Is Aspen a Hardwood or a Softwood?

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aspen a hardwood or softwood

When choosing wood types for flooring or any other project, it is important to consider hardness. 

The hardness of a wood will determine the durability of a wood. It will also determine how well it stands up to things like heat and moisture. 

Choosing the correct wood for your project is essential. If you are thinking about using Aspen, understanding its characteristics will help you decide. 

While Aspen is technically a hardwood, it has some softwood qualities that could exclude it from certain applications. 

In this article, we have laid out everything you need to know about Aspen. This will allow you to make an informed decision about using it for your project. 

Hardness of Aspen: Basic Idea 

Before you decide to use Aspen for a flooring material or other application, it’s best to know about its makeup. 

There are many things to consider before deciding it is a good choice, such as: 

  • Hardness compared to other wood
  • Strength of Aspen 
  • Characteristics of Aspen 
  • What to use Aspen for 

Why is Aspen a Hardwood?

why is aspen a hardwood

Aspen is a hardwood despite the fact that it is very soft and bendable. 

It is still technically on the hardwood side of the hardness scale. However, the three types of Aspen are all at the bottom of the list. 

Bigtooth Aspen, European Aspen, and Quaking Aspen are all considered soft hardwoods. Because of this, you may want to reconsider using Aspen for projects where hardness is a factor. 

However, it is also very stable and has a tight structure. This makes it a good choice if you are building something that needs to withstand a lot of moisture. 

As with any wood, what you are going to be using it for is a crucial factor. 

Aspen Hardness 

Wood hardness is measured using the Janka hardness test. This is a scale that measures a wood’s resistance to denting and wear. 

The hardest wood on the Janka hardness scale is Red Mahogany, which has a rating of 2,697 LBF. LBF stands for pounds-force and is a measurement of how much pressure can be put on a piece of wood. 

Aspen has a hardness rating of 420 LBF. This puts it at the bottom of the scale just above where some of the harder softwoods start. 

This means that while Aspen is technically a hardwood, it will not withstand the same pressure as others. If you need hardwood for something like flooring, Maple or Oak may be a better bet. 

Aspen Strength 

One of the effects of Aspen not being a very hard wood is that it is also not very strong. 

As far as hardwoods go, Aspen is one of the weakest. This is largely due to its makeup and structure. 

Aspen has a lot of knots that are very tight and small. This means there are a lot of weak points in the wood. 

In general, if you want a hardwood, it should be very consistent throughout. This means very few knots and if there are any, they should be well-spaced. 

Aspen Characteristics 

Aspen has a straight grain with a medium texture. It is usually light brown and has a natural luster. 

Because of these characteristics, it is a relatively attractive wood.

However, it is not resistant to dents and scratching, which can easily let in water. When this happens, rot and mildew will quickly set in. 

Aspen’s softness can also be a good quality depending on how you want to use it. It is very workable and can be used for all kinds of decorative purposes and molding. 

Aspen Uses 

Because Aspen has very good stability, it can be used in a lot of applications. This is especially true if you need a part or piece of wood to get wet without swelling. 

Aspen can be used for cosmetic pieces and decorative parts because of its soft pliability. 

It also takes stains and varnishes very well. This is due to the fact that it is so soft and will absorb the compounds. 

Even though you don’t usually want to use Aspen for things like furniture, it can be used for many other things. It may be a soft hardwood, but it has a lot of purposes. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

faq aspen a hardwood or softwood

  • Which is harder: Poplar or Aspen?

Poplar is harder than Aspen. However, it is not always so simple to categorize woods. 

While poplar may be harder, Aspen is more shock-resistant. 

  • Can Aspen be used for firewood? 

One of the downsides of Aspen being so soft is that it does not produce much heat. In fact, it produces about half the heat of other woods. 

Because of this, it will not be a very good choice for firewood. 

  • Does Aspen split easily?

Straight-grained woods like Aspen will split very easily. This is due to the fact that the grain is long and uninterrupted. 

However, because of the small knots, it may split unevenly. 


Knowing the hardness and physical makeup of different wood is important. It can help you make the right decisions on materials for your projects. 

While Aspen may not be that hard, it can still serve a lot of purposes and be very versatile. 

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Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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