Different types of wood and its characteristics
Updated: 2020-12-14
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  • merbau
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Wood is one of the most popular building materials not only due to the technical characteristics it has but also the elegance it brings to your home interior. If you are considering wood as your home building or decoration material, first of all you need to decide which type of wood will be of your choice as each type of wood has its own characteristics, i.e. level of hardness, level of moisture, stability, density, colour and texture.

Hardness of wood is the ability of wood to resist the dents of harder surfaces. It is the first characteristic to be considered when choosing the type of wood as it has effect on abrasion as well as resistance to falling objects, scratching and durability which is described in a range from very soft to very hard. The hardness of wood is normally measured according to the Brinell method, i.e. a certain amount of force is used to press a steel ball into the wooden surface. The recess of the ball is measured to define the wood hardness ratio accoding to the Brinell method. The harder the wood, the higher the ratio of wood hardness. The wood which is closer to the stub is considered to have a higher level of hardness as towards the top of the tree it gets less harder. For example, the characteristics of oak and ash get weaker from the core towards the top of the tree, whereas the characteristics of ash and linden, on the contrary, get weaker from the bark towards the core of the wood.

When some types of wood are very hard and durable, others are flexible and suitable for bending. The term hardwood refers to trees that loose their leaves in winter, e.g. oak or maple, whereas the term softwood refers to evergreens, such as redwood, pine or fir.

Another factor which needs to be considered when making the wood type solution is the wood stability. Wood stability helps to define how much and how quickly a certain type of wood has a tendency to change its dimensions in different moisture levels. The water level in wood is measured by its moisture ratio. It is calculated by the  amount of water that the wood contains in proportion with the weight of wood given in percentage. The moisture level of wood can be measured by defining its weight from the wood samples, which is a long but precise method.

The ratio of wood moisture can get affected by either the climate change or direct contact with water/damp surfaces. Wood can change its dimensions by either shrinking or swelling. As shrinking is the decreasing of wood dimensions and density due to the increased level of water in the wood, swelling can be defined as the increasing of wood dimensions and density due to the higher level of water in the wood. When the air is humid, wood adsorbs moisture and swells; when the air is dry, wood loses moisture and shrinks. Thus, it is important to note here, that the ability of wood to accumulate and evaporate water at ease are the factors of a high importance.The moisture level of the newly-cut wood is normally too high, therefore, the wood needs to be dried and stored only in dry conditions.

What makes wood a practical building material is the specific range of colours and textures. The wood of some trees comes in white colour, for example the one of a linden or ash whereas the wood of other trees can be red or magnolia. What brings wood its colour is the particular ferments inside it as well as pitchy and colorific materials. Due to the volatile oils, pitch and fermented materials, the wood gets a special smell. The newly-cut wood has a stronger smell, whereas the smell of a drying wood is less strong. Most types of wood have a decorative texture, especially the ones of a longitudinal incision cut. The beautiful texture gets very much clear, when the longitudinal cut is made across the wood strings, the rays of the wood core and the yearly flutes. The wood which is of thinner flutes and comes from the colder climate zones is considered to be of a higher value and quality. Each type of wood has its own amount of flutes, for example, pine has 3-25 flutes, spruce has 3-20 flutes, oak does not have more than 12 flutes, whereas ash has only 9 flutes. Some types of wood have a decorative value due to the natural radiance of wood which comes from the bright rays of the wood core, amongst those here to mention are beech, oak and maple.

Let's discuss some main wood types in detail to see what characteristics they have.

Merbau is a leafy of the tropic. It is one of the hardest types of wood. It is often chosen for the building of areas with high flows of people. It is also very much popular in modern interiors due to the interesting and beautiful dark red colour of the wood.

The wood of beech has the hardness of 3.8 HB. It is very much often used for decorative purposes as it can be easily painted and does not change the colour when being varnished. The wood of beech comes in colours from pink yellowish to red violet.

