It doesn´t matter if you want to build your own furniture or if you simply want to buy wooden furniture for your home, you will always have this one very important question that you need to think about before either buying or building your own furniture. And that question is: “What kind of wood should I choose for my furniture?”
As a whole, the best kind of wood for furniture is very dependent on the kind of look you are searching for. Hardwood is generally the best choice if you want stunning-looking furniture in your house. You can choose the type of hardwood purely by how you like the look of it.
The question is not easily answered because there are quite a lot of different things to consider and the answer will be different for pretty much everyone. But I will give you enough information in this article so that you can decide which kind of wood is best for your furniture.
Is Softwood or Hardwood better for Furniture?
The first decision you encounter when choosing wood for your furniture is whether you want to use softwood or hardwood.
Softwood is wood from evergreen trees that tend to grow faster than most other tree variants. This fast growth makes the wood especially soft compared to other types of wood.
Softwood is generally cheaper but it is also not as strong as hardwood.
Cedar, for example, is a very commonly used softwood amongst woodworkers.
I personally would only consider using softwoods for very specific furniture or if you are on a budget. You can use some softwoods for outdoor furniture, like cedar, but most of the time I prefer hardwood over softwood.
Hardwood comes from trees that lose their leaves over the winter and hardwood trees generally grow slower than most softwoods.
Hardwood is more expensive than softwood but it is also way stronger than most softwoods. Plus hardwood generally looks so much better naturally than softwood.
I prefer using hardwood for most furniture projects that I don´t plan on painting. Most hardwoods have a stunning natural look and you generally only have to apply oil to them to make them look gorgeous. But hardwoods are pricy and depending on the size of the furniture it can get very expensive real fast.
The Best Woods for Furniture
The look of the wood is probably most important when choosing the right wood for your furniture right after you decided if you want to use softwood or hardwood.
Different kinds of wood have different natural colors and different-looking grain. I created a table that you can refer to for a quick overlook of all the different kinds of wood that you can use, what type they are, what color they usually have, and the look of their grain.
There is more information about each of these woods further down below.
|Ash||Hardwood||White or pale brown||Straight grain|
|Cedar||Softwood||Slightly yellow color or reddish-brown||varies|
|Mahagony||Hardwood||Light red or brownish-red||Straight even grain|
|Oak||Hardwood||Beige, brown, or reddish-brown||Straight|
|Pecan||Hardwood||Light brown with a reddish hue||Straight|
|Pine||Softwood||Light brown||Straight and even|
|Poplar||Hardwood||Yellowish-brown||Straight uniform grain|
|Redwood||Hardwood||Light-pinkish or deep-reddish-brown||Mostly straight|
|Teak||Hardwood||Golden or brownish-yellow||Straight|
|Walnut||Hardwood||Light brown or dark chocolate brown||Straight|
Ash is a very interesting wood to use. It is quite rare, so you won´t get your hands on it easily, but it has a very interesting look to it.
Ash is very pale, almost white, and very strong. But it is also very light. So Ash is ideal for bulding shelves or stairs.
A good alternative for Ash is Oak. Oak has a similar appearance both in color and grain, and oak is generally cheaper than Ash.
Beechwood is considered to be very easy to work with. But it is also very heavy wood, so it can´t be used for just any furniture and it should not be used for building big furniture because of its weight.
Beech has a reddish-brown texture and a very fine grain.
Beech is a very hard and strong wood that is ideal for building cabinets or tables.
Birch is a very commonly used wood for building furniture. It has a pale color with darker streaks going through it making it a very interesting-looking wood.
It is quite easy to work with and can look absolutely stunning when used for building furniture with larger surface areas such as cabinets, for example.
Birch is quite a hard wood but it isn´t as heavy as Beech so you can use it for building shelves.
Cedar wood has a slightly sweet scent to it and the oil, that is in the wood, is a natural repellant to moths, ants, and other insects.
This is also why cedar was commonly used to make chests and closets. Because it would naturally keep moths away from the clothes inside.
Cedar wood is also quite resistant to rot and it repels humidity and moisture. So you can use it for building outdoor furniture as well.
It is also not as expensive as most other woods used for building furniture. This makes it the perfect choice if you are on a budget.
There are a lot of different kinds of cedar, from the northern white cedar (most often used) to the western red cedar. So be sure to choose a type of cedar that you like the look of.
