwood lumber tree comes from many different types of trees such as black ash, blue ash, green ash, and white ash. With similar shades to maple trees, ash lumber is light in color.

It commonly has gold and white streaks, and its texture is similar to the oak’s, or rather rough.

Given its stiffness and strength, it is surprisingly a lightweight hardwood. Easy to paint and stain, it offers quite a decent shock resistance, compared to other hardwood species. You’ll find many pool cues and baseball bats constructed from ash wood.


  • Strong: Excellent strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Flexible: It bends well for shaped pieces.
  • Aesthetic: Light color with prominent grain.
  • Affordable: Generally less expensive than other hardwoods.


  • Less Durable: Not as hard as some hardwoods.
  • Susceptible to Pests: Can be attacked by insects like the emerald ash borer.
  • Moisture Sensitive: Less water-resistant compared to other woods.
  • Limited Availability: Environmental issues may affect supply.


Bamboo wood house

Bamboo can be compared to maple or red oak because of its similar strength and hardness. Because it has a very dense texture, bamboo is tough on tools.

Hence, it is most commonly used for fine furniture, cabinets, or hardwood flooring. But the bamboo stems are ideal for garden decorations, fencing, or privacy screens. Its natural wax-like coating enables it to resist decay.


  • Eco-Friendly: Grows quickly, sustainable.
  • Strong: High tensile strength.
  • Modern Look: Unique aesthetic appeal.
  • Water-Resistant: Good for humid areas.


  • Scratches Easily: More susceptible to wear.
  • Sensitive to Humidity: Can warp or crack.
  • Inconsistent Quality: Quality varies between sources.
  • Adhesive Concerns: Some types use glues that can off-gas.


Beech Wood

Beech wood ranges from almost white to a straw color that darkens with age ever so slightly. It isn’t very durable, although it is a strong wood. It tends to absorb moisture, which makes it subject to insect damage.

Not ideal for outdoor use nor humid locations, beech wood is fairly easy to work with. Because it can hold paints and stains well, it is often used for plywood and in veneers. Cabinets, musical instruments, and flooring are other common uses.


  • Hard and Strong: Good for heavy-use items.
  • Smooth Texture: Easy to finish and polish.
  • Uniform Appearance: Consistent grain and color.
  • Affordable: Generally less expensive than exotic woods.


  • Prone to Splitting: Can be challenging to work with.
  • Moisture Sensitive: Susceptible to warping or swelling.
  • Limited Durability: Not ideal for outdoor use.
  • Lacks Distinctiveness: Somewhat plain compared to other hardwoods.


Birch Wood Floor

One of the most economical hardwoods, birch is very popular. There are three most common varieties of birch, or the black, white, and yellow birch.

This hardwood is tightly grained yet smooth, with a pretty uniform appearance.

It is a strong, heavy and hard wood, but it shrinks quite a bit as it dries. It responds well to woodworking with sharp tools, making it a desirable type of wood that is best suited for cabinetry, toy making and flooring.


  • Strong: Good strength for furniture and cabinetry.
  • Affordable: Less expensive than many hardwoods.
  • Fine Grain: Attractive, smooth surface.
  • Takes Stain Well: Can be easily colored.


  • Prone to Warping: Sensitive to humidity and moisture.
  • Limited Durability: Not as hard as some other woods.
  • Difficult to Finish: Can blotch when staining.
  • Susceptible to Insects: Can be damaged by wood-boring insects.


cedar wood

This softwood is a very aromatic type of wood that is bug and rot resistant. Cedar is known for its durability and its beauty.

This coniferous tree comes in many varieties, but the red and white cedars are the most common.

Durable and lightweight, cedar is great to use for closet lining, decks, fences, or to build chests and dressers. Not great in the ground, it is a versatile wood that lasts a long time, and can also be painted over.


  • Aromatic: Offers a pleasant and distinct scent.
  • Weather-Resistant: Good for outdoor use, resistant to decay.
  • Insect Repellent: Naturally repels insects like moths.
  • Lightweight: Easy to work with and install.


