Monday 14 November 2022

Is softwood or hardwood better for windows?

When looking to replace windows you may be wondering what type of timber to choose.  Some of the popular softwoods include:

  • Pine
  • European Redwood
  • Douglas Fir
  • Siberian Larch

Hardwood is grown from slow growing trees which have a dense structure.  Some of the popular hardwoods for windows include:

  • European Oak
  • Red Grandis
  • Sapele
  • Red Meranti
  • Tulipwood

However, although you may think that there are two choices of timber (hardwood vs softwood), there are actually three.  In addition to hardwood and softwood, you should also consider modified wood.  Modified wood is timber that starts as a softwood but is modified to improve its performance.

Hardwood vs softwood vs modified wood

When comparing hardwood, softwood, and modified wood, it is important to consider four main things: the maintenance required, how good a finish you can achieve, the sustainability / environmental aspects of using the timber and the overall cost (factoring in the longevity of the timber).

The initial cost for softwood is normally cheaper, but it often suffers from problems with stability and durability caused by being exposed to the UK weather.  This means that a high level of maintenance is required, and the windows will probably need replacing sooner than hardwood or modified wood.

If the timber warps or swells, it can cause problems with you opening your windows.  Softwood windows will often have a lower guarantee to allow for this.  Although softwood has a low upfront cost, in the long run you will often have more issues with softwood meaning that it is a false economy and that the long-term cost will be higher.

Hardwoods don’t normally experience as many maintenance issues from warping or swelling and tend to provide higher levels of strength, weather resistance and durability.

The dense structure of hardwoods will often create a grain like finish, so can be good for windows with a stained finish, in comparison to softwood or modified wood which will often have a smooth finish more suitable for painted windows.

Hardwoods are often more expensive than softwoods due to the long time that they take to grow.  This longer process also means that they are often less sustainable than softwoods or modified woods.

In comparison, modified wood may start life as a softwood but when it is modified to improve its performance it changes to have the benefits of a hardwood, along with the smooth finish and fast-growing benefits of a softwood.  Although this means it is more expensive than softwood, modified wood is often viewed as the type of timber that provides the best of both options.

So is softwood or hardwood better for windows?  Unless you are specifically looking for a stained finish to your windows, modified timber is the best choice of timber for windows.

At The Sash Window Workshop we use Accoya wood for our replacement windows as standard, but can use other timbers when required.

What is Accoya?

One of the most popular modified woods for windows is Accoya.

However, there is no tree called an Accoya tree.  Accoya begins life as a softwood pine but is modified through an acetylation process – which is effectively a process of subjecting the softwood to a strong vinegar.  During the acetylation process, the timber is modified to improve the quality of the timber for use.

Why should I choose Accoya for my new windows?

The fact that Accoya has been modified is crucial to some of its popularity as an excellent option for windows.  This means that the timber doesn’t rot and is stable and durable.  In fact, Accoya even comes with a 50 year anti-rot guarantee.

Due to the modification, Accoya requires minimal maintenance as it is both extremely stable, meaning it is highly unlikely to swell or warp, and has class 1 durability, which is the most durable category of timber.

As Accoya starts life as a softwood, the timber creates smooth finish when painted.  The treatment of the timber also means that the paint finish will last longer than on other timbers as it forms an effective barrier to mould and being attacked by insects.

Finally, Accoya is also a sustainable and environmentally friendly timber, being manufactured from sustainable sources and being FSC certified.


You may also be interested in:
Advice on choosing the right timber for your windows and doors.
What wood should I use for my window frames?
The timber used by The Sash Window Workshop

Timber softwood vs hardwood vs modified wood

Accoya approved manufacturer

Accoya 6 over 6 sash window