Wood types

Love wood? Choosing the right wood types for your project

Choosing the right wood types for your project

It probably won’t come as any surprise to you to learn that we love wood. Wood, in all its shapes, forms and textures, has an amazing natural quality and a timeless elegance that makes it perfect for all kinds of applications around the home.

But choosing the right wood type for your project is just the first step in your design process. Once you’ve made the decision to go with wood, you’ll need to make a choice on the types of wood that will be most suitable for what you’re trying to do. Here we’ll help you understand what different types of wood are available to you and how they differ, as well as other considerations you’ll need to make when picking the right wood type for your project.

Types of wood

All woods are classified as either hardwood or softwood. Contrary to popular belief, softwoods are not necessarily less robust than hardwoods. They tend to come from coniferous trees, such as pine, fir and cedar, and are generally cheaper than hardwoods because they grow faster and therefore can be farmed more sustainably.

While softwoods are perfectly fine for many projects, most carpenters and woodworkers will agree that hardwoods are the preferential type, due to their ability to be moulded and shaped into much more intricate designs. Hardwoods such as oak, mahogany and teak possess an attractive grain and unique textures, which make them a top choice for many projects, but be prepared to allow a much bigger budget. 

Here are some of the most popular wood types available, and some of their unique features which can help you choose the right wood type for your project:

  • Maple: Light in colour with a wavy grain, Maple is very shock resistant and durable. It’s light colouring makes it popular in contemporary designs, and can be stained for a different finish.
  • Oak: Oak is a hard, heavy wood that lasts a lifetime. The grain is coarse and the pale colouring can be stained to suit your style, making this a great choice for cabinetry.
  • Meranti: Meranti is a hardwood rich in grains and light in colour. It is a hardwood used extensively in Dubai because of its availability and price. With a very competitive price in comparison to other hardwoods and its abundance in the market, Meranti can be very useful for a project in which cost saving is a priority.
  • Birch: A smooth hardwood with high shock resistance, perfect for kitchen countertops and other high usage applications. The natural colour variation, however, could end up being a problem if you like a uniform colour throughout.
  • Pine: A budget friendly, pale to mid coloured soft wood that can bring an elegant look to your project without spending a fortune. Pine does tend to dent, so would be better for wardrobes than anywhere where the top is going to be used as a resting surface.
  • Mahogany: The daddy of all hardwoods, Mahogany’s natural rich, dark colouring and incredible hardness makes this a great choice for pieces that are built to last a lifetime. When budget is no object, Mahogany is a truly great choice.
  • Ash wood: This is a gorgeous light textured hardwood filled with beautiful grains. This wood looks exceptionally stunning in white. Although a price type of wood, Ash wood is great for wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, door, etc. where you have a large area which demonstrates these beautiful grains.
  • Teak Wood: Teak wood has several different types with the 2 most popular in Dubai being Burmese teak and Iroko Teak. Burmese teak, almost double in price in comparison to Iroko teak, has a uniform goldish brown color with long thin grains throughout. Iroko Teak, also known as African teak, has darker brown grains.

We work with many other types of wood too, from teak to cherry and everything in between. Wherever we can we work with locally sourced wood, but are able to order in practically any wood variety you can imagine, so do your research on colours, grains and durability before making your final choice.

Choices to make

When choosing the the right wood type for your project, it comes down to three main decisions: The variety of wood, as we have touched upon above; the colour of the wood, which can vary even within one species, and; the grain of the wood itself.

Colour

Whether you prefer the light colouring of maple or the deep richness of cherry, wood has its own natural beauty that requires no interference. However, some types of wood offer variations in their colouring depending on the type or age of the tree they were taken from, or even the place in the tree that they were sourced.

For example, oak can be sourced in both red and white varieties, leading to a different type of finish to your item. Birch, when taken from the outside of the tree trunk, is a pale, caramel coloured wood. However, when it’s taken from deep within the trunk of the tree, it can be a darker, more reddish colour.

All light coloured woods can be stained to change them to a darker hue, and of course they can also be painted or varnished to give a different finish. Think about what look you’re trying to achieve, and pick a wood based on strength, durability and beauty.

Grain

The ‘grain’ of the wood refers to the texture, patterns and alignment of the patterns that naturally appear in the wood. Every tree is as unique as a person, and each will have its own ‘fingerprint’ of grain patterns. For this reason, wood sellers will categorise the grain of the wood based on some uniform descriptions of the pattern. For example:

  • Straight: The grain lines are straight and vertical
  • Cross: The lines run parallel to the long side of the wood
  • Fine: Grain is invisible or barely visible
  • Curly: Patterns are circular
  • Spiral: Patterns appear in funnel or tornado like arrangements

There are numerous other terms used to describe the grain of your wood, so consider whether a coarse, interesting grain is going to be part of your overall styling, or if you prefer it to be unobtrusive. If you’re planning to paint your item, then it’s not such a big deal, but still worth thinking about as it could affect the way the paint takes to the wood.

Find out if the wood is ‘open grain’ like oak, or ‘closed grain’ like cherry or maple, if you are planning to paint. Open grain will literally suck in the moisture from the paint, making the grain visible even after painting.

Other considerations

Aside of the features of the wood itself, there are other elements to take into consideration when choosing a wood for your project.

  • What is it for?

You need to be sure what the purpose of this wood will be. Will there be heavy items placed upon it, or sharp things used on it? Will it be subjected to intense moisture or heat? Is it going to be used in one big, solid piece, such as a kitchen worktop, or delicately moulded and carved, such as for an ornate sideboard or staircase.

  • Is it beautiful or functional?

Figuring out whether your item is going to be mainly for looking at or needs to fulfil a destined purpose is important too. Cabinets, wardrobes and drawers, while certainly fulfilling a purpose, take a lot less wear and tear than, for example, a gazebo or garden room. This could affect your choice of wood.

  • How much do you want to spend?

If we had it our way, everyone would be working with high quality, beautiful hardwood all the time, as our experience has taught us this type of wood is easy to work with and literally lasts forever. However, not everyone has money to burn, so the crucial thing here is to go for the very best that money can buy when choosing the right wood type for your project. Pine is always cheap, but if you can dig a little deeper and go for oak or cherry, then you’ll end up with an item that will age much more attractively.

If you’re confused about what type of wood would really suit your home improvement project, or want advice on working with wood, talk to our experts today by clicking here.

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