Is Elm A Hardwood? (How hard is Elm?)

is elm a hardwood

Elm wood is highly used in furniture, boxes, hockey sticks, and archery bows. It is wood-type woodworkers love to work with because of its excellent grain pattern and resistance to environmental elements. When I was started to work with Elm, I was always wondered, Is Elm a hardwood?

Here’s my experience with Elm wood:

Elm is a soft hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 830 lbf (3,692 N). Elm tree is a hardwood tree that loses leaves in the fall. But Elm wood is softer than other woods that come from hardwood trees. Therefore, even though Elm is from a hardwood tree, the wood itself considered as a soft hardwood

But that’s just a quick snapshot.

So, in this article, we’re taking a detailed look at is Elm hardwood, how hard is Elm, Elmwood characteristics, uses of Elmwood and how strong is Elmwood as well.

Furthermore, I’ll answer frequently asked questions about the hardness of Elm compared to other popular wood types and many more.

So, let’s jump in!

How Hard Is Elm?

Elm wood is harder than any other softwoods on the planet. But it is softer than most of the hardwoods as well. Therefore, Elm wood is considered as a soft hardwood with both qualities of softwoods and hardwoods.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, Elm wood has a hardness rating of 830 lbf (3,692 N) which is higher than most of the softwoods such as,

  • Cypress with a hardness rating of 510 lbf (2,268 N)
  • Pine with a hardness rating of 380 lbf (1,690 N)
  • Redwood with a hardness rating of 420 lbf (1,868 N)

But the hardness of Elm wood is lower than most hardwoods. Such as,

  • Ash with a hardness rating of 1,320 lbf (5,872 N)
  • Beech with a hardness rating of 1,300 lbf (5,783 N)
  • Cherry with a hardness rating of 950 lbf (4,225 N)
  • Maple with a hardness rating of 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)

Janka hardness scale is a standard measurement that use to find out the hardness values of the woods. It resembles the resistance of a particular wood to dent and wear. For example, if some wood has high resistance to wear and dent, that means the wood has a high hardness rating.

As you can see the hardness of Elm wood is less than most of the hardwoods.

Normally woods from a deciduous tree that lose leaves in fall are known as hardwoods. Elm wood also belongs to a deciduous tree, but the difference is that Elm wood itself is softer than other wood types that come from hardwood trees. Therefore, Elm wood is classified as a soft hardwood that belongs to the category of in-between hardwoods and softwoods.

As a soft hardwood Elm is harder, denser, and stronger than most of the softwoods, but less hard, less dense, and weaker than most of the hardwoods.

When we look at the in-depth structure of Elm wood, the pores structure of Elm wood consists of straight or wavy tangential bands. That means the pores are aligned in horizontal orientation. This pattern type is rare and specialized to all the Elmwood species.

Overall, Elm wood has a ring-porous structure with distinct figures and wood grain patterns. The spaces and diameters of pores fibers are higher than hardwoods and less than softwoods. According to that, the number of fibers in a unit volume of Elm wood is higher than softwoods. This means the density of Elm wood is higher than softwood which is why Elm is denser than softwoods.

Likewise, the number of fibers in a unit volume of Elm wood is lower than hardwoods. This means the density of Elm wood is lower than hardwood which is why Elm is less dense than hardwoods.

Because of being in middle between hardwoods and softwoods, Elm wood has hardwood characteristics and softwood characteristics both of which are helpful in the woodworking field.

So, according to the Janka hardness rating, Elm wood has a hardness rating of 830 lbf (3,692 N). So, to get an idea about how hard Elm wood is you can follow the following Janka hardness rating scale to compare the hardness of Elm wood with other popular wood types.

Wood speciesHardness value
Brazilian Walnut3,684 lbf (16,390 N)
Red Mahogany, Turpentine2,697 lbf (12,000 N)
Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba2,350 lbf (10,500 N)
Golden Teak2,330 lbf (10,400 N)
Purpleheart1,860 lbf (8,300 N)
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1,820 lbf (8,100 N)
Rosewood1,780 lbf (7,900 N)
African Padauk1,725 lbf (7,670 N)
Wenge, Red Pine, Hornbeam1,630 lbf (7,300 N)
Hard Maple1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
Ash (White)1,320 lbf (5,900 N)
American Beech1,300 lbf (5,800 N)
Red Oak (Northern)1,290 lbf (5,700 N)
Yellow Birch / Baltic Birch1,260 lbf (5,600 N)
Heart Pine1,225 lbf (5,450 N)
Teak1,155 lbf (5,140 N)
Black Walnut, North American Walnut1,010 lbf (4,500 N)
Cherry995 lbf (4,430 N)
Black Cherry, Imbuia950 lbf (4,226 N)
Soft Maple950 lbf (4,226 N)
Cedar900 lbf (4,003 N)
Elm830 lbf (3,692 N)
Southern Yellow Pine (Loblolly and Shortleaf)690 lbf (3,100 N)
Douglas Fir660 lbf (2,900 N)
Hemlock540 lbf (2,402 N)
Redwood420 lbf (1,868 N)
Pine380 lbf (1,690 N)

As you can see Elm wood is softer than many other hardwoods and harder than some popular softwoods. Being a soft hardwood is like having the qualities of hardwood and softwood both but none of them are at their finest.

