Softwood or Hardwood?

Just recently we’ve noticed people coming to the Broxwood site via a Google to search for hardwood windows. This made us wonder, do people really want hardwood or do they simply believe hardwood to be a better choice than softwood? This is also an assumption sometimes made by callers to our sales team so I would like to offer some clarification about choosing hardwood.

So what’s the truth about hardwood?

The fashionable hardwood is Oak and so I’ll use Oak as my reference point throughout this post.

Take a small square of untreated Oak and a similar piece of Pine and bury them side by side in the garden. The likelihood is that after a few years the Pine will be showing some definite signs of decay whereas in comparison the Oak should look in much better shape. So there’s the answer, Oak takes longer to rot than Pine and so it’s reasonable to assume for that reason alone that Oak is the better building material.

Note that the experiment above uses untreated wood and we tend not to test our products by burying them in the ground, after all, their job is to withstand the weather. A good quality slow grown treated softwood will resist rotting for a very long time and of course 2-3 coats of factory applied paint will provide a tough outer shield against the elements. Therefore in terms of durability, modern processes and materials make softwood as reliable as hardwood.

Oak is the most popular hardwood choice. The colour and look of Oak is certainly wonderful as an interior finish but one little known characteristic of Oak is that it can occasionally twist. All timber used in our factories is dried, conditioned and treated before being machined. This process stabilises the material which is vital to ensure minimal movement in the finished product. All Broxwood windows are precisely engineered and so if twisting does occur this can lead to problems when operating the window or door.

Twisting is of course a rare occurrence with Broxwood products so don’t let that put you off choosing Oak. What might put you off though is the cost. Oak for instance will add approximately 20% to the cost of windows which excludes the additional cost for adding matching window sills. This often leads to another dilemma. Understandably when a customer orders Oak they don’t intend to hide it but it’s still vitally important to protect Oak from the punishing British climate. Varnish coatings are not as durable as modern paints and require annual maintenance. So to keep within the terms of the Broxwood warranty all external facing surfaces must be factory painted. This does allow the internal facing surfaces to be finished with a lacquer without compromising the warranty.

If your reason for specifying hardwood is because you live in a particularly wet climate such as the west coast of Scotland, we would instead recommend aluminium cladding. Alu-clad windows are made using treated timber with the addition of an aluminium shell on the exterior surface. The cladding provides the ultimate protection against the worst weather and requires minimal maintenance.

Alu-clad can be used in combination with any wood. Standard Broxwood windows and doors are manufactured using Nordic Red Pine but Oak, Larch, and Mahogany can also be specified.  So for the ultimate in protection and beauty you could combine Oak with alu-clad.

In conclusion: if it’s durability you’re looking for then a correctly manufactured softwood window or door will perform extremely well in comparison to a hardwood product. If it’s aesthetic appeal you’re looking for then sure a hardwood such as Oak will look fantastic but ideally you’ll still need to paint the exterior facing surfaces to keep within your warranty. If you’re looking for a product to withstand your local climate then consider aluminium cladding for the ultimate shield against the elements.

For individual advice please feel free to email or call on 01738 444456.

Published on January 5th, 2012 by Olav Skretteberg

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