Which species of wood are best? Hardwood or Softwood?

Hardwood trees are angiosperms – plants that produce seeds with some form of covering i.e. fruit such as an apple or hard shell such as acorn. They also lose their leaves in the cold weather.

Softwood trees are gymnosperms – their seeds have no covering, such as pine trees, the seeds are hard cones. Conifer tree seeds are released into the wind once mature and spread over a wider  area. Additionally these trees keep their leaves all year round.

HARDWOODS

Oak
Popular with garden designers and landscapers, oak is a strong and naturally durable timber owing to its density.

It is difficult to treat owing to its moisture and acid content, although it naturally has a good resistance to decay. It is light to medium brown in colour though a fair amount of variation can been seen through its grain.  It must be cut, latted, and seasoned well to dry and prevent movement.

It can take stain very well and if left unfinished over time the colour will silver down and blacken.  Alternatively a coat of osmoil can be given to protect it and enhance its natural colour.

Oak is not recommended for use in gates due to its tendency to split and crack; however it is widely used for timber framed buildings. The tannin in oak can react with black or galvanised ironmongery so it is advisable to use stainless steel fittings.

Iroko
This is a very durable wood from Africa and is ideal for use outdoors. It is initially a stripy yellow / orange timber but darkens to a richer brown over time, and is a fantastic wood for timber gates and planters.

It is especially resistant to rot, insect or fungus attack.  It is a very stable timber with a close grain and less likely than other hardwoods to crack or move and so is great for anywhere where durability is needed.

Iroko is an oily timber.  We recommend oiling the iroko each year with teak oil to bring out the colours in the wood and prevent the timber from showing water marks or going grey in the sunlight.  Due to the natural oils in the timber, it is not advisable to paint iroko gates unless using specific primers.

Sapele

Another dark red hardwood from Africa, Sapele is more constant in colour than iroko.  It is particularly suitable for gates that are to be stained or painted and accepts both well.

It is not as durable as oak or iroko and like oak can be subject to movement due to its moisture content.

SOFTWOODS

Scandinavian Redwood
Contrary to its name this wood isn’t red! It is a very pale brown with a reddish tint. It comes in different grades for different uses and knots are common in this timber.

Redwood is frequently used in gates. It is easy to work with and is very stable. It does not produce much sap and creates a good planed finish.  It takes paint, stain and preservative well.

Western Red Cedar
Renowned for its high decay resistance, though it is not resistant to insect attack, this wood varies in colour and shade, typically a reddish to pinkish brown. It is lightweight and stable; and is an
attractive timber that is easy to work with.
Owing to its softness it can dent and scratch easily but it is easy to work with and looks good. It is a great material for cladding or fence panels and it has good finishing properties, taking a variety of coatings, paints and stains exceptionally well.

European Larch
It is a great all-rounder with its popularity increasing as it is specified more by architects and landscapers, due to its strength and durability.  It is pinkish brown in colour and not dissimilar to Western red cedar.  It will turn silvery grey over time.

Gates made out of larch are renowned for their longevity – European larch also gives a good
planed finish. However we only make traditional 5 bar, bent heel or paling gates out of larch as the timber is knotty, splits and can leach sap.

It is the most durable of the softwoods and therefore is most suitable for items that are going to be in contact with the ground, such as gate posts or wooden gazebos.

It has a natural resistance to rot and fungus making treatment unnecessary, though it will take a preservative or stain and we usually pressure treat it with tanalith E for added protection.

If you are interested on other varieties of timber not listed here or are looking for a specific finish, please call us for advice and information.Popular with garden designers and landscapers, oak is a strong and naturally durable timber owing to its density.