Is Douglas Fir a Hardwood? + Janka Hardness, Uses, and More!

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Douglas Fir trees are among the most prolific timber producers in North America, and they are frequently utilized in the manufacturing of doors, windows, sashes, and flooring materials.

But is Douglas Fir a hardwood suitable for any wood project? Or just for specific purposes? In this article, I’ll share the characteristics of Douglas Fir and why it’s a staple wood in most constructions.   

The Hardness of Douglas Fir

Douglas fir is among the most popular tree species in the Northern American region, specifically in the United States and Canada. It comes from the coniferous tree family and doesn’t lose its leaves easily, even during fall. 

This is due to the tree’s low conduction and water absorbability. Compared to other woods, Douglas fir is considered a softwood. However, it’s more durable and harder than other angiosperm woods like chestnut. 

In some cases, it’s used to replace hardwoods brought about by its impeccable dimensional stability and performance when used as a structural beam.

Douglas Fir slabs

Most would assume this wood is hardwood simply because it’s used as a flooring material. However, Douglas fir is relatively softer than most woods in the Janka hardness rating. 

Its hardness rating of 710 lbf is in the lower portion of the scale. Considered a softwood, it comes with cone seeds and needle-like leaves and doesn’t have vessels like hardwoods. Here’s how it compares with most wood species. 

Wood Species Hardness Value
Red Mahogany and Turpentine 2,697 lbf (12,000 N)
Hickory, Pecan and Satinwood 1,820 lbf (8,100 N)
Brazilian Walnut 3,684 lbf (16,390 N)
Golden Teak 2,330 lbf (10,400 N)
Brazilian Cherry and Jatoba 2,350 lbf (10,500 N)
Golden Teak 2,330 lbf (10,400 N)
Hard Maple and Sugar Maple 1,450 lbf (6,400 N)
Ash (White) 1,320 lbf (5,900 N)
White Oak 1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
American Beech 1,300 lbf (5,800 N)
Red Oak (Northern) 1,290 lbf (5,700 N)
Teak 1,155 lbf (5,140 N)
Yellow Birch and Baltic birch 1,260 lbf (5,600 N)
Cherry 995 lbf (4,430 N)
Black Walnut and North American Walnut 1,010 lbf (4,500 N)
Black Cherry, Imbuia 950 lbf (4,200 N)
Douglas Fir 710 lbf (3,158 N)
Hemlock 540 lbf (2,402 N)
Silver Maple 700 lbf (3,100 N)
Black Spruce 520 lbf (2,313 N)
Cypress 510 lbf (2,268 N)
Sitka Spruce 510 lbf (2,268 N)
Red Maple 950 lbf (4,200 N)
Sugar Pine 380 lbf (1,690 N)
Engelmann Spruce 390 lbf (1,735 N)
Redwood 420 lbf (1,868 N)

Characteristics of Douglas Fir

Douglas fir comes in a light brown wood color that may depend on its age. Like other coniferous wood, it also has small resin canals and is workable because of its durability and wavy grain patterns. The medium texture of the wood also adds up to its uniqueness.

Douglas Fir desk

Also, Douglas firs has blunting effects on the cutter, which most woodworkers find interesting and quirky. If you’re just starting to work on woodworking, practice before cutting Douglas first. 

It’s advisable to work in an open area or opening the windows of the workshed when handling Douglas Fir, as it is known to have a resinous odor that may prompt breathing problems.

Effective as a wood used in creating plywood, and veneers, the other qualities of Douglas Fir make it significant.

Before working with a Douglas fir, it’s important to be familiar with its characteristics. Here are the things you should know about a Douglas fir.

Douglas Fir wood
Density0.49 Kg/m3
ColorLight brown with a red hint
Stiffness1.95 Mpsi
Hardness710 lbf (1,358 N)
Type of WoodNorth American Softwood
Common UsageLumber, Plywood, and Veneer

Douglas Firs are large in appearance and can grow as large and tall as 330 feet. It has thick and rough barks. However, apart from the wood itself, what’s most sought after is its needle-like leaves that come in blue-green or dark green hues.

Best Uses for Douglas Fir

Known mostly for its impressive strength and bending quality, Douglas Fir is one of the most versatile wood materials to fit in various projects. It can be used in creating a lot of wood projects, such as the following:

Douglas Fir grain pattern

With proper maintenance, pieces made up of Douglas Fir can last for a long time. It’s a durable type of wood that can resist rot and decay, which explains why it’s a common material in decking and sliding. 

Douglas Fir table

The pronounced grain patterns in a Douglas Fir make it an eye candy for different projects, especially huge ones. It has consistent color and texture, which means that even if you use different slabs of Douglas Fir, the final results will still look uniform. 

The Strength of Douglas Fir

One of the strongest softwoods available in the market is Douglas Firs. It has impressive bending and compressive strength properties [1], which means it can bear a high pressure of force when stretched. 

Besides, it’s lightweight and has a paramount strength-to-weight ratio. Here, let’s look at the figures.

wood cracks on Douglas Fir

The robust fibers of Douglas Fir render it highly resistant to physical impacts and wear. This durability is one of the primary reasons why Douglas Firs are frequently chosen for heavy-duty flooring applications, as they can withstand substantial wear and tear.

Moreover, due to their exceptional resistance and strength, Douglas Firs are commonly utilized in boat and aircraft construction as well.

Pros & Cons of Douglas Fir (As a Softwood)

Douglas Firs resist warping and twisting and is nonporous, which means it’s safer. The wood is generally easy to stain and paint, so you won’t have to invest in much scraping and sanding. But there are a few disadvantages of Douglas Fir that you should also know.

What i like

What i Don't Like

Compared to its disadvantages, there are a lot of characteristics you’ll find interesting in a Douglas Fir, and most of the setbacks are workable as well. 

Is Douglas Fir Harder Than Pine Wood?

Yellow Pine

While pine and fir are considered softwoods, Douglas fir is softer than one kind of pine – the Yellow Pine. However, with sugar and white pine, it’s a lot harder, as evidenced in the Janka hardness test values.

Wood TypeHardness
Sugar Pine380 lbf (1,690 N)
White Pine420 lbf (1,868 N)
Yellow Pine870 lbf (3,870 N)
Douglas Fir710 lbf (3,158 N)

The hardness of Douglas Fir vs Spruce

milling Spruce log

Douglas Fir and Spruce are softwoods, but the former wood type is still considered harder than Spruce. Spruce is commonly used in packaging and pallet makings, while Douglas fir is more common for millwork and veneers. Here’s how the two compare in the Janka Hardness Test.

Wood TypeHardness
Black Spruce520 lbf (2,313 N)
Red Spruce490 lbf (2,180 N)
White Spruce480 lbf (2,135 N)
Douglas Fir710 lbf (3,158 N)

Douglas Fir vs Oak: Which is Harder?

Oak wood

Since oak is generally a hardwood, it’s harder than Douglas Fir. Oak wood is stronger and has denser quality than Douglas Fir. Now let’s compare these two kinds of wood in the Janka Hardness Scale. 

Wood TypeHardness
Red Oak1,290 lbf (5,738 N)
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,050 N)
Douglas Fir710 lbf (3,158 N)


Although some beginners and DIY enthusiasts might mistakenly categorize Douglas fir as a hardwood, it actually originates from a coniferous tree, which places it in the softwood category. 

Despite this classification, Douglas fir exhibits remarkable hardness and strength compared to other softwoods.

Taking various aspects into account, it becomes evident that Douglas fir is indeed a softwood. Nevertheless, it possesses distinctive attributes such as versatility, making it suitable for a wide array of woodworking projects.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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