Is Redwood a Hardwood or Softwood?

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Most woodworkers prefer using redwood over other wood species in building outdoor wood projects. But is redwood hardwood or just substantial softwood? How can you rely on its durability and settle with it? 

Let’s comprehensively compare why you should opt for redwood and what you will gain from using it. Keep reading to know more!

The Hardness of Redwood + Is it a Hardwood or Softwood?

Redwood has a Janka hardness of 450 lbf (2,000 N), making it an excellent choice for exterior and interior beams and wood supports.  

Although it has a lower hardness than other woods, it is durable and highly resistant to softwood. Redwood is considered a softwood, but it is stronger than white cedar, pine, and aspen. 

To give you a comparison of its strength as a softwood, I listed it here along with other wood types’ hardness values. 

Redwood
Type of WoodJanka Hardness Value
American Beech1,300 lbf (5,800 N)
Ash (White)1,320 lbf (5,900 N)
Aspen350 lbf (1,557 N)
Basswood410 lbf (1,823 N)
Black Cherry, Imbuia950 lbf (4,200 N)
Black Walnut, North American Walnut1,010 lbf (4,500 N)
Black Spruce520 lbf (2,313 N)
Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba2,350 lbf (10,500 N)
Brazilian Walnut3,684 lbf (16,390 N)
Cherry995 lbf (4,430 N)
Cypress510 lbf (2,269 N)
Douglas Fir710 lbf (3,158 N)
Engelmann Spruce390 lbf (1,735 N)
Golden Teak2,330 lbf (10,400 N)
Hard Maple, Sugar Maple1,450 lbf (6,400 N)
Hemlock540 lbf (2,402 N)
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1,820 lbf (8,100 N)
Red Mahogany, Turpentine2,697 lbf (12,000 N)
Red Maple950 lbf (4,200 N)
Red Oak (Northern)1,290 lbf (5,700 N)
Redwood420 lbf (1,868 N)
Silver Maple700 lbf (3,100 N)
Sugar Pine380 lbf (1,690 N)
Teak1,155 lbf (5,140 N)
White Cedar320 lbf (1,423 N)
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
White Pine1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
Yellow Birch / Baltic birch1,360 lbf (6,000 N)

Characteristics of Redwood

From its hardness, the following are the unique characteristics of redwood:

milling Redwood
ColorLight brown to reddish brown
Density21.48 lbs/ft3
Hardness450 lbf (2,000 N)
Stiffness1.11 Mpsi
Wood typeSoftwood
ApplicationsDecks, furniture, plywood, musical instruments, posts

Pros and Cons of Redwood

Pros

Cons

Where to Use Redwood

Using redwood is a huge plus when it comes to woodworking. Its lightweight and durability make it ideal for the following wood projects. 

Redwood grain pattern

Plywood

As a premium wood, redwood can be used as plywood, a strong and durable veneer sheet but less expensive than solid redwood.

Outdoor use (Posts and Decks)

I prefer using redwood in making posts and decks because of its stability and straight wood grain. It can also withstand extreme weather conditions and direct exposure to sunlight and rain. 

Moreover, it is highly resistant to termites and insects without chemical treatment [1].

Wood carving and trim

It’s hard to resist the allure of redwood carvings and trim. This wood is exceptionally well-suited for such purposes due to its low maintenance requirements, making it an ideal choice for those seeking long-lasting beauty without the hassle of regular maintenance.

Musical instruments

Making pianos, guitars, and other musical instruments need a lightweight wood material that’s also durable. So, redwood is a good choice for this wood project adding its great tonewood.

violin made of Redwood

Beams

Redwood is ideal for structural beams because it doesn’t shrink or warp like other softwoods. You can have it as porch enclosures, interior support columns, and open beam ceilings.

Redwood’s Strength

Redwood is not hardwood, so this wood needs proper and high maintenance. As mentioned earlier, redwood is a durable softwood but cannot be considered a hardwood. 

So, I recommend using redwood as a regular wood material for less stressful construction because its compressive strength is 5,220 Psi with 7,900 psi bending strength.

Without proper finishing and maintenance, redwood will start to crack and split. Although it does not shrink, redwood cannot take the stress from environmental elements.

Is Redwood Ideal for Flooring?

A certain type of redwood, Brazilian redwood known as Massaranduba, can be used as decking or flooring. It is known to be a tough hardwood, although it belongs to the redwood wood species. 

sandblasting Redwood deck

This redwood specie is exceptionally durable and has a longer lifespan, making it reliable for decking and flooring materials in North America and Europe. Redwood as a deck or flooring offers a warm tone lasting over a decade.

Pros and Cons of Redwood Floors

Pros

Cons

But listen, longevity doesn’t come without a bit of work. Based on my own time working with redwood, I can attest that you could get close to 30 years out of this material if it’s properly finished and maintained.

So, I suggest that you never disregard periodic maintenance, sealing, and refinishing of your redwood decks and floorings. Skipping these will reduce the lifespan of your redwood.

Redwood vs Pine: Which Wood is Harder?

Now, if you choose which wood is harder, redwood and pine, here is my comparison. 

Pine lumber

When it comes to hardness, redwood is considered harder than Sugar and White pine, but redwood is softer than Yellow and Ponderosa pine. 

To give you a clearer picture, I’ve put together some data that includes Janka hardness ratings and even bending strength for each type of wood.

Type of WoodJanka Hardness
Sugar Pine380 lbf
White Pine380 lbf
Redwood420 lbf
Ponderosa460 lbf
Yellow Pine870 lbf

Redwood vs Cedar Wood: Which is Harder?

When it comes to cedar and redwood, the latter is 23% stronger than cedar. Redwood is denser and harder than White and Red cedar. 

Here is a Janka hardness comparison with bending strength.

Cedar wood grain pattern
Type of WoodJanka Hardness
White Cedar320 lbf
Western Red Cedar350 lbf
Redwood420 lbf
Eastern or Aromatic Red Cedar900 lbf

Is Redwood or Oak Harder?

quarter sawn Red Oak

Oak is a hardwood, while redwood is a softwood. Therefore, oak is harder than redwood, and with many qualities of oak, it can offer higher durability, strength, and versatility than redwood.

Here is the comparison of oak and redwood’s Janka hardness and bending strength.

Type of WoodJanka Hardness
White Oak1,360 lbf
Red Oak1, 290 lbf
Redwood420 lbf

FAQ

Is Redwood Prone to Dents?

Redwood is softwood with higher Janka hardness, but still, it is prone to dents and scratches, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, I strongly recommend redwood should have periodic maintenance.

Related Topics

Conclusion

With all the detailed information I’ve provided, you should be well-equipped to decide if redwood is the right fit for your home furniture, tables, chairs, and other wooden accessories.

Regardless if redwood is hardwood or softwood, the key to extending its lifespan is proper finishing and periodic wood maintenance regardless of the hardness of the wood.

robert headshot

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.

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