Choosing the right type of wood, whether you are willing to buy a wooden desk or make one with your own hands, is an essential step.
Wood is one of the most commonly used materials in the world because it’s warm with distinctive character and solid durability.
So, what are the categories of wood? how to select the right wood? and what are the most popular wood types used for desks?
Harwood Vs Softwood - What’s the Difference and Which Is Best for Desks?
Before listing the most popular types of wood, you should know that there are mainly two classifications of wood: hardwood and softwood.
Hardwood Vs. Softwood
Hardwood and softwood are both popular within the furniture industry.
To understand the differences between the two categories, take a look at the table below:
Slower growth rate
Faster rate of growth
Denser than softwood
Less dense than hardwood
Typically, more expensive
Typically, less expensive
High fire resistance
Less fire resistance
Hardwood comes from broad-leaved trees (deciduous trees that drop their leaves every year and produce seeds)
Softwood comes from conifer trees (trees that have needles and do not produce seeds)
However, these differences are typical, and there are exceptions of course! You can find some softwood lumbers that last more than some kinds of hardwoods.
Hardwood and Softwood examples:
Manufactured wood is simply wood that has been subjected to different treatments to improve its characteristics.
Although this type of wood is not as strong as natural wood, it’s still durable and easy to maintain as long as it was well treated.
Here are some types of manufactured wood:
Fibreboard is an inexpensive manufactured wood.
It’s made from the breaking down of hard or soft woods into fibers, which are then bonded together with wax, resin, and heat to create a dense piece of wood.
MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard)
The cheap cost and durability made MDF one of the most popular types of fibreboards in the furniture industry.
In fact, you’ll be surprised by the many MDF furniture products existing around you. MDF is extremely popular with Ikea, a leading furniture retailer.
Particle Board (Chipboard)
Particle Board is one of the most common types of manufactured wood, it’s made from wood chips and shavings that are bonded together with resin.
Veneer is a very thin piece of natural wood shaved from a tree. It’s usually used on surfaces because natural wood is very resistant to stains and is waterproof.
Not only that, but veneer creates a lovely wood finish, that’s why it can be more costly than solid wood.
Plywood is a very strong manufactured wood as it is a build-up of layers of wood veneers that are bonded together to create a flat smooth sheet of wood.
How To Choose The Right Wood For Your Furniture
There are three main factors to consider when choosing the best wood for your desk.
And by quality, we mean:
The strength of a material such as wood refers to its ability to resist applied forces that could lead to its failure.
To test the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear, specialists use the Janka hardness test. It measures the force required to embed 11.28 millimeters (0.444 inch) diameter steel ball halfway into a sample of wood.
You can check here are some typical Janka hardness values for different types of wood.
Density refers to the amount of wood in a unit, per volume of wood.
The density of wood differs from type to type depending on the tree growth environment, and the tree species.
*** You'll find at the end of this article a list of 19 wood densities.
Durability is actually a measure of how well a wood can withstand natural decay.
Here is a chart defining the terms used to describe a wood’s durability in direct ground contact, based on the tree’s heartwood:
15 to 25 years
10 to 15 years
5 to 10 years
Less than 5 years
However, this characteristic can be affected by many other factors, like fungus (caused by cycles of rain or moisture) or other destructive insects.
2. Color and Grain
Environmental factors and the life of the tree, all affect the look of the wood, which explains the multiple variations in natural color and grain.
Several species of trees exist in this world, and within the same species, there are plenty of differences.
You will need that type of wood that blends well with your house or office. It is important to go for that wood which presents you with a wide variety of finishes.
Go for an affordable type of quality wood, especially if it’s for your homemade desktop.
Best Wood For desks - 10 Popular Wood Types Used for Desks
When it comes to choosing the best wood for your furniture, understanding the material properties is a must.
Here are 10 different types of wood, Productive Desks’ team chose carefully to help you select the right wood for your desk.
1. Oak Wood
Oak wood is the most grown hardwood in the United States, and the most common wood species used for furniture.
Not only because of its abundance, but it’s also sturdy, durable, and can be finished in a wide variety of colors and looks.
Oak wood can be purchased in two shades: white oak and red oak. The first kind is grey/brown, very similar to the second but with a prominent reddish tint.
It’s more affordable than many other species with comparative qualities, mostly because of its abundance.
2. Cherry Wood
Cherry wood is considered a hardwood, sturdy and durable.
It can either be a light brown or deeper reddish-brown color. The brightness of the newly worked cherry will darken and mellow over time.
Nevertheless, unlike oak wood, cherry wood offers a limited number of choices when it comes to finishes.
