Woods all wear differently. Hardwoods can really take a beating, a quality that may be important to you. However, that added density makes hardwood more difficult to work with. That means you may want to choose hardwoods for smaller projects, like decks, window frames and doors. Good choices include mahogany and teak for furniture and ipe* hardwood for decks.
Durability (the amount of “punishment” wood can handle) is not the same thing as stability. A wood is said to be stable when it resists changes in its dimensions and shape due to conditions such as age and fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Therefore, when selecting wood for a timber-frame home, you should choose relatively stable softwood like Western red cedar, Eastern white cedar, West Coast redwood, fir, and pine. These woods combine stability with a natural resistance to insects and rot.
ASK AN EXPERT
Before you invest your money (and time) in a particular type of wood, speak with the experts at your local lumberyard or home center. Give them the details of your project (i.e., interior or exterior, decorative vs. structural, etc.). These professionals know the various qualities of the wood they stock and will help you choose wisely.
*Among the many common names for ipe wood are: Ipe Brazil, Amapa, cortex, Guayacan, Flor Amarillo, Ironwood™, Pau Lope™, Brazilian Walnut, Greenheart, Madera negra and Tahuari.