Were you ever curious whether hemlock is a hardwood or softwood? Or ever wondered about the strength and durability it possesses?
To end the query, our wood specialists delved into the strength and durability of Hemlock and investigated whether it meets the standards of a hardwood. Furthermore, we have examined its hardness level and assessed its appropriateness for various uses.
How Hard Is Hemlock Wood?
Hemlock is considered a softwood, but it is more resistant than several other softwoods and even certain hardwoods, based on its Janka hardness test scores.
Even though it falls under the category of softwoods, Hemlock stands out due to its exceptional features that surpass those of both softwoods and hardwoods.
In addition, hemlock exhibits a broad range of densities despite being categorized as a softwood based on its anatomical properties. This quality makes it appropriate for a wide variety of construction purposes.
For a better comparison between hemlock and other types of woods, below is their Janka hardness ratings.
|Wood Species||Hardness Value|
|Sugar Pine||380 pounds-force (lbf)|
|1690 newtons (N)|
|Engelmann Spruce||390 pounds-force (lbf)|
|1735 newtons (N)|
|Redwood||420 pounds-force (lbf)|
|1868 newtons (N)|
|Black Spruce||520 pounds-force (lbf)|
|2313 newtons (N)|
|Hemlock||540 pounds-force (lbf)|
|2402 newtons (N)|
|Silver Maple||700 pounds-force (lbf)|
|3100 newtons (N)|
|Douglas Fir||710 pounds-force (lbf)|
|3158 newtons (N)|
|Red Maple||950 pounds-force (lbf)|
|4200 newtons (N)|
|Imbuia Black Cherry||950 pounds-force (lbf)|
|4200 newtons (N)|
|Cherry||995 pounds-force (lbf)|
|4430 newtons (N)|
|North American Black Walnut||1010 pounds-force (lbf)|
|4500 newtons (N)|
|Teak||1155 pounds-force (lbf)|
|5140 newtons (N)|
|Baltic (Yellow) Birch||1260 pounds-force (lbf)|
|5600 newtons (N)|
|Northern Red Oak||1290 pounds-force (lbf)|
|5700 newtons (N)|
|American Beech||1300 pounds-force (lbf)|
|5800 newtons (N)|
|White Ash Wood||1320 pounds-force (lbf)|
|5900 newtons (N)|
|White Oak||1360 pounds-force (lbf)|
|6000 newtons (N)|
|Sugar (Hard) Maple||1450 pounds-force (lbf)|
|6400 newtons (N)|
|Hickory, Pecan, Satinwoood||1820 pounds-force (lbf)|
|8100 newtons (N)|
|Golden Teak||2330 pounds-force (lbf)|
|10400 newtons (N)|
|Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba)||2350 pounds-force (lbf)|
|10500 newtons (N)|
|Red Mahogany (Turpentine)||2697 pounds-force (lbf)|
|12000 newtons (N)|
|Brazilian Walnut||3684 pounds-force (lbf)|
|16390 newtons (N)|
How is Hemlock As A Softwood?
Nonetheless, hemlock should not be dismissed as an inferior wood. It can be highly beneficial for interior projects as it can yield a charming and attractive appearance.
However, despite the risk of tear-out during cross-cutting, the hemlock’s strength allows for secure fastening with screws and glue. Thus, it is a suitable material for creating furniture and other applications, provided that one takes precautions when cross-cutting it.
How are Hemlock Logs When Cut Down?
Hemlock trees typically produce straight logs and have a uniform color throughout, resulting in a high yield. Moreover, they are generally user-friendly and can be utilized for indoor projects, as they take well to staining and finishing.
Characteristics of Hemlock Wood
Hemlock wood has a light reddish-brown heartwood and lighter-colored sapwood, with prominent growth rings that form an attractive grain pattern. Moreover, despite being a softwood, its straight grain and consistent texture enhances its hardness and density.