Oak wood has the hardness ratio of 3.7 HB and goes to a group of hardwood trees. The wood of oak has great technical characteristics as it is hard, smooth and durable; it also has good bending qualities and resistance to moisture absorption. It comes in very bright and clear textures, from yellowish brown to grayish green, yellowish green to dark red. The colour of oak wood depends on its place of vegetation, for example if it grows in a dry sunny place it gets a yellowish colour, whereas the one that vegetates in mountains gets a light green colour. Wood is used in both classic and modern interiors due to its long term stability and the feeling of solidity it brings to your home interior. The wood of oak can be used for a variety of applications, including flooring, furniture, joinery and fittings.

Larch is also a hardwood tree, often compared to oak. The wood of larch is known as hard and smooth, having a resistance towards the outside effects. Larch wood is rich in colours and can be found in warm tones, i.e. from light yellow to orange, from golden to brown. The wood of larch which vegetated in wet areas is considered to have a higher value. This type of wood is most often used for general timber works as well floors, gyms and areas which have a different weather temperature.

The wood of a cherry is hard and comes with the hardness of 3.6 HB. It is the type of wood that gets easily polished. As it comes in a nice brownish colour, it is very much favored by decorators and furniture makers.

The wood of cobnut is one of the most popular types of wood in the interior decoration. Cobnut  wood has a brownish colour. It has a high density and the hardness of 3.4 HB. It gets dry very easily and does not have a tendency to shrink or swell.

When it comes to the wood of ash, it is important to note here that ash wood has great physical and mechanical characteristics. The wood is hard, versatile and heavy. It can be easily polished and shrinks only slightly. The colour of ash wood is light or yellow whitish with light brownish core which brings the element of elegance to your interior design. Ash wood is often used for the building of the floors.The floor of ash wood creates a light, relaxing style; floor with a clearer texture of ash wood brings the coziness and playfulness to your interior.

Maple wood is the hardwood which has the hardness ration of 3.0 HB. It is the type of wood which has a smooth soft surface and can be easily processed. Maple wood comes in light colours, either yellowish or white. It has a moderate shrinkage, resistance to moisture; however climate effects, such as the sun, can make it darker. The wood of maple has a nice texture and a high density. It adds the impression of light and cleanness to your place. It is best used for furniture or flooring.

Birch wood is the wood of medium hardness, which stands at 2.6 HB. Therefore, it is not very often used for  the floor building. The wood of birch does not have very bright flutes, it can be found in the colours of white yellowish or white brownish.

Hornbeam wood is similar to birch wood. As the wood  of hornbeam has an involute splint, it gets hardly processed. The wood is also heavy in weight. When it comes to the colour of the hornbeam, it is interesting to note here that hornbeam wood has the glowing colour and the whiteness of the pearl.

The wood of alder has a very nice brownish golden colour which brings elegance to your home interior. As it has the hardness of only 2.1 HB, it can get easily affected by the pests. When the wood of alder dries up, its gets only slightly deformed. It is very much resistant to the moisture change, therefore the floor made from alder has a high stability.

Pine wood has the hardness of 1.6 HB. The wood of pine is soft and can be easily processed, though it can be easily damaged. It has a resistance to shrinkage, swelling and warping. Pine wood is most often used for the house construction, paneling and furniture making at some times.

Whereas the wood of spruce is much more hardly processed than pine wood. The hardness of the spruce wood is 1.3 HB. It is light in weigh, has a moderate shrinkage, it finishes well but has a low resistance to decay. The wood of spruce brings additional light and coziness to your home interior due to its ability to preserve the colour for a long time. It comes in yellowish red, light yellow, sometimes ir red orange shades. The wood of spruce brings additional light and coziness. It is mostly used for both building and joinery.

Wood as a building material has a great value due to its ability to resist deterioration. It can be easily cut in a longitudinal direction of the fibre as well as bended; it also has the ability to keep the metal fixings without any difficulties. Currently, the wood of a higher density wood is of a higher demand as it has a higher resistance to bending and friction.

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