  • Soft: Can scratch and dent easily.
  • Moisture Sensitive: Can warp or twist.
  • Color Inconsistency: Tends to darken or change over time.
  • Expensive: High-quality cedar can be costly.


Cherry wood

This sought-after fruit tree is also very in demand for its woodworking properties. Varying from creamy white to a dark, deep reddish-brown, the cherry wood darkens as it ages.

It comes with luxurious finishing qualities, which make it ideal for high-end cabinetry and furnishings.

Many musical instruments, as well as carvings, flooring and paneling are made from cherry wood. It contains an uniform look due to its straight, tight grain.


  • Rich Color: Ages to a beautiful, rich reddish-brown.
  • Fine Grain: Smooth surface with a lustrous finish.
  • Strong: Good strength and hardness.
  • Workable: Easy to carve and shape.


  • Expensive: Typically more costly than other hardwoods.
  • Light-Sensitive: Can discolor if exposed to sunlight.
  • Prone to Movement: May warp in varying humidity.
  • Inconsistent Coloring: Earlywood and latewood may absorb stains differently.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir
jeremylevinedesign /

This wood is a type of softwood, which is very durable and actually pretty hard. Not as rot resistant as the cedar, the Douglas Fir is insect repellent. Its very pronounced grain means that it runs straight.

Not best for accepting stains, the fir has a reddish-tan color. Its strong density and wood grain pattern makes it great for construction lumber, decking, as well as a variety of DIY projects.

Because of its affordability and durability, Douglas Fir is an excellent option for many homes.


  • Strong: Excellent strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Affordable: Often less expensive than hardwoods.
  • Versatile: Suitable for a wide range of applications.
  • Straight Grain: Attractive and easy to work with.


  • Less Durable: Not as resilient to wear and tear.
  • Prone to Splintering: Can be rough if not properly finished.
  • Sensitive to Moisture: May swell or warp in damp conditions.
  • Aesthetic Limitations: Lacks the richness of some hardwoods.


Ebony wood

Easy to recognize, ebony is well-known for its almost black color. Best suited for specialty woodworking applications and wood carving, ebony has numerous qualities that make it very attractive.

Subject to strict international regulations, ebony is a protected species. It is amongst the rarest woods to find, therefore its price is also quite steep.

Other than that, it is a very dense hardwood that is great for carving. It provides a lovely finish and can hold numerous details.


  • Extremely Hard: Suitable for intricate carvings and fine details.
  • Dark Color: Rich black hue with occasional brown streaks.
  • Polishes Well: Can achieve a high glossy finish.
  • Stable: Good dimensional stability.


  • Expensive: One of the most costly woods on the market.
  • Brittle: Prone to cracking if mishandled.
  • Limited Availability: Often difficult to source.
  • Environmental Concerns: Some species are endangered; sourcing should be verified as sustainable.


Mahogany wood

This luxurious hardwood can grow very tall, and it can be found in Central and South America, West Africa, as well as the West Indies. In a category by itself, this very fine wood is ideal for luxurious finishes.

It has a deep brown-red or a rich red hue, and a smooth and tight grain. That makes it very dense, as well as one of the most resilient and strong types of wood you can find.

Insect and rot resistant, it is also a very stable wood, plus it resists warping, swelling, or shrinking. High-end projects such as custom cabinetry and boat building often use mahogany because of all its attractive qualities.


  • Attractive Grain: Rich, warm color with a straight grain.
  • Workable: Easy to cut, shape, and sand.
  • Stable: Resistant to warping and shrinking.
  • Durable: Excellent wear resistance, suitable for many applications.


  • Expensive: Often more costly than other wood types.
  • Heavy: Can be challenging to handle due to its weight.
  • Availability: Genuine mahogany might be scarce; legal and sustainable sourcing is critical.
  • Environmental Impact: Unsustainable harvesting can have negative ecological effects.