In addition, the lack of resin canals in Hemlock leaves it susceptible to insect attacks, and its durability is relatively low compared to numerous other hardwoods and softwoods.
Nonetheless, despite its downside, below are the remarkable characteristics of hemlock for further acknowledgment of this wood.
The primary features of hemlock wood are listed below:
What Is Hemlock Used For?
Hemlock wood is a common option for numerous projects, particularly as a substitute for hardwoods in indoor applications such as furniture or cabinet making.
Also, it is highly workable, allowing for easy handling with both handheld and power tools. However, when it comes to cross-cutting, there may be a slight tendency for the wood to tear.
In addition, hemlock wood has good screw holding and adhesive properties, as well as being compatible with other treatments.
Thus, this makes it suitable for use in outdoor and indoor projects with proper preparation; it will yield satisfactory results. To acknowledge the use of hemlock, refer to the list of uses below:
Strength of Hemlock Wood
Although Hemlock is only moderately strong, it does have a 7,200 pounds per square inch (psi) compressive strength  and an 11,300 pounds per square inch (psi) bending strength, surpassing many softwood varieties but falling short of most hardwoods.
Furthermore, hemlock wood’s strength depends on its grain pattern. Thus, it’s a good choice for construction projects involving longer spans and horizontal elements due to its high bending and compressive strengths.
Is This Wood Good for Building?
This wood variety is robust and can withstand warping, which makes it an excellent substitute for hardwoods. Additionally, it remains unaffected by weather changes, so there is no risk of discoloration.
Moreover, it is reasonably priced, an excellent choice for lamination, and it is effortless to finish. Below are the pros and cons of hemlock wood as a building material:
Hemlock’s Hardness vs Pine
Pine and Hemlock are frequently utilized in construction. Hemlock, being durable and resistant to moisture, is a preferred choice for cabinetry or high-quality furniture.
Pine, on the other hand, is less expensive and simpler to handle, making it the most commonly used wood for construction.
However, hemlock is much harder than Pine. Thus, to get a better comparison between the two kinds of wood, below is their Janka hardness rating:
|Hemlock||White Pine||Sugar Pine|
|540 pounds-force (lbf)||380 pounds-force (lbf)||380 pounds-force (lbf)|
Hemlock’s Hardness vs Poplar
Hemlock and poplar wood has the same Janka hardness rating. However, poplar is significantly tougher and sturdier than Hemlock due to its stiffness, density, and cellular fiber structure.
To get a better comparison between hemlock and poplar wood, below is their Janka hardness rating.
|540 pounds-force (lbf)||540 pounds-force (lbf)|
Hardness of Hemlock vs Cedar
Cedar is softer than hemlock. Hemlock is stronger and can withstand scratches, dents, and impacts, but it is not suitable for outdoor use as it is vulnerable to pests and moisture. On the other hand, cedar is better for outdoor use as it is resistant to pests and moisture.
In conclusion, hemlock is far harder than cedar. Refer to the list of their Janka hardness rating below:
|Hemlock||White Cedar||Red Cedar|
|540 pounds-force (lbf)||320 pounds-force (lbf)||350 pounds-force (lbf)|
Strength of Hemlock vs Oak
Oak has a 6760 pounds per square inch (psi) compressive strength and 14300 pounds per square inch (psi) bending strength, surpassing Hemlock’s 7,200 pounds per square inch (psi) compressive strength and 11,300 pounds per square inch (psi) bending strength.
Thus, oak is much stronger than hemlock. Nonetheless, in order to have a better picture of their difference, here’s their Janka hardness rating:
|540 pounds-force (lbf)||1290 pounds-force (lbf)|
So, is hemlock a hardwood or softwood? Based on the characteristics of this wood type, it’s clear that hemlock is a softwood. But hemlock is durable and can withstand impacts, dents, and scratches due to its cellular fiber structure, density, and stiffness.
While it is commonly used for high-quality furniture or cabinetry, hemlock is not suitable for outdoor use as it is vulnerable to damage from pests and moisture.
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