It’s also pricey and you need to maintain it very well as it’s prone to showing wear and scratches.
3. Maple Wood ~ The Cheapest
Maple is a hardwood, strong and heavy. It’s pale in color and has natural swirls and twists in the wood grain.
Maple wood is the cheapest wood you’ll ever come around on the market, with various designs.
No wonder it’s considered by a lot of people when it comes to making or buying their furniture.
However, stains or paint can easily stick to it.
4. Walnut Wood ~ King of Fashion
Walnut is a hardwood known for its strength and straight grain.
Most people are familiar with walnut wood in its darkest state, which can be a deep chocolate or coffee color.
However, it’s also available in lighter browns, purples, grays, or reddish tints.
Unlike oak and cherry, walnut wood will actually lighten slightly over time.
Walnut is becoming rarer and demand for it is usually high, therefore, the prices are higher than many other types of wood.
5. Ash Wood
Ash is a tough hardwood, known for its excellent bending abilities.
It is primarily used for bent pieces of furniture such as a chair with curved backrests. Carpenters love to work with ash wood.
However, it produces a distinct and moderately unpleasant smell while working on it.
Ash wood feels smooth to the touch. It is a very attractive wood, aesthetically pleasing, and absorbs stains well.
Overall, it’s quite light-colored and tends to be various shades of beige which will darken slightly over time.
6. Mahogany Wood ~ Classic
Mahogany is a traditional, popular and durable type of wood.
It’s a hardwood used to make some of the finest furniture in the world, which means that it’s also among the most expensive furniture to buy.
The color variation goes from brown to deep red-brown or dark red.
7. Birch Wood
Birch trees are members of the Betula family growing abundantly in North America.
There are over a dozen species of birch trees native to North America, but the most common are white birch, yellow birch, and black birch.
Birch has a slightly yellowish cast, close-grained and actually looks a lot like maple.
It is generally easy to work with hand and machine tools, but boards with wild grain can cause the grain to tear out during machining operations.
For the price, normally plain birch lumber is in the same price range as Maple or Oak.
8. Beech Wood
Beech is a popular, heavy and hardwood for furniture.
It’s typically a pale cream color, sometimes with a pink or brown hue. The grain is straight, with a fine to a medium uniform texture.
Overall, it provides good workability; it machines well, glues, finishes, and turns well.
It does, however, have a large amount of movement in service, so movement and wood stability must be taken into account.
9. Teak Wood
Teak wood is a heartwood tending to be a golden or medium brown, with color darkening with age.
However, its color will fade if the desk is under direct sunlight next to a window.
You can identify the teak wood by its special smell when cut. Fake version of it is either no fragrance or an unpleasant odor.
Despite its widespread cultivation on plantations worldwide, Teak is very expensive.
Pine is considered a softwood. Very suitable for furniture, particularly if you like rustic or country styles.
It has a great deal of stiffness and resistance to shock, which makes it a solid choice for many furniture pieces.
Pine is light in color, usually with a creamy white look.
Very affordable and lightweight with a pale finish which is great for staining.
Its properties make it a popular choice because of its easy cultivation and widespread availability.
Best Wood for Desks – Our Pick
Based on our research, the best types of wood for desks are hardwoods. Why? Because, as mentioned before, hardwood is durable and attractive. You want something that looks elegant and pretty, but at the same time, you want a material that can sustain the weight of your laptop, monitor, printer and other items, for a long time.
Besides, there is a variety of affordable choices on the market you can choose from.
Our favorite pick is Oak wood. Here is why:
- It’s sturdy.
- It’s durable.
- It can be finished in a wide variety of colors and looks.
- It’s abundant hence affordable.
Repurpose Old Furniture
If you have some old pieces in your home and you don’t want to throw them away. You can repurpose them to help them find new value in your house.
Doors, for example, can turn to a fun DIY desk project. They have already a hole that can be considered to organize cables, and they are usually made of strong woods.
You might be limited by the dimensions and the way the door is made, but it could turn out to be the most pleasant experience you’ll ever have. Just try it!
There, you have a standing desk at minimal cost, since desktops are usually the most expensive part.
To Wrap Up - Best Wood For Desks
The number one most energy efficient material with which to make products is wood.
There is a wood style for every budget, that’s why many DIYers love to use wood for major projects like desk building.
Picking the right wood isn’t that hard: quality, color, and finally price are three main elements to take into consideration.
The top 10 wood types we’ve listed for you, are the most commonly used woods for desks.
Pick one and you’ll be just fine.
Appendix - List of 19 wood densities
lb/ft3 = pound/cubic foot
Douglas Fir (Softwood)