Softwood or Hardwood for Wooden Doors and Windows?

There are two main types of timber, hardwood, and softwood. If you’re renovating your home it’s worth paying attention to the type of timber you are thinking of getting fitted for your doors and windows, or even a conservatory roof replacement.

Those terms – “hardwood” and “softwood” – are a bit of a misnomer. While most hardwoods are quite hard, some are not, and not all softwoods are necessarily soft. Balsa wood, for example, is a deciduous angiosperm, which puts it in the category of hardwood, but the wood is known for being incredibly light, soft and easy to work with. The important thing to remember is that the woods have different properties and they are best suited to different applications, thanks to their cellular structures.

It’s clear that the hardwood vs softwood terminology makes some sense. Evergreens, in general, tend to be less dense and to be easier to work with, while hardwood is, for the most part, denser and more difficult to cut. There is no minimum weight requirement for hardwood, though, as balsa wood shows.

Let’s take a look at some woods available for use with windows and doors:

Sapele (Hardwood)

Sapele is one of the most popular materials for use in windows and doors. It is strong, durable and hardwearing and it is well suited to use in joinery. Timber is often sourced from the Cameroon and West Africa, and it is a moderately durable (Class 3 to 4) timber. It has a nice appearance, being dark reddish-brown, and looks particularly good with a transparent varnish or stain coating.


  • No need to be treated with a preservative since it is not particularly permeable
  • Density of 640kg/m2, heavier than European Redwood, lighter than European Oak
  • Suitable for heritage properties and for use in conservation areas

Oak (Hardwood)

This is a relatively traditional choice for window frames. Oak has been in use for hundreds of years. It is a hardwood that is known for being strong and durable, and it is suitable for heavy uses. It can last for a lifetime with proper care, and the subtle appearance of the tree grain makes it a nice choice for a traditional building.


  • Woodgrain provides a heritage-style appearance
  • Very durable and strong
  • Authentic and traditional choice
  • Good for traditional homes, heritage properties, conservation areas

Redwood (Softwood)

Redwood is a durable timber with a reduced moisture uptake, which means that it is a good choice in areas where weatherproofing is important. Choosing redwood can make a window last for much longer. It is a good choice for properties where you are looking to add some charm and rusticness to the building without sacrificing an otherwise modern appearance.


  • Durable
  • Good dimension stability
  • Low moisture uptake
  • Modern aesthetic
  • Suitable for modern-looking properties and new builds

Accoya (Softwood)

Accoya is an specially treated softwood with some rather desirable properties. Accoya goes through a non-toxic acetylation process which changes the structure of the timber, making it harder wearing and giving it better thermal performance. Accoya wood can be expected to last for around 60 years, and looks quite nice too. It can repel insects, and it is easy to weatherpoof. Accoya comes from sustainable forests, and would not look out of place on a traditional or modern property.


  • Accoya is durable and hardwearing
  • The wood can be expected to last for as long as 60 years
  • The thermal performance of this wood is up to 40% better than hardwoods
  • The wood does not tend to distort easily
  • Factory-applied weather coatings tend to last a very long time