How to identify hardwood lumber

Written by kimberly johnson
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How to identify hardwood lumber
Identifying hardwood lumber. (lumber image by jimcox40 from

There are two main categories of wood: hardwood and softwood. Like the name suggests, hardwood is more durable than softwood and includes such woods as mahogany, walnut, rosewood, maple and elm. Softwood is more susceptible to scratches and gouges and includes such woods as pine, spruce, cedar and fir. Identifying hardwood lumber from softwood lumber is an easy task, given that the inside of the wood is already exposed and easy to examine. Identification requires no special tools and is quick to perform.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Magnifying glass

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  1. 1

    Press a fingernail firmly into the lumber and then remove it. If an indention is present, the wood is a softwood. If no indention is left, it is hardwood.

  2. 2

    Examine the colour of the lumber. Most hardwood, such as mahogany, is dark in colour, while lighter wood, such as pine, is a light colour. Scratch the surface of the lumber with your finger to make sure it does not contain a stain to make it look like a darker hardwood.

  3. 3

    Examine the surface with a magnifying glass and look for tiny pores that resemble holes or dots. All hardwood lumber has tiny pores in the wood, while softwood does not. A magnifying glass is necessary because not all tree pores are visible with the naked eye.

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