The terms hardwood and softwood doesn’t define a precise line between hard and soft wood types. Whilst hardwoods are generally harder than softwoods, this is not always the case. The distinction between the two types is actually the way the trees reproduce. All types of trees produce seeds, but the type of seed varies.
Trees that produce trees with some type of covering, such as trees that produce fruit or acorns, are often referred to as hardwood. On the other hand, trees whose seeds fall to the ground directly such as pine cones are often referred to as softwood.
Another term for hardwood and softwood is deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn, whereas evergreen keep their leaves all year around. Whilst most types of softwoods are usually softer than hardwoods, this isn’t always the case. Wood such as balsa wood which is one of the softest types of wood, actually falls under the category of hardwood.
Oak is one of the most common and popular hardwoods, that is available in the form of stair parts. Due to its complex structure and how the tree grows, oak is one of the most durable types of wood. Most softwood comes from trees such as conifers. Whilst hardwoods have a more complex structure than softwoods they also have a much slower growing process.
Most stair parts are usually available in both hardwood and softwood variations. Parts such as solid treads are typically made from oak. Whereas many parts for stairs such as handrails, balusters and newel posts are available in both hardwood and softwood variations, because they aren’t a surface that you need to walk on.
When choosing the types of wood species for your stairs it’s always advisable to use hardwood. However, parts wouldn’t be manufactured from both hardwood and softwood if they weren’t suitable for purpose. Some finishes used on parts can also help to strengthen the wood. This is when it’s time to consider both the aesthetic and price of the parts.
Whilst the price might vary slightly between hardwood and softwood parts, it doesn’t mean their cheaper because the quality isn’t as good. In fact, some types of softwood are more expensive than their hardwood counterparts. Companies that specialise in parts for stairs will be able to help you decide on the best part and type of wood, for the purpose that your require it for.
In addition to just choosing between hardwood and softwood because of price or aesthetic, it’s also important to take into consideration the visual appearance of the wood. Some people will choose the leave the wood in its natural state, but other will want to stain or paint the part.
If you’re choosing to leave wood in its natural state, then you need to look at the décor of your current home and any wood that might already be in your home. When a home contains a lot of beech wood, it’s no good picking an oak stair parts.