Just a quick trip to the hardware store will show you just how many different options there are when it comes to lumber. No type of lumber will work for any project, and with the harsh Canadian elements you need to make sure that you are selecting the best quality wood for your project.
Today we’ll explore the different types of timber along with the pros and cons of each and what they are best used for to take the guesswork out of wood shopping.
What is Timber?
Timber is wood that has been processed into beams and planks. Also referred to as lumber, timber is used for structural purposes—to build homes, furniture, and other items.
Timber can be divided into two categories: hardwoods and softwoods. Light with a coarse grain, softwood timber originates from coniferous species like pine, fir, and cedar. It grows fast and as a result, proves itself to be very economical, however, compared to hardwood timber, it’s not nearly as robust.
Hardwood timber, on the other hand, is dense, durable, and stable. Hailed as the strongest type of timber, common hardwood species like birch, maple and oak are used for projects that require utmost durability–from piers and flooring to decking.
While hardwoods may seem like the clear choice, softwoods do hold value for some woodworking projects and are frequently used to build frameworks in houses and in areas like lining boards and cladding.
5 Different Types of Timber
1. Douglas Fir
At Timber Frame Solutions, we use Douglas fir in 99 percent of our projects– and with good reason! Native to the western half of North America but globally acclaimed for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, the softwood is used in everything from furniture and flooring to decks and pavilions.
Also referred to as Oregon pine and Colombian pine, Douglas fir demonstrates natural weather resistance and ranges in colour from orange to dark red-brown.
Advantages of Douglas Fir
- The most robust among softwood varieties
- High resistance to decay when used in wall framing and siding
- Demonstrates superior strength and hardness
- Easier to work with given its high density and resin content
Disadvantages of Douglas Fir
- More costly than other softwood varieties
- As a softwood, it requires more maintenance. But this can easily be solved with protective finishes, paints, and polishes.
Cedar is a softwood native to North America that has been used for thousands of years for purposes ranging from construction to furniture making. Its versatility combined with its long-lasting quality makes it an excellent choice for outdoor use. It's also naturally resistant to rot, decay, insect infestation and water damage, so it's perfect for decks, railings, and fences.
The most common type of cedar wood is western red, and as the name hints, it’s a warm pinkish-red colour. This type of cedar is mostly used outdoors for furniture, deck handrails, wall cladding and window frames as it resists rotting in moist environments.
Advantages of Cedar
- Weather resistant and sustainable
- Offers a more natural look that’s smooth to the touch
- Lightweight and dimensionally stable
- Demonstrates long-time durability and exceptional resistance to insects and decay
- Help to reduce noise in specific areas
Disadvantages of Cedar
- Its low strength warrants it unsuitable as structure-building material
- Can be easily scratched or dented by furniture and pets
- As a softwood, cedar requires regular maintenance. Some experts say that if you’re using it for siding, roofing, or any other outdoor project, then it’s best to perform maintenance at least once a year.
Oak is one of the most popular types of timber in construction, and it's easy to see why. Strong durable and long-lasting, oak was used for centuries throughout Europe and continues to be highly sought-after today.
Oak is available in both red and white varieties, however, white is often preferred as it demonstrates a more attractive figure than American red oak and is resistant to moisture, making it better suited for outdoor furniture.
Advantages of Oak
- Often cut in a way that makes it resistant to warping
- Its visible wavy grain provides it with a distinctive look
- Exceedingly strong and durable
Disadvantages of Oak
- Low-moisture content
- Stain can overly darken and exaggerate the grain, which could cause it to look two-tone
- Reacts with iron, galvanized or copper nails.
Pine is one of the most widely used types of wood in the world. From flooring and furniture to panelling and decking, pine has been a major component of construction for thousands of years. Known for its creamy yellowish or whitish colour with brown knots, this softwood is often used for rustic pieces like farmhouse-style tables.
Advantages of Pine
- Low-cost and lightweight
- Takes stain and paint well
- Naturally resists shrinking and swelling, which means it’ll hold its shape well over time
Disadvantages of Pine
- It’s a softwood, which means it’s prone to scratches and dents
- There are more knots in pine wood, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what type of look you’re going for
- Since its softer and can sustain more nicks, you may want to refinish it from time to time
5. Western Hemlock
Western hemlock is a softwood native to the Pacific Northwest. It is also known by its other names—West Coast hemlock, Pacific hemlock, and British Columbia hemlock.
Whatever you choose to call it, one thing is for certain, this beautiful light reddish-brown timber can be used for a variety of purposes, including construction and furniture making. In fact, it’s considered to be a superior wood species for building purposes—offering excellent working properties and stability.
Advantages of Western Hemlock
- Lightweight, yet strong
- Resistant to warping
- Provides a distinct look that is almost impossible to replicate
- Easy to stain or finish
Disadvantages of Western Hemlock
- Requires frequent maintenance
- Tends to darken over time
- Low longevity compared to other materials
Trust Timber Frame Solutions for Your Next Custom Structure
If you're looking to create an outdoor space that's beautiful, functional, and able to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at it, we've got the solution for you. Our team of experts can help you design the perfect outdoor space for your home. From gazebos to trellises, we'll take care of everything from start to finish!
We offer high-quality materials in all shapes and sizes—from cedar to teak—to help make your vision come alive. Call us today to discuss your next project!