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Is Alder a Hardwood? Facts & FAQ (With Janka Comparison Chart)

California White Alder

Many people call alder “the poor man’s cherry” due to its amazing appearance and relatively low cost. Since it is so popular, you might wonder if it is a hardwood, and the answer is yes. Keep reading as we see how it compares to other woods and even determine if it is a good flooring material.

wood divider

Is Alder a Hardwood?

Yes, Alder is a hardwood with a rating of 590 pounds-force (lbf) on the Janka hardness scale. The Janka hardness scale rates different woods based on how difficult it is to push a steel ball into it. For example, Brazilian Walnut has a Janka rating of 3,680 and is one of the hardest woods on earth. Hard Maple has a Janka rating of 1,400, Red Oak has a rating of 1,290, English Oak has a rating of 1,120, and Cherry has a rating of 990. Even though Alder is a hardwood, it’s softer than these other varieties and is one of the softest available.

Wood Type Janka Rating in LBF
Curupay 3,800
Brazilian Chestnut 3,400
Jatoba 2,350
Santos Mahogany 2,200
Tigerwood 1,850
Hard Maple 1,400
Beech 1,300
Red Oak 1,290
English Oak 1,120
Walnut 1,000
Cherry 990
Southern Yellow Pine 870
Alder 590

Is Alder Good for Flooring?

Alder is a soft hardwood, which means it will dent, scratch, and wear out faster than most other varieties. So, while you can use it for flooring, you would be much better off choosing something with a higher Janka rating, especially in high-traffic areas of the house.

maple hardwood flooring
Image Credit: jactod, Pixabay

What Is a Good Wood for Flooring?

Most people recommend staying above 1,000 lbf for a flooring material that can last a lifetime. Oak and Maple are excellent choices that balance durability with cost. You will find Maple in most bowling alleys, so you know that it’s durable enough for most flooring needs. Other woods, like Brazilian Chestnut, will be even more durable, but they will also be more expensive to purchase. Also, since they are so hard, it will be difficult and costly to shape them into flooring.

What Is Alder Good For?

Alder is an attractive hardwood that is inexpensive and easy to cut and shape, making it a great choice for beginner woodworkers. It’s also a good choice for making small objects like picture frames, cereal bowls, wooden spoons, statues, etc. because it is easy to carve and create amazing detail. Growing Red Alder trees also produce nitrogen, which helps fertilize the soil, and you can also use the bark to treat insect bites.

Alder Bass Body Blank paint
Image Credit: Alder Bass Body Blank paint, Stephen Ondich, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0 International

Is Alder a Good Wood to Burn in a Stove?

Yes, Alder is a clean-burning wood that is easy to find almost anywhere in the United States. If you properly season it, it won’t create much smoke or leave behind much ash. It’s lighter than most other firewood, so it’s easy to carry, and it has a pleasant scent. The downside is that it doesn’t produce much heat, so many people prefer to use it for summertime fires.

wood divider Summary

Alder is hardwood in name, but it’s one of the softest varieties that you can find, so it’s not a good choice for flooring. However, it’s readily available almost anywhere in the United States, so it’s usually quite inexpensive, and since it’s so soft, it’s a good choice for beginners who may not yet have the best tools. More experienced woodworkers can use it to create detailed carvings that might not be possible with a harder wood. Its deep-red color makes it a popular choice, and it also makes good summertime firewood.

Featured Image Credit: VancouverLami, Pixabay


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