Is Basswood A Hardwood? Uses, Facts & FAQ
Basswood is one of the most affordable types of wood on the market. It can be found in many different locations for many different purposes. Some people like basswood for its softness and pliability, while others say it is a hardwood. But which is it? Is softwood a hardwood? And if it is hardwood, is it good for flooring? Basswood is a species of hardwood native to North America.
We will answer those questions and more as we dive into the details about basswood and its uses in this quick overview.
Basswood trees are relatively narrow, only growing to a maximum of three feet in diameter, but they can grow very tall. The tallest basswood trees can reach heights in excess of 100 feet. Basswood is also known as linden or the linden tree, which is an older name but still common in some places.
Basswood generally appears as a smooth white or very light brown color. It has shallow grain, few defects, and little to no knots. This uniform appearance is very desirable to people who are averse to visible grain and blemishes.
Basswood is slightly confusing because it has the makeup of a hardwood tree, it is considered a hardwood, but the wood itself is actually very soft. In fact, basswood is one of the softest hardwoods on the market. Basswood’s hardness is just one-half that of southern yellow pine, which is technically considered a softwood. Basswood is just a third of the hardness of red oak.
The softness of basswood makes it very popular among craftsmen, wood carvers, whittlers, and artists. However, that same softness is also what makes basswood hard to recommend as a choice for flooring.
Basswood As Flooring
There are some places that sell basswood flooring. Generally, basswood is not widely used as flooring for a variety of different reasons. First, it is very soft and malleable. That means that basswood is prone to scratches, dings, and dents. That makes it a poor choice for high-traffic areas in a home.
Basswood is very vulnerable to injury by heavy furniture and continuous use. Some people put it in low-traffic areas of a house, such as a guest room or office, because it is affordable and has a clean, uniform look.
Even the color is not great for flooring. Basswood is very light, white in some instances, which shows dirt and dust a lot more than other warmer woods. Light floors require more frequent cleaning, and frequent cleaning can damage the floors over time. This is a bad cycle for basswood to get into because it already is much softer than other woods more often used for flooring.
Basswood can be used for flooring and is sold as flooring, but it is not necessarily good for flooring. Basswood floors are not sold everywhere, and they are not as common as other flooring types.
Typical Uses For Basswood
Basswood does have a variety of excellent uses other than flooring. Basswood is one of the best species for whittling. It is soft, uniform, and easy to turn, which makes it perfect for novice and professional woodworkers of all stripes. It turns very well on a lathe which makes it prized for furniture. It can be easily worked into a large number of unique shapes which makes it perfect for furniture, art, sculpting, whittling, and more.
Basswood is also used to make musical instruments. The lightness, smooth appearance, and ease of use make it a great wood to craft guitar and ukulele bodies out of. Basswood is also used to make boxes and cabinets. Basswood can be used to make anything that needs flush corners, few defects, and a flat appearance. It can also be used as a veneer and takes paint exceptionally well.
So, while basswood struggles to be a consistent flooring material, it has a large swath of other uses.
Confusingly, basswood is an extremely soft hardwood. It belongs to the hardwood family, grows in tall trees in North America, and is very easy to work with. However, it is much softer than most other types of common wood. This makes basswood great for crafting and turning but not so great for flooring. Basswood can be used as flooring, but it is easily scratched and gouged, making it a risk to put in areas with a lot of people or a lot of heavy objects. Despite that, basswood is widely available, affordable, and has a variety of unique uses outside of flooring.
Related Read: 7 Different Types of Engineered Wood (with Pictures)
Featured Image Credit: ClubhouseArts, Shutterstock