Cherry wood is one of the most stunning-looking types of wood. Its deep red color and beautiful looking texture is the reason why it is used so widely for building furniture.
Cherry is very strong and robust but it is also very expensive. You can´t normally buy cherry in hardware stores without notice because of its price hardware stores rarely have it on stock.
Cherry is also not easy to work with because of its strength.
I see then and again that people want to use fir wood for building furniture but I can´t really recommend using it for that.
There are way better alternatives out there and fir is usually only used indoors for construction purposes but rarely used for building furniture.
That being said, it is a strong wood that can be used for building indoor furniture but Pine is usually just as expensive but a way better alternative.
Maple wood is loved for its unique saturated color. Maple can have many different wood grains called flame maple, quilt maple, birdseye maple, and burl wood.
Maple can look very different depending on the type of grain it has.
Maple wood can be very expensive especially if you want to use one of the rarer grain types or if you need a very large piece of maple, for example for a table top.
I personally love the look of maple but I rarely use it because of its cost. But if you are not on a budget then maple is a great choice for you!
Mahagony wood has a very straight and even grain and is mostly free of any voids and pockets. It has a reddish-brown color to it and it tends to darken over time. So keep in mind that the wood might get darker when it ages.
Mahagony was used in the 18th century to make most of the furniture in the American Colonies. It is widely used for fine furniture and I personally love the even elegant dark look of the wood.
It is quite expensive but it is also very strong and one of the most beautiful looking woods that you can use for furniture.
Oak can have very interesting grain patterns depending on how it was sawn but it’s usually straight. It depends if the oak wood was quarter sawn (gives the wood a more interesting grain) or just sliced (in which case the grain is straight).
Oak is very strong and perfect for furniture. Depending on the type of oak wood the color may vary greatly. White oak, for example, has a light beige color to it while red oak has more of a reddish tint to it.
Oak is generally not as expensive as Mahagony or Maple, which makes it a perfect budget choice for furniture. And can still look amazing especially if you use quarter sawn oak lumber (slightly more expensive than regular oak wood).
Pecan is an interesting-looking wood but it is unfortunately quite hard to work with. It is not especially rot resistant so it is only viable for indoor furniture.
Pecan wood is quite inexpensive. It is very strong and durable.
Pecan wood can be used for making furniture and it tends to look really good as well but it is mostly used for flooring because of its difficult workability.
Pine is another softwood that is great for furniture. It is usually light brown in color but it can sometimes have a reddish hue to it as well.
There are a lot of different types of pine that look and handle slightly different but most types of pine are quite similar. The most widely used pine variant in America is eastern white pine.
Pine is pretty easy to work with and it is quite cheap compared to most other woods on this list.
Pine is not as strong as other woods on this list so you shouldn´t use it for table tops or other furniture that usually gets used very frequently.
It is a great budget choice for chests or smaller drawers but I wouldn’t use it to build tables, chairs, or cabinets.
This is by far the cheapest hardwood that you can get in the US. If you are searching for a strong and great-looking wood to make furniture with, then popular is probably the best budget option you have.
It has a cream color to it that can sometimes look a little more yellowish-brown. It can even appear almost white in color as well.
Poplar is incredibly easy to work with because of its lower density but that also means that it is softer than most other hardwoods. So you should not use it for building table tops or chairs because it might get damaged easily.
Redwood is not as expensive as most other hardwoods but it looks just as well. Because of its straight grains, it tends to look very clean and elegant. You can get redwood with slightly wavy grain which can look very interesting as well if you prefer that.
Redwood is easy to work with and it is quite sturdy as well.
It can be used for interior and for exterior furniture and it is strong enough for table tops as well.
Unfortunately, teak is very expensive which is also why most people opt not to use it. There are other types of wood that look equally as good or better than teak that you can get cheaper.
Teak is very easy to work with while still being strong. This is probably the biggest advantage of teak.
Teak can be used for indoor and outdoor furniture and it is strong enough for table tops. Teak is also used for flooring.
There are a lot of different kinds of walnut that you can use for furniture but they are all pretty similar except for the color and the grain, which can vary slightly.
Walnut tends to be expencive but prices vary greatly depending on the type of walnut and depending on the grain.
It is quite easy to work with when the grain is straight. It is very resistant to rot and humidity so it is ideal for outdoor furniture.