Maple wood

Among the most common types of hardwoods in the US you’ll find maple trees. The majority of maple wood comes from rock or sugar maple, which is very dense and tough.

It has a relatively straight and tight grain, with a lightly colored appearance. It varies between a rich golden hue, white and yellow.

The curly maple, a different variety of maple wood, has interesting wavy grain patterns. Maple wood is ideal for flooring, musical instruments, as well as baseball bats.


  • Strong: Known for its hardness and strength.
  • Attractive: Light color with a uniform grain, suitable for many finishes.
  • Stable: Resistant to warping and twisting.
  • Versatile: Suitable for a wide range of applications.


  • Difficult to Stain: Can be challenging to stain evenly.
  • Expensive: Higher-grade maple can be costly.
  • Heavy: Can be challenging to handle and work with.
  • Prone to Burns: Tools may leave burn marks if not handled carefully.


Oak wood

This super popular hardwood is among the most common woods in the US. Whether the white and red varieties, oak is a very tough and dense wood. It has rough, straight-grained textures that make it ideal for flooring or cabinets making.

White oak ranges from white to a pale yellow, while the red oak has a deeper hue. It bends well, and it is insect and rot resistant. Best suited for wine or whiskey barrels, many boats are also constructed from oak.


  • Durable: Known for its hardness and longevity.
  • Attractive Grain: Prominent grain pattern adds character.
  • Versatile: Available in various species with different characteristics.
  • Resistant: Good resistance to moisture and wear.


  • Heavy: Can be difficult to handle and work with.
  • Expensive: Quality oak tends to be more costly.
  • Prone to Shrinkage: Can shrink in dry environments.
  • Susceptible to Insects: May attract pests like powderpost beetles.


Pine wood
Jeff Jordan Architects

Pine is one of the most popular trees in the US. Its very soft texture makes it super easy to work with. Some common varieties of pine trees include ponderosa, sugar, southern yellow pine, and white.

It doesn’t offer much bug or rot resistance, but it is easy to work with and it’s less dense than some other types of wood.

With a high moisture content, pine wood is great for woodworking, rustic furniture, decking, or shelving.


  • Affordable: Generally less expensive than hardwoods.
  • Lightweight: Easy to handle and work with.
  • Versatile: Suitable for various applications and finishes.
  • Sustainable: Often sourced from fast-growing species.


  • Soft: Prone to scratches and dents.
  • Inconsistent Color: Can vary widely in color and grain pattern.
  • Resin Content: May ooze sap, affecting finishes.
  • Less Durable: Not as strong as hardwoods, may not be suitable for heavy-use areas.


Poplar wood

Amateur DIYers and woodworkers love this type of wood because of its versatile utility. Ranging from cream to yellowish brown, this light colored wood has a straight and uniform texture, making it a softer hardwood.

It is not amongst the most handsome woods, but it is easy to paint, and it can handle well machining with power tools.

Beware that it leaves fuzzy edges, so you need extremely fine-grain sandpaper to smooth out its finish. Greatest for hidden applications, it is similarly ideal for painted projects.


  • Affordable: Typically one of the least expensive hardwoods.
  • Lightweight: Easy to handle and work with.
  • Versatile: Accepts paint and stain well.
  • Sustainable: Often sourced from fast-growing species.


  • Soft: More prone to dents and scratches.
  • Less Durable: Not ideal for heavy-use areas.
  • Inconsistent Color: Can vary widely in appearance.
  • Low Resistance: Not as resistant to rot and insects as other woods.


redwood flooring

Redwood, also known as Sequoia, is one of the tallest trees in the world. They can grow to more than 350 feet, and they have grains that are generally straight.

Also lightweight, these softwoods are very soft and easy to work with. Their color ranges from a yellow or pale white to a reddish brown or deep red.

With a tight grain, this wood comes with a rough texture. It is insect and rot resistant, hence its ideal for outdoor projects such as decks.


