If you're thinking of remodeling the interior of your house, choosing the right kind of wood can make all the difference. Wood is either hard or soft, with the former coming from needleless trees like maple or cherry and the latter coming from needled trees like spruce or cedar. Hard woods are stronger and more durable than soft woods, but the dings and dents that occur with soft woods can give it a weathered look with character. Here's a breakdown of the species of wood and which ones look better in certain rooms than others.
- Alder (Birch family) is one of the most common commercial wood species on the Pacific Coast, the third most extensively exported in the U.S. and comes in one of two types: knotty or clear. This wood is an all-around good choice because of its reasonable price point and consistent color, stability and uniform acceptance of staining.
- Cherry (fruitwood) is used to give a high-end luxurious look because of its mahogany-red tones that darken with age and exposure to light. It's a strong, fine-grained wood and can be substituted with other fine-grained woods like alder or maple.
- Maple wood, extremely common in the U.S., is picked for its diffuse, evenly-spaced pores that make it finely textured and grained. It responds very well to staining and is easy to made to resemble more expensive species.
- Oak is one of the most prevalent choices for its hard toughness and responsiveness to staining, and can be found in either a red or white variety. Red oak (also known as black oak) is the more commonly picked with its slightly pinkish cast, while white oak has a slightly greenish cast.
- Hickory wood shows extreme light and dark contrasts, and is one of the heaviest, hardest and strongest woods. If the contrasted look isn't desired, hickory can be stained for a more even appearance.
- Mahogany wood is strong and easily carved, medium-grained and ranges from tan to reddish-brown in color.
Which Wood to Pick for Remodeling
- Cabinetry and paneling: maple is a good choice here because its durability and hardness mean that it can stand up well in commonly used areas where it might take a beating or two. Alder is also an acceptable choice, but should not be used in damp environments like bathrooms where it can turn soft and pulpy.
- Furniture: using cherry wood for tables and chairs gives furniture a rich, straight-grained appearance; it's also very easy to work with and is easily stained.
- Flooring and framework: pick oak for its extreme hardness and resistance to insects and fungus.
- Outdoor deck: use mahogany for its color, weather-resistance, high stainability and strength.
- Strength: to reinforce weak points, like chair or table legs, use hickory for its strength, ability to be bent and still take abuse.
For more information on wood color, grain and hardness levels of hardwood species, click here.