Hardwood Vs. Softwood: The Best Choice For Exterior Siding

Hardwood Vs. Softwood: The Best Choice For Exterior Siding

When it comes to choosing the right material for exterior siding, the age-old debate between hardwood and softwood takes center stage. It’s a decision that goes beyond mere aesthetics and cuts across durability, maintenance, and overall performance. 

In this exploration of hardwood versus softwood for exterior siding, we aim to unravel the practical aspects that often influence this choice. So, whether you’re contemplating a siding project for your home or just curious about the differences, we’ll help you determine what distinguishes these two wood categories.

We’ll also identify which of the two wood categories is the superior contender for your exterior surfaces.


Hardwood and Softwood Tree Classifications

Hardwood and softwood tree classifications depend on distinctive characteristics that dictate their reproduction methods. Hardwood trees, or angiosperms, are deciduous trees that shed their leaves annually. 

They are characterized by broad, flat leaves that bloom each Spring. When they bloom, they usually bear seeds enveloped in protective casings – ranging from fruit, like apples and cherries, to hard shells, such as walnuts and acorns. 

Some examples of hardwood varieties include cherry, oak, and walnut.

On the flip side, softwood trees, classified as gymnosperms, exhibit cone-bearing evergreens sporting needle-like leaves. They lack true flowers, and they house seeds uncovered within cones.

This structure helps facilitate wind-driven dispersal. Notable members of softwood include cedar, redwood, pine, and Doug fir. 

These distinctions provide a fundamental understanding of the diverse traits inherent in hardwood and softwood classifications.


Hardwood vs. Softwood: Cell Structure

The cellular structure of hardwood and softwood unveils a crucial disparity in their composition. Hardwoods exhibit visible pores or vessels that are discernible under a microscope. 

In most cases, the pores serve as conduits for water and nutrients. This intricate network of pores contributes to the pronounced, weightier grain characteristic of hardwoods. 

On the contrary, softwoods feature a simpler cellular arrangement. They lack the visible pores in hardwoods, so they transport water through cells known as longitudinal tracheids and medullary rays.

Softwoods also rely on these components to produce sap and facilitate internal circulation.

In essence, wood comprises condensed tubular units, and this cellular divergence fundamentally shapes the distinctive properties of each wood type. Understanding this contrast sheds light on why hardwoods present a more prominent and heavier grain than softwoods.


Hardwood vs. Softwood: Durability

The durability showdown between hardwoods and softwoods unfolds in their performance under various conditions. Hardwoods have an intricate and dense structure, so they generally outshine softwoods when exposed to the elements.

They have a superior resistance to both weathering and fire. 

In contrast, softwoods designed for outdoor use, like garden furniture, often undergo treatment – known as “tantalizing” – to fortify their resilience. If left untreated, hard and softwoods tend to gracefully weather to a silvery-grey hue.

Yet, some naturally durable softwoods defy the norm. Western Red Cedar, when left exposed, exhibits exceptional endurance without treatment. 

Similarly, commercial softwoods like Siberian Larch prove moderately durable due to their gracefully navigating weather challenges and ability to withstand a fair share of knocks. 

This exploration into durability illuminates the distinct performance attributes of hardwoods and softwoods in the face of nature’s trials.


Hardwood vs. Softwood: Strength

The strength game between hardwoods and softwoods aligns with their namesake. So, generally, hardwoods are placed in the lead due to their inherent robustness and durability. 

The key contributors are their slower growth rate and intricate, condensed structure, often resulting in a higher density of harvested timber. It’s a simple equation: higher density equals greater strength and durability.

Yet, like any rule, some exceptions may require attention. Some exceptions are in ‘hard’ softwoods and ‘soft’ hardwoods. 

Yew, for instance, is classified as a softwood, and it defies expectations with a dry density of 670 kg/m³. It surpasses the hardness of American Cherry, a classified hardwood with a less impressive 560kg/m³. 

At the opposite extreme, there’s the Balsa wood, for instance. Despite its hardwood label, it features an extraordinarily soft density of 160kg/m³. 

These exceptions add nuance to the conventional wisdom and showcase that in the hardwood versus softwood strength duel, there could be surprises.


Hardwood vs. Softwood: Cost

When it comes to cost, the hardwood versus softwood competition takes an interesting turn. Softwoods, thanks to their faster growth and greater abundance, generally emerge as the more budget-friendly option. 

However, the cost dynamics hinge heavily on the specific product, wood species, and the required volume.

Here’s where nuances come into play. Certain types of softwoods, like the aesthetically pleasing and durable Western Red Cedar, can command a higher price tag than their less-in-demand hardwood counterparts. 

This shift in pricing challenges the notion that all softwoods are inherently cheaper. 

So, while softwoods may have an affordable reputation, the final price depends on each wood species’ unique attributes and demand. This creates a diverse landscape where cost considerations are not one-size-fits-all.



To determine the optimal choice for exterior siding between hardwood and softwood, we’ve explored the nuances of these wood types. Hardwoods impress with strength and durability, while softwoods, notably Western Red Cedar, defy expectations with beauty and resilience.

As you embark on your siding project, consider each wood type’s diverse attributes.

For premium Western Red Cedar siding, visit Longhousecedar.com. Elevate your exterior with a wood that embodies both elegance and endurance.