Investing in a custom-made wooden staircase is a fantastic way to upgrade the beauty, functionality, and value of your home. It gives you the freedom to personalise every aspect, from the style of the railings to the shape of the steps themselves - even if you want to add glass or metal!

Before you can do all that, however, there's one key thing you need to decide on: which type of wood you want to have your staircase made from.

There are thousands of wood species out there, broadly classified into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Staircases can be constructed using either type, with each having its own set of pros and cons.

At Stairway Joinery, our design experts have been handcrafting softwood and hardwood staircases for over 40 years. Below, we break down what 'hardwood' and 'softwood' actually mean, look at their respective advantages and drawbacks, and help you choose the right wood for your staircase.

Hardwood Staircases

What Is Hardwood?

Despite its name, 'hardwood' doesn't actually describe the hardness of the wood, but rather where it comes from.

Hardwood refers to wood that comes from deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves annually). These trees are known for their broad leaves, unlike coniferous or softwood trees, which have needle-like or scale-like leaves and bear cones. Some common hardwood species include oak, maple, cherry, mahogany, and walnut.

What Are the Benefits of Hardwood Staircases?

  • Durability: Hardwoods are generally denser and harder than softwoods, making them more resistant to wear and tear. This durability is particularly beneficial for high-traffic areas like staircases.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Hardwoods often have a rich, attractive appearance with distinct grain patterns. Popular hardwoods for staircases include oak, maple, cherry, and mahogany.
  • Stability: Hardwoods tend to be more stable and less prone to warping or shrinking, which is essential for maintaining the structural integrity of a staircase over time.
  • Longevity: Hardwood staircases have the potential to last for many years with proper care and maintenance, adding long-term value to a home.

What Are the Drawbacks of Hardwood Staircases?

  • Cost: Hardwoods are generally more expensive than softwoods. The initial cost of materials and installation can be higher, making hardwood staircases a premium choice.
  • Installation Difficulty: Some hardwoods can be harder to work with during installation due to their density. This may result in a more labour-intensive and potentially costly installation process.

Softwood Staircases

What Is Softwood?

Softwood refers to wood that comes from gymnosperm trees, which are typically evergreen, cone-bearing, and have needle-like or scale-like leaves. Despite the name "softwood," some softwoods can be quite hard. Softwood species include pine, spruce, fir, cedar, and redwood.

What Are the Benefits of Softwood Staircases?

Cost: Softwoods are generally more affordable than hardwoods, making them a budget-friendly option for homeowners.

Workability: Softwoods are often easier to work with during the installation process, so they're faster and more affordable to install.

Lighter Weight: Softwoods are generally lighter than hardwoods, which can be an advantage during transport and fitting.

Renewability: Softwoods often come from faster-growing, more sustainable sources. If environmental impact is a concern, softwoods may be a more suitable option.

What Are the Drawbacks of Softwood Staircases?

  • Durability: Softwoods are typically less dense and softer than hardwoods, making them more prone to dents, scratches, and wear. This may be a concern in high-traffic areas like staircases.
  • Appearance: While some people appreciate the natural appearance of softwoods, they may lack the rich, intricate grain patterns found in many hardwoods. This can affect the overall aesthetic appeal of the staircase.
  • Maintenance: Softwood staircases may require more frequent maintenance and refinishing to keep them in good condition due to their lower durability.

Should You Choose Hardwood or Softwood for Your New Staircase?

Both hardwood and softwood make excellent staircase materials, so there's no hard-and-fast rule on which is better - they both offer beautiful, natural looks that can complement practically any property style.

When choosing between the two, consider the overall style you want to aim for, your budget, and the expected foot traffic on the staircase. It's also a good idea to consult with professionals (like the team at Stairway Joinery) for personalised advice based on your project's specific requirements.

Custom-Made Softwood and Hardwood Staircases, Handcrafted in Dorset

At Stairway Joinery, we handcraft stunning timber staircases from a variety of softwoods and hardwoods, including ash, beech, whitewood, and more. Take a look at our guide to discover the full range of woods we work with!

With decades perfecting staircase design, our local artisans will work with you on every detail - from first sketches to final installation - to create a gorgeous centrepiece tailored to your home. You can view the impressive results we've achieved by browsing through our gallery.

Get a quote online or give us a call on 01202 622826 today, and let's start creating a timeless masterpiece for your space.

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