  • Weather-Resistant: Naturally resistant to decay and moisture.
  • Beautiful Appearance: Rich red color adds visual appeal.
  • Lightweight: Easier to handle and work with than some hardwoods.
  • Eco-Friendly Options: Sustainable sources are available.


  • Expensive: Can be more costly than other softwoods.
  • Soft: More susceptible to scratches and dents.
  • Color Variation: Can darken or change color over time.
  • Availability: Quality redwood may be limited in some areas.


Teak wood

Teak is one of the most durable and attractive hardwoods available. Originally from tropical climates, the teak wood has a wide array of amazing qualities. Not only is it insect and rot resistant, but it is easy to work with.

Either by using glue or for finishing touches, teak is a great choice.

It is a straight-grain wood that has an uneven, coarse texture. Very similar to mahogany, teak is more brown in color, compared to the reddish mahogany’s hues.


  • Weather-Resistant: Naturally resistant to decay, moisture, and insect damage.
  • Attractive: Rich golden-brown color with a straight grain.
  • Durable: Known for its strength and longevity.
  • Low Maintenance: Requires minimal upkeep, even in harsh conditions.


  • Expensive: One of the more costly wood options.
  • Heavy: Can be challenging to handle and work with.
  • Environmental Concerns: Unsustainable harvesting can affect ecosystems.
  • Oily Nature: Natural oils can make finishing more challenging.


Spruce wood

Used for construction farming projects, spruce is a type of evergreen softwood that can be purchased as SPF Timber. One of its characteristics is a light tone. That is why it is also commonly known as White Wood.

With a smooth and straight grain, spruce can have great acoustic qualities. It makes an ideal material for crafting musical instruments like guitars and several other string instruments or pianos.

Prone to swelling, it is not the most weather resistant wood you’ll find.


  • Lightweight: Easy to handle and work with.
  • Affordable: Generally less costly than hardwoods.
  • Resonant: Often used in musical instruments due to its tonal qualities.
  • Sustainable: Often sourced from fast-growing species.


  • Soft: More prone to scratches and dents.
  • Less Durable: Not as strong as many hardwoods.
  • Moisture Sensitive: Can warp or decay if exposed to moisture.
  • Inconsistent Appearance: Grain and color can vary widely.


Walnut wood

Walnut is another popular hardwood that grows in the eastern US. They produce a sought-after rich and chocolatey hued wood woodworking enthusiasts love. It is a straight-grained wood that often has irregularities and waves as well.

With a medium-smooth texture, the wood varies in color from a deep chocolate to a pale brown. Rot-resistant, walnut is unfortunately not insect-resistant.

As it dries, it warps and shrinks little, making it a stable wood. Ideal for high-end furniture, walnut is also commonly used for cabinetry and turned items.


  • Rich Color: Dark, elegant color that adds warmth.
  • Strong: Good balance of strength and weight.
  • Fine Grain: Can be polished to a high finish.
  • Stable: Less prone to warping and shrinking.


  • Expensive: Generally more costly than other domestic hardwoods.
  • Darker Appearance: Might not suit all design aesthetics.
  • Slightly Softer: Not as hard as some other hardwoods.
  • Limited Availability: Quality walnut may be harder to find.

Concluding Words

So, there you have it! Whether you’re fixing up your home or just dabbling in a new hobby, understanding your wood options is key. From strong hardwoods to lovely softwoods, each type has its own flair and function.

We hope this comprehensive guide cleared up some of the woodsy confusion for you. Maybe you even discovered a new favorite type of wood!

Next time you’re working on a project, you’ll know just what to choose. And hey, we’d love to hear about your wood preferences in the comments. Happy building!

Next Post

10 Amazing Bubble Houses That Will Inspire You

Sat Sep 2 , 2023
Retro-futuristic homes have been around for a while, but they have become the focus of attention as of late. The perfect example of this style is the bubble house, which was first built in the 1940s. We found 10 amazing bubble houses that will inspire you, but first, let’s see […]

You May Like