hard vs soft wood

Hard vs Softwood: Which Is the Better Decking Material?

Wood decks have an exquisite beauty to them, but how do you choose hard vs softwood? These two types of wood have different durability, maintenance requirements, and price points that you should consider when building your deck. Learn the benefits and drawbacks of hard vs softwood from the top wood deck contractor in Fishers, IN.

What Is Hardwood?

Hardwood deck boards come from ash, oak, or other slow-growing deciduous trees. Besides having a more complex composition in the fibers, hardwood tends to have more intricate knots and rings in their natural appearance. When cared for properly, hardwood decks can last up to 50 years.

Pros of Hardwood Decking

With high density and natural resistance to pests, hardwood boards offer an incredibly durable option for homeowners building decks. Not only does it resist the efforts of wood-boring insects, but hardwood also resists fire and the natural splitting, rotting, and warping of softer woods. Since it’s less likely to fall prey to wood-destroying elements, hardwood decking can last much longer, even without treatment.

This highly resilient material makes for a naturally beautiful deck that requires no staining or painting to enjoy to its fullest. Hardwood has gorgeous whorls and wood grain patterns that many homeowners prefer for a classic, rustic wood deck.

Cons of Hardwood Decking

While the thick density and strength of hardwood decking make it the ideal material for long-lasting, stable decks, the material can take more time to cut, fit, and build with. Since hardwood trees take longer to grow, the boards tend to cost more than softwood options. Another downside of slow growing is wood availability, sometimes making it difficult to source boards with similar markings and coloration.

What Is Softwood?

Softwood boards come from trees like pine, cedar, or spruce. These fast-growing trees fall under the coniferous or evergreen tree families and appear with light coloration and a simpler configuration of rings and knots. When treated, softwood can last 15 years or longer.

Pros of Softwood Decking

Building a deck with softwood makes construction much more affordable. Since softwood trees grow faster than hardwoods, you can easily find and purchase the deck boards in higher quantities while keeping your budget low. Softwood decks require less energy and effort to build since the wood is easier to cut, drill, and install compared to hardwood.

For homeowners wishing to use eco-friendly options, softwood decking hits the mark. Cedar, spruce, and pine trees grow much faster than hardwood trees, making them easier to replace and regrow.

Cons of Softwood Decking

While softwood provides easier deck installation, the softness of the material translates to weakness after long-term exposure to the elements. Softwood boards can splinter, bow, and buckle, qualities that also make them more susceptible to insect invasion and rot. While many manufacturers treat the wood before selling it, homeowners can use stains, paints, and sealants to add protective coatings to their softwood.

Which Should I Choose for My Deck: Soft vs Hardwood

hard vs soft wood

Choosing hard vs softwood requires you to consider multiple aspects of your future deck. Asking yourself these questions now can ensure you don’t end up choosing a material you regret, so consider these factors when deciding between hardwood and softwood:


When it comes to durability, hardwood decks far outstrip softwood. The material’s thicker density provides insect, water, rot, and fire resistance, which increase the longevity of your deck. Your hardwood deck will also not splinter or bow the way softwood eventually might.


Softwood trees’ quick-growing abilities make it easier for hardware stores and wood suppliers to keep these boards in stock. While you can still find hardwood options available, you may have trouble locating enough to build your entire deck or finding replacements for problematic boards down the road.


Hardwood offers much more durability, but its slow growth makes this material more expensive than softwood. Softwood trees grow much more quickly, making the material more available and, therefore, less expensive.


Both hardwood and softwood decks require regular maintenance, such as sweeping, debris removal, and pressure washing. Softwood decks last much longer if treated before construction and sealed afterward, but even then, the boards might still bow and splinter, requiring replacements. Hardwood boards don’t have those same weaknesses, allowing you to spend less time, money, and energy on maintenance.


Softwood is more affordable and also more replaceable than hardwood. To put this in perspective, softwood pine trees can take as little as 25 years to reach full maturity, while hardwood ash trees can take up to 60 years. If you wish to minimize your carbon footprint, consider how your choice of wood could affect the environment.

Ease of Installation

Softwood decks are easier to work with than hardwoods due to the material’s low density, making it easier to cut, nail, and screw. The easy manipulation of softwood makes it simpler to cut into unique shapes and designs, a feat still possible with hardwood but requiring more skill and tougher machinery. 

hard vs soft wood

Let Our Experts in Fishers, IN, Design and Build Your Custom Deck

Building a custom deck for your home adds to your home’s property value and increases curb appeal while providing you an extra space for relaxing and entertaining. Choosing your deck’s material changes everything from your deck’s durability, to the way its construction affects the environment as a whole. With this handy guide comparing hard vs softwood, you now have the ability to decide which material best meets your wants and needs for your deck.

Artisan Outdoor Craftsman deck builders can help you design and construct your ideal outdoor living space complete with appliances, lighting, and water features. Whether you want an outdoor kitchen with a grill and sink or a beautiful pergola built using western red cedar, our team of professional craftsmen can do the job. 

When you’re ready to build the deck of your dreams, call Artisan Outdoor Craftsman in Fishers, IN, at (317) 813-9669 for your free estimate.