Are 2×4 Studs Hardwood or Softwood? (Which is Really Better?)

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Are 2×4 Studs Hardwood or Softwood?

Are you building a new garage? If you have finished laying the concrete slab then you are ready to buy 2X4 studs for framing the garage wall. So what type of studs should you buy? Are 2×4 Studs Hardwood or Softwood? Does it matter?

More often than not, the 2X4 wall stud, used for framing garage walls, is made from Douglas Fir, a softwood. Spruce, Pine and Fir, (SPF), all softwoods, are the best woods for 2X4 wall studs used in framing a garage wall or a house interior wall.

Hardwood is used for applications like flooring, decking and making furniture. Hardwood is denser, more difficult to work with and more expensive than softwood. Softwood is the preferred choice as structural lumber, because it is easier to work with, flexible and cheaper.

2x4 Studs Hardwood or Softwood

What Is the Difference Between Softwood and Hardwood?

Hardwood comes from deciduous trees. Deciduous trees are the ones that lose their leaves every fall and get new ones in spring. The trees are slow growing and the wood is a lot denser and heavier.

Hardwood, as the name suggests, is harder than softwood. In the lumber industry the hardness of wood is measured using the Janka Hardness Scale

The scale is the pressure in pounds required to mar a wood surface. At the top of the scale is Hickory with a score of 1820. Aspen comes in at the bottom with a score of 350. The complete table is available at the website of American Hardwood Information Center.

Hardwood is preferred for surfaces that are exposed, need to look good for years and must be abrasion resistant. Basement and home flooring, patio and swimming pool decking will use hardwood rather than softwood. 

Softwood comes from conifer trees. Conifer trees have needles rather than leaves.  They are evergreen trees. The trees grow pretty fast and can be logged more frequently. The wood is softer and lighter.

Softwood is used in structural lumber, such as 2X4 garage wall studs, that is not exposed. Softwood is easier to cut and holds nails and screws without splitting. Softwood absorbs moisture more readily than hardwood. However, you can get pressure-treated softwood lumber for outdoor applications.

Which Wood Is Hardwood?

The most popular hardwood available in the US are:

  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Walnut
  • Ash
  • Cherry
  • Poplar

Hardwood is also imported from tropical countries. Popular tropical hardwood is:

  • Mahogany
  • Rosewood
  • Teak
  • Wege

Which Wood Is Softwood?

There is plenty of softwood available in the US. High availability of softwood is the reason American homes use a lot of lumber in their construction. The popular softwood varieties used in the construction industry are:

  • Fir
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Cedar
  • Hemlock
  • Redwood 

What is an SPF Stud?

The acronym SPF stands for Spruce-Pine-Fir, the three most popular types of softwood used to make 2X4 studs.

Western species SPF 2X4 studs come from White spruce, Engelmann spruce, Lodgepole pine, and Alpine fir trees. Eastern species SPF 2X4 studs come from Black spruce, Red spruce, White spruce, Jack pine, and Balsam fir trees.

SPF 2X4 studs have a high strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional stability and superior gluing properties. SPF 2X4 studs hold nails well and meet building code requirements for fire safety, strength, and sound transmission.

What Are Kiln Dried Studs?

When buying 2X4 softwood studs you will have the option of green studs or kiln dried studs. What is the difference?

The green 2X4 studs are just milled to the required dimension, finished a bit and sold. The moisture content is usually pretty high and can be between 24%-29% depending on the species.

All that moisture in the stud adds to the weight. However over a period of time the studs will dry and the moisture will leave. The stud will warp and crack as the moisture leaves it.

Kiln dried 2X4 studs on the other hand have the moisture removed by drying them out in a kiln.  This ensures that kiln dried 2X4 studs are straight and free of splits and remain that way in the future.

Kiln drying reduces the moisture content to around 10%-16% depending on the wood species and dimensions. Additionally, the heating at around 260 deg F kills all the insects in the wood.

You can not go wrong on your garage framing if you use 2X4 Kiln Dried SPF studs.

Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and useful.

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