The classification of trees falls into two broad categories – hardwood and softwood, according to their seed structure. Although most hardwoods are hard, softwoods aren’t always soft. In fact, some hardwoods are softer than softwoods. Many softwoods are so named because they are more prone to dents and scratches.
Because hardwoods have better abrasion resistance, they are the preferred choice for wooden flooring. This is particularly apparent in high-traffic rooms in homes where there are kids and pets. But there are some situations where homeowners prefer softwood flooring thanks to its rustic look and affordability.
Pine, spruce, fir, cypress, cedar, and redwood are a few of the popular varieties used for flooring. In this post, we discuss the various aspects of softwood flooring.
Where Not to Use Softwood Flooring
Softwood flooring looks attractive, and it costs considerably less than hardwood flooring. However, because it is less durable, there are certain situations where softwood flooring should not be used. For instance, high-traffic areas, where there is a high chance of scratches and dents, should not have softwood flooring. Further, rooms with heavy furniture shouldn’t have softwood floors, and it isn’t suitable for kitchen and dining areas where there is a high chance of spills.
The Case for Softwood Flooring
Some softwoods like yew can be harder than hardwoods, and some hardwoods like balsa can be softer than many softwoods. That said, there are specific scenarios where softwood makes suitable flooring.
The prime consideration for using softwood flooring is the cost factor. You can save quite a lot of money by installing softwood flooring. Another factor in softwood’s favor is that of sustainability. If you are concerned about using sustainable wood, then it is a good option because of the faster rate of growth of softwood trees.
Furthermore, most softwoods, and spruce, in particular, exhibit soundproof properties. They dampen the sound, making it a good option for using for the flooring of sound recording studios. Hence, if you have a room with softwood flooring and perhaps some softwood paneling on the walls, you would have a room that absorbs sound to make it very silent and peaceful.
A final case for softwood is that some people prefer it because of the distressed look it develops in time. The scratches and dents become a kind of fashion statement.
With so much going for softwood flooring, let’s take a close look at some of the popular types of wood that we use to make softwood flooring:
Types of Softwood Flooring
Pine is a cheap, lightweight wood that has a yellowish or whitish coloration. You will usually get pine with numerous dark-colored knots which add to the charm of the wood, imparting a rustic appearance to the wood. It is easy to stain or paint pinewood, and it takes on a pleasant patina as it ages. Pine has a fair degree of resistance to swelling or shrinking. The downside of this wood is that it dents and scratches easily.
Fir, also known as hemlock, provides a suitable option for flooring that is has a fair degree of resistance to rot and insect attack. It is also easy to work with and has a uniform texture with a pleasant-looking grain. Fir exhibits a high level of stability when thoroughly dried, and will not twist and warp easily, adding to the list of advantages as a flooring material. When finished, fir also imparts a rustic look to the flooring.
You will find cedar at almost all places in the southern United States and South America. Cedar is a knotty wood with light and reddish-brown streaks in its grain. It exudes a pleasant aroma and possesses moth-repellent characteristics, making it a favored species of wood for making drawers and closets. You will find it easy to work with cedar but be aware that it is a brittle wood, so it is prone to chipping and should not be used for flooring in places of heavy footfall or in high-impact areas.
The rich red color of redwood makes for beautiful softwood flooring. The best quality wood comes from the heartwood, which has the maximum resistance to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. It also has a significant resistance to moisture and insects. Redwood trees grow to a great height, some up to 300 feet tall. It enables you to get some really long boards and planks without joints, which is a handy feature for flooring material.
The straight grain and light shade of spruce makes it a popular choice for using in flooring. If the trees are allowed to mature entirely before harvesting, the wood is acoustically sound, making it suitable for making musical instruments. This feature of spruce also makes it a material that is conducive to soundproofing.
Hence, we also use spruce for flooring and paneling of sound recording studios. A downside of this wood is that it is susceptible to rot, warps easily, and is the least fireproof of all the other types of softwoods that we use for flooring.
Cypress is the right choice if you are looking for light-colored wood for your flooring with character. Dark knots regularly interrupt the wood grain, giving it a natural, rustic appearance. It will not darken over time like some other species of wood. Cypress is harder than red oak.
Cypress exhibits natural resistance to termites and can be used for flooring in all rooms of a home except bathrooms and kitchens where spills occur, and there is the possibility of standing water. You need to maintain cypress regularly by cleaning up the spills immediately and avoiding placing heavy furniture or using high heels on it. You can use mats and rugs in doorways and high traffic areas to protect your beautiful cypress floors from abrasion.
You can get some attractive colors and unusual patterns with cork flooring, giving the floor a unique look that will go well with your existing furniture. Cork contains air pockets which give it a springiness that makes it feel good to stand on, especially if you are barefoot. This property of cork makes a suitable choice for using in a kitchen where you are likely to be standing for a long time.
Although you may feel that cork to be a bit too soft for use as flooring, it is not. This wood possesses high durability and exhibits a considerable degree of water resistance. You can get cork in boards and planks of different sizes, and the material is treated to be resistant to rot, moisture, and fire. It comes in glue or no glue installation systems.
It can surprise many people that softwood flooring can have so many advantages. It has its own level of resiliency. But you have to keep in mind the downsides of using softwood flooring for your home, be aware that it has its limitations. The information that we have provided here should be able to help you decide whether or not to use softwood flooring in your home or office.
Although there are some advantages to using softwood flooring, hardwood flooring remains a preferred option to most woodworkers and homeowners. You can still use softwood flooring if you are aware of where you can use it and where you cannot.