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Softwood Plywood vs. Hardwood Plywood: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 24, 2024
Softwood plywood is made from coniferous trees, lighter and less durable; hardwood plywood comes from deciduous trees, denser and stronger.

Key Differences

Softwood plywood is typically derived from trees like pine, fir, or cedar, known for their lighter weight. On the other hand, hardwood plywood is made from trees like oak, maple, or birch, offering greater density and strength. Each type has unique characteristics suited for different applications.
In terms of cost, softwood plywood is generally more affordable due to the faster growth rate of softwood trees. Hardwood plywood, conversely, tends to be pricier, reflecting the slower growth and often superior aesthetics of hardwood trees. This distinction influences their use in various construction and furniture projects.
When it comes to appearance, softwood plywood often has a more uniform and subtle grain, making it ideal for applications where it will be covered or not visible. Hardwood plywood, with its varied and pronounced grain patterns, is preferred for visible surfaces where aesthetics are important.
Durability is a key difference; softwood plywood is less resistant to wear and tear compared to its hardwood counterpart. Hardwood plywood's enhanced durability makes it suitable for high-traffic areas and surfaces that undergo frequent use.
Softwood plywood is often used in structural applications, such as in framing or sheathing, due to its lightweight and ease of handling. Hardwood plywood, with its robustness and attractive appearance, is commonly used in cabinetry, furniture, and decorative panels.

Comparison Chart

Tree Type

Coniferous (e.g., pine, fir)
Deciduous (e.g., oak, maple)




Less durable
More durable

Grain Appearance

Subtle, uniform
Varied, pronounced


Generally more affordable
Generally more expensive

Typical Uses

Structural, framing, sheathing
Cabinetry, furniture, decorative uses

Softwood Plywood and Hardwood Plywood Definitions

Softwood Plywood

A type of plywood often used in construction for its ease of handling and cutting.
Softwood plywood made the construction process faster due to its easy-to-cut nature.

Hardwood Plywood

Plywood made from deciduous trees, known for its strength and durability.
The hardwood plywood was perfect for the bookshelves due to its sturdiness.

Softwood Plywood

Plywood characterized by its softer wood fibers, suitable for indoor applications.
Softwood plywood was used to create the non-load-bearing walls in the house.

Hardwood Plywood

Plywood suitable for applications where both strength and appearance are important.
In crafting the dining table, we used hardwood plywood for its robustness and elegant look.

Softwood Plywood

A type of plywood made from coniferous trees, known for its lightness.
The contractor chose softwood plywood for the interior framing due to its lightweight nature.

Hardwood Plywood

A type of plywood with a rich grain, often used for visible, high-quality finishes.
For the kitchen cabinets, we chose hardwood plywood for its beautiful grain.

Softwood Plywood

An affordable plywood option, ideal for temporary structures or underlayment.
For the shed's floor, we opted for softwood plywood because of its cost-effectiveness.

Hardwood Plywood

More expensive plywood, reflecting its superior quality and aesthetic appeal.
The cost of the hardwood plywood was higher, but its superior look justified the expense.

Softwood Plywood

Plywood with a less prominent grain, often used where appearance is not crucial.
We used softwood plywood for the storage room shelves since aesthetics were not a priority.

Hardwood Plywood

Denser and heavier plywood, ideal for heavy-use furniture and flooring.
We installed hardwood plywood flooring to ensure long-lasting durability.


What makes hardwood plywood preferable for furniture making?

Its strength, durability, and visually appealing grain make it ideal for furniture.

Is softwood plywood cheaper than hardwood plywood?

Generally, softwood plywood is more affordable than hardwood plywood.

What is softwood plywood primarily used for?

Softwood plywood is often used in structural applications like framing due to its light weight.

Does softwood plywood have a more subtle grain than hardwood plywood?

Yes, it typically has a more uniform and subtle grain.

Can softwood plywood be used outdoors?

It's less ideal for outdoor use compared to hardwood plywood due to lower durability.

Are there specific types of softwood trees used for plywood?

Common types include pine, fir, and cedar.

Can hardwood plywood be used for flooring?

Yes, hardwood plywood is suitable for flooring, offering durability and an attractive appearance.

Is hardwood plywood more difficult to work with than softwood plywood?

Due to its density, hardwood plywood can be harder to cut and shape.

Why is hardwood plywood more expensive?

Its cost reflects the slower growth and superior qualities of hardwood trees.

What are common uses for hardwood plywood?

It's used in cabinetry, furniture, and decorative panels for its aesthetic appeal.

Is softwood plywood suitable for high-traffic areas?

No, it's less durable and suitable for areas with less wear and tear.

How does the weight of the plywood affect its use?

Lighter softwood plywood is easier to handle, while heavier hardwood plywood provides stability.

Are there environmental considerations in choosing between the two?

Yes, the sustainability and source of the wood can be important factors.

Does the type of tree affect the properties of the plywood?

Yes, the tree type influences the plywood's weight, strength, and grain.

Can both types of plywood be painted or stained?

Yes, both can be finished, but hardwood plywood often has a more attractive natural grain.

Can hardwood plywood be used for wall paneling?

Yes, it's often chosen for its aesthetic appeal in visible areas.

Can hardwood plywood be used for structural purposes?

While possible, it's often not cost-effective due to its higher price.

Is there a difference in the moisture resistance between the two?

Hardwood plywood generally offers better moisture resistance.

What is the lifespan comparison between softwood and hardwood plywood?

Hardwood plywood typically has a longer lifespan due to its greater durability.

Are there specific grades for softwood and hardwood plywood?

Yes, both types come in various grades, affecting quality and price.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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