Not all woods are created equal. When looking for furniture for your home, you want to get quality pieces that are going to last a long time. However, sometimes it can be difficult to know what is what. This guide will go through some of the most common types of wood used in furniture. It will also give you pointers on how to tell the difference between them so you can distinguish for yourself when you have found a quality piece as well as avoid poor quality wood.
Pine is one of the most common woods you will see used in furniture currently. It is typically going to be a softwood. This means it is less dense because of how quickly it grows. However, this allows it to be very affordable. Because of its light color, it is also a great wood for staining. The trade-off with pine is its shorter life expectancy. This would be a great choice for someone that is getting started in the world of updating furniture or is looking for versatile pieces to mix and match.
- Color: White or light yellow
- Density: Soft and Lightweight
- Grain: Mixed broad to tight grain
- Finish: Takes paint and stain really well
Cedar is another very common softwood used in furniture. It has a high resistance to rot and therefore is commonly used for outdoor furniture. Another pro to using cedar for outdoor furniture is its ability to deter bugs. Cedar has a very unique and specific scent. If you recall grade school pencils, they were most likely made of cedar. The most common type of cedar you will probably run across is Western Red Cedar.
- Color: Typically red with some types being yellow
- Density: Soft and Lightweight
- Grain: Straight grain with coarse texture
- Finish: One of the best softwoods for accepting paint, stain, or oil
As you begin to get into hardwood types, oak will be one of the most commonly used woods. Oak is a very hard wearing and durable wood. It is also very heavy and can be found in white oak or red oak. Someone that is looking for a very well built and long lasting piece of furniture would do well to go with oak. It is not the best of the hardwoods but is much more affordable and easily accessible.
- Color: Grey/brown with sometimes reddish tint
- Density: Very hard and heavy
- Grain: Desirable open wood grain markings, porous
- Finish: Easily accepts stains and has a wide range of finish tones
A step up from oak is maple wood. It is more durable and heavier than oak. Higher density makes it very resilient to shock and abrasive wear. However, this does make it more susceptible to decay. Maple may not hold up to age as well as oak in certain conditions. Someone that is looking to restore antique pieces would need to take this into consideration.
- Color: Creamy to off-white with occasional red-brown heartwood
- Density: Very hard and Very Heavy
- Grain: Closed Grain with uniformed texture
- Finish: Finishes well but with variable levels of penetration
One of the last common types of wood to be discussed is mahogany. Mahogany is a very expensive and traditional wood. The color is very recognizable and usually ranges from a medium brown to a deep red brown. Because of its price point, it is usually found in high end pieces of furniture. It would be a great find at an estate or garage sale at the right price point. It can be refinished relatively easily and takes stain well, sometimes too well. A sanding sealer is recommended when finishing mahogany wood.
- Color: Brown to reddish brown
- Density: Medium texture and moderately heavy
- Grain: Fine grain with ribbon runs at times
- Finish: Finishes very well, sanding sealer recommended
When shopping for furniture, it helps to know what type of wood is used. Hopefully this guide has given an idea of what to look for depending on the desired use for the furniture. Conversely, hopefully it has helped show what woods not to look for when shopping. Woods with laminate coverings, particle board, plywoods, and other types of similar composition woods are the types to avoid. Start by looking for woods with the specific characteristics of these five and you will be pleased with the results.