How to Choose the Best Wood Furniture For Your Home

There is no doubt about the versatility that wood provides for the furniture industry. Wood has been used by mankind for millenia for various purposes and inventions that have gone on to revolutionize the way we create utilities in general. Having utilized wood as building material for so long, we have become exceptionally good at it. Before the turn of the 20th century a selection of woods were popularly used in furniture.

These include:

  • Mahogany
  • Fruitwood
  • Oak
  • Birch
  • Pine
  • Walnut
  • Rosewood
  • Maple

Going back an extra century to the times of the American Colonies, good quality wood may have been harder to come by. This didn’t stop the creation of furniture by much. Typically you will find a furniture piece from these times being built with internal pieces of lower quality wood. If a piece of furniture from these times were to begin showing its age, restoring these antiques is highly encouraged and won’t be much trouble, just replace the low quality wood components.

Move on closer to present times the amount of good quality woods that you can use for building your furniture is moved to monopolization, as in there a bit harder to come buy especially for a cost effective price. Nowadays we usually mix the high quality with the low quality to construct a sort of hybrid. In furniture that you will likely see on the market the roles if the wood qualities have been switched. Now it’s the lower quality wood being used primarily and the higher quality wood is used for the small parts that aren’t in view.

Knowing what kinds of wood are being used in the furniture piece that catches your eye can help you understand or find out the real marketplace value of a furniture piece. Moreover, depending on the wood that has been used, having this knowledge can also help you determine if a piece of furniture is worth restoring or throwing away. Older pieces of furniture are generally built with higher amounts of high quality wood and are worth restoring because of its rarity.

In this article we will be covering the basics of how to identify wood in your furniture to give you the best insight towards its future possibilities. A few things are taken into account when identifying wood including, color, grain, and solidity.

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Characteristics of Wood

Solidity: There are two kinds of wood on the market, hardwood and softwood. The catch comes in the fact that the names themselves are kind of misleading. The fact of this matter is that not all softwoods are soft and vice versa not all hardwoods are hard. This is more in reference to the botanical aspect of where the wood is derived from.

Hardwoods are mainly derived from flowering tree types.

Softwoods are derived from conifers, or trees that bear cones.

Now that you understand where the vocabulary can get a bit befuddled, know this. Most hardwoods are in fact harder than softwoods with a few outliers to the rule, so your next trip to lowes won’t be as embarrassing as you may have been led to believe. However knowing these details will enhance your knowledge on the subject and get you to your wood type a bit faster in your search.


On the market you will notice that hardwoods generally have a higher price point then softer woods. This is because hardwoods are a bit rarer to attain than softwoods. One example we can provide of this not being the case where you will see a hardwood equal to the value of a softwood is specifically wood derived from a gum tree, or gum. This is one of the hardwoods that matches the prices of an average softwood you find on the market.

Let’s take a look at another aspect that enables you to identify wood. Grain and Color.

Wood Grain and Color

The grain and color is in reference to the cellular build of a tree. You will notice that each species of tree has their own cellular structure. The way that this structure presents itself determines the factors of color and grain that the tree itself will possess. Let’s take a look into the two classifications of hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood cellular structure: hardwood trees will have tubular cells. These are referred to as vessels in the industry. You can observe these vessels in the visible pores of the bark and wood itself. When a hardwood tree has large tubular cell structures the texture of the wood in question is rough. In this case manufacturers look to smoothen the texture by implementing fillers. These are classified as open grained.
In another example, hardwood that features smaller sized tubular cells is smooth in which case the filling process is unnecessary. This type of wood is classified as close grained, giving it the ideal texture to work with for furniture.

Here are a few examples of open grained wood:

  • Oak
  • Mahogany
  • Rosewood
  • Teak
  • Walnut
  • Ash

Here are a few examples of close grained woods:

  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Birch
  • Beech
  • Satinwood

In softwoods you will notice an absence of vessels as their cellular structure heavily differs from hardwoods. Filling is typically unnecessary for this classification of wood.


All trees undergo a growth cycle that creates the presence of growth rings. Every year the tree increases in size and we are able to determine the age of a tree by getting to the core of the log. The growth rings of the wood are mainly responsible for the wood and future furniture pieces’ aesthetic.

Different grain formulations on the market include a diverse catalog. You will typically see these kinds of granular forms when looking at different types of wood:

  • Striped
  • Swirled
  • Waved
  • Curled
  • Rippled
  • Eyes


You can almost find every color on the rainbow within the trees colors in the wooden topic include:

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • Purple
  • Black
  • White
  • Etc.

These characteristics play a big part in identifying what kind of wood you’re dealing with.

