Checked and updated on April 8, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
There’s no doubt that wood is one of the most flexible building materials around. There are varying types’s that make it durable, versatile, and easy to work with. And in most cases even superior, to metal or concrete. Easier to process and involving fewer chemicals, wood is a nifty resource that can make any home a home.
This quick guide is all about finding and working with the best types of wood that combine sturdiness and convenience.
What is a strong, lightweight, and durable type of wood?
There are 3 main : hardwood, softwood, and manufactured wood. Hardwood and softwood are harvested from their respective trees, while manufactured wood is man-made and is a composite of 2 or more wood types. While each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, all three have their examples of lightweight and durable wood.
Mahogany is extremely tough and stable and stands out; Pine is softwood used in crates and houses, and plywood is actually the lightest and strongest wood as a sheet and as a beam (LVL).
LVL beams are basically like plywood that’s made into a beam instead of just a sheet covering.
Examples of strong and lightweight types of wood
Pine is a softwood comparable to Spruce but it is a level higher in terms of durability. Versatile and rustic, it’s naturally impact-resistant. But it needs to be treaded if outdoors.
Pine is a good strong lightweight wood that is used in many countries to build houses, due to the fact it grows fast, it’s strong, cheap, and lightweight.
Douglas Fir softwood from the tree’s lengthy timber makes for good general construction material. It’s quite hard despite being classified as softwood and is very stable only if dried correctly. But costs a little more than pine.
Douglas Fir makes a good fit if you’re looking for strong lightweight wood for shelves, cabinets, and tables.
Alder is one of the softest hardwoods, just slightly being above Pine in terms of tensile strength. Notably light, Alder also has one of the highest lumber grades amongst all hardwoods at 83% and gives an almost glassy-smooth finish.
The hardwood Mahogany is said to be around 70% tougher than most other hardwood types. Surprisingly, it’s also relatively light despite its dense, fade-resistant characteristics. Mahogany has a distinct appearance, making it an ideal material for crafting pieces meant to be centers of attention.
Pine is the most common type of wood used to manufacture plywood. Plentiful and naturally durable, the resulting layered plywood from Pine is lighter than plywood from other softwoods and makes an ideal material for use in even industrial construction.
‘Luan’ is actually a term used to refer to plywood that’s manufactured using ⅛” – ¼” tropical hardwood. Sourced originally from hardwood in Southeast Asia, Luan plywood is very workable and remarkably symmetrical, and stable.
How to sourcing and mill your own timber
If your property has an abundance of lightweight but durable trees, you can make use of the wood for different projects. Cut trees with a chainsaw paired with an alaskan portable mill . Then trim the wooden slabs down accurately with a thickness planing power tool. Use the timber for your project and still have plenty left over for your money making projects.
Comparing wood strength to wood ratio
|Wood Type||Weight per sq inch||Strength (bending)||Value for money||Aesthetics|
|Pine (Yellow)||0.16 - 0.257 lbs||14,500 psi||6/10||5/10|
|Douglas Fir||0.229 lbs||12,400 psi||7/10||7/10|
|Alder||0.181 - 0.292 lbs||9,800 psi||8/10||9/10|
|Mahogany (Honduras)||0.278 lbs||11,500 psi||9/10||8/10|
|Pine plywood||1.92 - 3.08 lbs||*14,500+ psi||10/10||3/10|
|Luan plywood||1.5 lbs per sq ft||12,700 psi||8/10||5/10|
*These are general values based on 1×1 dimensions and innate properties and characteristics, actual values will vary depending on the measurements of timbers.
What are the cheapest lightweight woods?
Alder is one of the most affordable hardwoods. Its reduced cost is due to the fact that it’s closer to softwoods in terms of hardness and strength, thus easier to process.
For softwood, Pine is a clear choice. Plentiful and easy to process, the Pine’s innate shock resistance makes it a widely sought-after manufacturing material. Used for a variety of applications, general prices for Pine are around $3 per square foot.
Naturally, plywood made from Pine is equally if not more durable. Inexpensive, Pine plywood can go for as low as under $10 for a board foot, not to mention can be freely recycled.
However, there is a big difference between structural plywood and nonstructural plywood.
Structural plywood is held together by much stronger glues, and will not come apart over time, like the alternative.
Can you get cheap, light, and strong plywood to look good?
You can pretty much make anything look good with the right amount of creativity. Because plywood is basically composite material made from smaller, heated, and super-compressed wood fragments, the result is either a bland, unmoving surface or just a plain, blank one.
Similar to how you apply paint coating to colorless metal pieces, you can use the appropriate wood stain to stylize and protect otherwise boring and tacky-looking plywood.
Though the painting won’t look smooth a stain or varnish can look good on the natural wood grain that’s on the outer layer.
There are times that applying colorful hues to also plywood makes for an astonishing fit.
When it comes to woodworking, and building all of the wood types mentioned above are viable; they’re within arms-reach price-wise and offer a good amount of durability and utility. Yet of all the types of wood, the Douglas Fir seems to have the best statistics across the board – strength, price, weight, and looks.
Douglas Fir is good structural material and its innate tight and straight grain makes it visually appealing, especially as rustic furniture and/or as decorative accents for window and door frames.
Speaking of furniture do you know what is the best wood for furniture?
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