What Is Lumber?

Have you ever wondered if there are differences between timber and lumber? Well, if so, let’s clear one thing up for you – both refer to wood.

In the US and Canada, we refer to wood that has been processed into beams and planks, and lumber. In reality, this is the same as timber (as known in the UK.)

What Is Lumber?

Lumber is a term commonly used to refer to different lengths of wood, usually utilized for construction purposes.

Pieces of lumber are generally cut from the trunk lengthways, but can often be cut into rectangular cross-sections, too.

Want to find out more about lumber? You’re in the right place. In today’s post, we will discuss exactly what lumber is and the different types available.

Therefore, you can decide if you require lumber for any upcoming projects you may have in store. Let’s dive right in.

Lumber – What Is It?

Lumber is a collective term that refers to harvested wood.

This wood can be used for various purposes and can be cut into logs, used as heavy timbers, or for light-frame constructions.

This wood is processed for building material and is typically cut into planks and boards or milled in a lumber mill. Eventually, it is sold in a lumberyard.

There are two different types of lumber:

  • Hardwood
  • Softwood

Hardwood lumber is taken from deciduous trees, such as maple, oak, ash, teak, birch walnut, hickory, and mahogany.

As the name suggests, the majority of hardwood lumbers are harder than softwoods, except for balsa wood.

This means they tend to be more durable and withstand dents and marks better.

Softwood lumber derives from coniferous or evergreen trees, such as pine, fir, redwood, spruce, and cedar.

Unlike hardwood lumber, softwood tends to dent pretty easily. In fact, just a slight push with your fingers can dent this type of wood.

Because of this “fragility,” softwood lumber requires extra care during its lifetime. Softwood lumber needs regular maintenance to ensure its stability remains intact.

Moreover, it tends to absorb and lose moisture far more easily than hardwood.

Softwood is typically soft, light, and easier to work with, especially when compared to hardwood lumber. But, its longevity may not be suitable for some structures and items.

Different Types Of Lumber



There are a few popular types of softwood lumber types worldwide. These are:

  • Pinewood
  • Redwood
  • Firwood
  • Cedarwood
  • Hemlock (Eastern and Western)

Pinewood is one of the easiest types of wood to work with due to its softness. This is why it is generally great for carving and cutting.

Pinewood is also shock-resistant and strong, making it ideal for furniture, floors, window frames, roofing, and paneling.

Compared to others, pinewood has darker grains, especially compared to the wood itself.

It is generally affordable and requires less maintenance than some other types. It also stands up well in extreme weather conditions.

Redwood lumber is also known as Sequoia, Vavona, Coast Redwood, and California Redwood. It usually has a light pink tone or a strong reddish-brown color.

Some redwood has straight grains, whilst others are more curly. What all redwood has in common, though, is that it’s durable and resistant to decay.

This is thanks to its resistance to moisture, meaning it is ideal for use outdoors. Firwood, also known as Douglas Fir, has a straight, pronounced grain and a reddish-brown color.

Usually affordable and very strong, it is mostly used for bridges and other complex structures.

Cedarwood is very high-quality lumber with western red cedar being the most common type. Boasting a straight grain, this is quite soft and has a strong aromatic smell.

Being moisture resistant, it doesn’t rot easily so it is useful for outdoor structures. There are two types of hemlock lumber:

  • Eastern
  • Western

Eastern hemlock wood, also known as Canadian hemlock, is typically straight with spirals on its surface.

Crates, pallets, boxes, framing, and plywood are some items made from this type of wood thanks to its ease-of-use.

Western hemlock lumber tends to have straight grains and an uneven texture.

This type of wood is known to cause various health issues, though, such as runny noses and respiratory issues due to allergies.


Some popular types of hardwood lumber are:

  • Oakwood
  • Balsa
  • Walnut
  • Maple (soft and hard)
  • Poplar

Oakwood is arguably the most used wood in the construction of furniture.

Thanks to its durability and high-end finish, oak is a popular and reliable type of umber used by craftsmen around the world.

There are two varieties available – red and white. However, oak is known to change color over a period of time so needs maintenance during its lifespan.

Balsa lumber is the lightest and softest hardwood. This is ideal for insulating against heat and sound and is easy to work with.

Walnut is defined by its rich brown tone. Compared to other hardwoods, this is typically very expensive but is often used for making flooring, carvings, cabinets, and furniture.

Maple lumber is available in two varieties – hard and soft. Both are actually very hard, but the hard variety of maple is notoriously difficult to work with.

Maple is known for its fine grain and strength and is used for furniture, flooring, and high-end cabinets. Poplar wood is also referred to as yellow poplar and tulip poplar.

It sports straight grains and has low gloss textures but tends to change color as it ages, due to light exposure.

Thanks to its low density and smooth surface, poplar lumber is generally used to make frames, pallets, and crates.

In Summary

Lumber has been used for thousands of years by societies worldwide. To this day, it is used for constructing everything from houses to furniture and is even used as firewood.

Lumber demand continues to grow, and the lumber industry is one of the most lucrative in the world today.

From construction to paper and turpentine to textiles, lumber is one of the most important materials the world has ever had.

Joel Adams
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