The distinction between hardwood and softwood is that the former is deciduous (broad-leafed) and latter are coniferous (evergreen). The word ‘softwood’ does not literally mean ‘soft’ or ‘inferior’.
Softwoods are structurally less complex than hardwoods. The wood fibres are much longer ,i.e, 2 to 3 times longer and the wood in general is very easy to level, sand, shape, mortise and stain. Sometimes softwoods can be quite hard and some hardwoods are quite soft. For e.g., Western hemlock actually grows harder with age.
Hardwoods, on the other hand, are more difficult to season (dry) and treat with wood preservatives, given their greater complexity in wood structure. They are also more difficult to work with and much heavier than softwoods.
Use this tool to compare species from B.C., Canada to other commonly used wood species.