Elm Wood Characteristics

ColorBrownish and off-white
Density500 kg/m3
Hardness830 lbf (3,692 N)
Stiffness1.34 Mpsi
Wood TypeSoft Hardwood
ApplicationsFurniture, boxes, hockey sticks

Elmwood is a light to medium brownish wood with interlocked grain pattern. It has an uneven coarse texture.

The interlocked grain pattern makes it so hard to split. Therefore, Elm wood is considered one of the best split-resistant wood.

The ring-porous structure is one or two pores wide in diameter and growth rings are distinct with normal gaps.

Because of being a soft hardwood with less density and hardness, Elm wood is not durable against insect attacks and other environmental elements. Therefore, keeping Elm wood furniture outside without applying proper sealer is not recommended.

Most of the hardwoods with less hardness are easy to work with. Because most of them have a straight wood grain pattern. But surprisingly Elm wood contains interlocked grain pattern, and this makes it so hard to work with and the workability of Elm wood is significantly low. As a woodworker, I don’t recommend Elm wood for a beginner in woodworking because screwing, nailing, sawing is a little bit difficult with Elm wood.

Apart from those aspects, here’re some qualities of Elm wood that are useful in woodworking.

  • Split resistant and high flexibility
  • Attractive
  • Heartwood
  • Smooth texture

So, let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using Elm wood

Pros and Cons of Elm Wood

ProsCons
Split ResistantPoor Workability
Smooth textureLess resistant to insect attacks
AttractivePoor dimensional stability
Excellent flexibilityDifficult to dry
StrongModerately priced
Harder and denser than softwoodsProne to fungal attacks

As you can see, Elm needs good protection and proper maintenance with care. Otherwise, the wood will be easily destroyed because of moisture and bugs.

What Is Elm Wood Used For?

Elmwood is commonly used for the following applications. Such as,

  • Furniture making
  • Hockey sticks
  • Boxes
  • Archery bows
  • Veneer
  • Baskets
  • Decorative paneling
  • Stair treads

Because of having qualities of hardwood and softwood both can use overall any woodworking application without any hesitation. But I advise you not to go with Elm wood for outdoor woodworking projects due to its high prone to bugs and insects.

How Strong Is Elm Wood?

Elm wood is stronger than most softwoods and weaker than most hardwoods. The compressive strength is moderately high, and the bending strength of Elm wood is significantly high due to its high flexibility and split resistance.

Compressive Strength5,520 psi
Bending Strength11,800 psi
Stiffness1.34 Mpsi

As you can see, Elm wood has high bending strength which is second to cherry, beech, and hard Maple only.

So, let’s find answers for frequently asked questions about Elm wood hardness compared to other wood types to find about is Elm a hardwood?

Is Elm Harder Than Oak?

Oak is significantly harder than Elm. Both red Oak and White Oak are harder, stronger, and denser than Elm wood.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, you can get an idea about the hardness of Elm wood compared to Oak wood.

Red Oak1,290 lbf
White Oak1,360 lbf
Elm830 lbf

As you can see, Elm wood is twice as much weaker, less hard than Oak wood.

Is Elm Harder Than Pine?

Elm is harder than sugar Pine and White Pine. But Elm wood has a similar hardness to the Yellow Pine. Elm wood is harder, stronger, and denser than sugar Pine, White Pine both and similar in density and strength with Yellow Pine.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, you can see the hardness of Elm wood compared to Pine.

Sugar Pine380 lbf
White Pine380 lbf
Yellow Pine870 lbf
Elm830 lbf

Is Elm Harder Than Maple?

Maple is significantly harder than Elm. Both hard Maple and soft Maple are harder, denser, and stronger than Maple wood.

According to the Janka hardness scale,

Hard Maple1,450 lbf
Soft Maple950 lbf
Elm830 lbf

As you can see why Elm wood is considered soft hardwood. The hardness is lower than the soft Maple as well.

Is Elm Harder Than Birch?

Birch is much harder than Elm. The most popular one, yellow Birch is harder, denser, and stronger than Elm wood.

According to the Janka hardness ratings,

Yellow Birch1,260 lbf
Elm830 lbf

Read: Is Baltic birch a Hardwood?

Hope you have gained the answer to the hardness of Elm wood question by above comparison with other popular wood types.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Elm A Hardwood?

In this article, we have deeply discussed is Elm a hardwood and how hard Elm wood is with characteristic qualities of Elm wood.

Furthermore, we dig into the structural changes of Elm wood to see why Elm wood considered a soft hardwood even though it is originated from a deciduous tree.

Elm wood can use for any woodworking project with qualities of both hardwoods and softwoods. But I advise you to apply proper sealer or coating before keeping Elm wood furniture outside.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about the hardness of Elm wood and its unique features. So, let’s start your next woodworking project with Elm wood. Enjoy woodworking!

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