Choosing timber for home projects is not always as easy as you assume; wood may all look alike to you, but the way it's been cut and treated will affect how well it performs for a variety of uses. Knowing a little bit about the basic differences in timber you might choose for home projects will help you to pick out the right pieces, and in turn ensure your project is successful and that it lasts.
1. Hardwood and softwood
Hardwoods are those that come from leaf-bearing trees and softwood comes from trees that have cones. Hardwoods, including oak, maple, and cedar, are much stronger than softwoods, as the name would imply, and are usually more expensive than softwoods. These are better for framing a house, for outdoor decks, and other such jobs where strength is needed. Both hardwood and softwood are used for furniture projects, cabinets, and other jobs where strength is not necessarily a crucial factor for the project.
Wood that is sawn is cut to size but is left unfinished. This is opposed to dressed wood; "dressed" means that the wood has been machined or planed at least on one side. Dressed wood is usually more expensive than plain sawn wood because of this extra work involved. Sawn wood is good for construction where the wood will be hidden, such as for studs and beams behind walls or floorboards under carpeting.
However, for projects where the wood is exposed, you need to choose dressed timber. Note that timber can be dressed on one side and this is often called D1S, or it can be dressed on one side and one edge, or D1S and D1E. This is usually good for decks, where the upper side and edges are seen. For projects where the timber will be seen on all four sides, such as for patio furniture, choose DAS, or dressed on all sides.
3. Plywood and particle board
Particle board is wood pieces mixed with glues and adhesives that keep it together, whereas plywood is made of several layers of wood that are glued together. Plywood is generally stronger than particle board and may hold up better when it's nailed, cut, and sanded. Particle board may be good for very inexpensive home projects, such as shelving in a child's room, but plywood is better for projects that require more strength, such as kitchen cupboards, bench seating, and the like.