How Furniture Woods Are Selected

Mainly, candidates of wood are selected by referring to their grain type and color. In the classification: hardwoods, you will find that most grains are finer in texture and fuller than softwoods. Moreover, you can find hardwoods displaying most colors. Wooden types that have more of an illustrious type of patterning are often valued higher than those with random or abstract-esque grain formulations. In this case the wood itself is re-stained to provide more order to the chaos, enabling it to then be made into a piece of furniture.

Wood Assessment

Identifying wood will need some practice on your part to become familiar with the different types of wood on the market. In order to increase your knowledge and get the ball rolling immediately lets recover the basics of wood. It will soon come to pass that you will be able to identify a piece of wood from its texture, color and smell. However in the meantime refer to these thought processes when observing a piece of wood to get you headed in the right direction.

  • Age: Refer to how old the furniture piece in question is. You can narrow down the list of potential wooden candidates just from this detail alone. You’ll know that in older times certain wood types were not used. Moreover, certain woods were used for specific kinds of furniture.
  • Coloring: While coloring is incredibly diverse amongst varying species of trees certain species typically depict a notable color scheme. Depending on the age the colors themselves may fade out. To give an example of how you can refer to the color of wood to identify the tree it was derived from, let’s take a look at poplar. Poplar is famous for its unique green color. Another example would be Rosewood. Rosewood often depicts a grim purple.
  • Grain: You can refer to the grain type to identify a piece of wood primarily. Find out if the wood is close or open grain by referring to the textures of the wood. Does it have large pores? Then it’s open grained. Does it have smooth and tight grain textures? Then it’s closed. How does the design of the grain look? Is it striped, wavy, curled?

Wood Combinations

Identifying the wood that makes a piece of furniture is a good place to start in determining its value. Another characteristic you can look for in the piece is finding out if there are any combinations of wood in use. As stated before many of the furniture pieces on the market today feature a main use of lower valued wood with some smaller pieces actually being high quality wood to make the final product. These are called veneers, thin layers of high quality wood. Combining woods is very common and important in keeping the production costs of certain furniture types down.

A good place to start is to identify the purpose of the furniture itself. Higher quality woods are more generally used in furniture pieces that have a heavy emphasis on their appearance, like counter or table tops. Lower quality woods would then be integrated into the final product as the legs of a table or chair.
To determine what woods are being combined to make a final piece you will need to get rid of the finish on the piece. It is then that you can observe the color and grain of the woods in use and can easily identify the combination.

Furniture pieces that have been constructed with the use of only one wood will also typically need higher quality refinishings. In combined wood pieces of furniture you will mostly have to address the lower quality wood to match its higher quality counterpart.

Now that we have covered how you can identify woods and moreover how you can identify combined wood furniture pieces let’s take a closer look at how you can identify lower quality woods. This can aid you in haggling, or battering prices down or up by providing the most accurate information and value estimates to your opposition as possible.

Lower quality woods are typically easier to identify. They have their own cues and pointers that will aid you in finding out what tree it was derived from. Moreover you will be able to effectively see what works and what doesn’t work so well in the furniture industry.

Ash: Ash is famous for its flexible abilities to bend. For furniture pieces that feature curves there is likely to be the use of ash as it provides considerable strength under this type of physical stress. Ash has a color scheme primarily of white and blacks with the exception of sometimes being towards the reddish hue.

Basswood: A lower quality hardwood that often depicts close grained characteristics. It has very small cellular pores and will depict color schemes of wite, cream, to brown, with dark streaks.

Beech: Ash’s ugly step sister. Beech can also provide considerable strength under the stress of bending, yet it just doesn’t look quite as good doing it. Therefore beech is often used in the areas of the furniture where eyes won’t typically fall up such as underneath a chair, in the legs of a table, drawer bottoms etc. One prominent factor of beech is that it can be stained to look like any other higher quality wood out there. However due to the fact that it is a beech and a half to work with, the cost is relatively low making it a very common wood.

Other common wood types include:

  • Elm
  • Pine
  • Poplar

On the other hand, highly valued woods are determined for their grain quality, structural integrity and color schemes. These high valued woods include:

  • Teak
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Mahogany
  • Redwood
  • Walnut

All of the woods listed above are known for their exceptional grain designs and attractives news when used in furniture pieces that are made to stand out in the setting. Due to the rarity and labor costs of working with these kinds of woods they usually bear a higher ticket price.


Determining what wood is used in a piece of furniture can ultimately save you from either spending too much or selling the price for too little. Noone wants to get ripped off so we hope sharing this knowledge of how to identify woods and woods used in combined furniture pieces aids you in your quest for the ultimate furniture piece. If you think there is anyone else who may benefit from having this knowledge, spread the wisdom and happy wood assessing.

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