Heartwood vs Sapwood: Its Uses and Woodworking

Heartwood and Sapwood are the same portions of a tree. We can say it is two parts of the same tree. Heartwood, also called Duramen, is the central core of the tree trunk. 

On the other hand, Sapwood is the outer part of a tree trunk. Sapwood transports water and minerals to the leaves and branches of the tree. Which is an essential contributor to the growth of the tree.

Sapwood and heartwood can be distinguished by their color and grain. The color of heartwood is always darker than the sapwood of a single tree. While the color of sapwood is always lighter than heartwood. The color of sapwood and heartwood may defer to the base of wood species.

In other words, Heartwood is the dead portion of the middle part of the tree. While Sapwood is the living outermost portion of the wood.

Heartwood and sapwood diagram

difference between sapwood and heartwood
difference between sapwood and heartwood
Heartwood Sapwood
ColorDarker ColoredLighter colored
WeightDue to its high density, it Weighs more than sapwood.It is lighter than heartwood
DurabilityIt is more durable than sapwood.It is not as durable as heartwood.
Contains Moisture Moisture in heartwood is rarely presentIt contains more moisture
HardnessIts hardness is great.It’s not as hard as heartwood
Availability and market demandHeartwood is more involved in the wood industryIt also has demand but not as much as heartwood
Heartwood vs Sapwood

Heartwood vs Sapwood Uses

Heartwood and Sapwood both are part of the same tree, But their use is different. They are used on the basis of their properties.

Heartwood uses

As mentioned above, the heartwood is the dead portion of the tree. Its density is higher than sapwood. It strengthens the entire tree. 

Heartwood is used to make furniture, floor, roof, and other many wooden applications. Most furniture that you see is made from heartwood. Some woodworkers prefer to use heartwood to make a strong, durable, and good-looking application. 

Sapwood uses

Sapwood is not as strong, rich, or beautiful as heartwood. It is the secondary wood of trees. Therefore woodworkers do not like to use sapwood for the whole furniture. Sapwood is used for a small part of the furniture or It uses combination with heartwood. It is the best wood for beginners to practice carving and cutting or a wood project that requires two-tone pattern color. 

But woodworkers use sapwood less in the application. Because It is susceptible, sapwood has more chances for insects and fungal growth. Natural decay-resistant materials such as redwood and cedar have a low risk of insects and fungi. So some woodworkers remove sapwood from the lumber. But this does not mean that it is a useless part of the wood log.

Heartwood vs Sapwood Woodworking

If we talk about woodworking and the workability of sapwood and heartwood. According to their properties, both are good and both can be easy to work. 

Heartwood Woodworking

For any wood project, the first preference option is heartwood. Heartwood is great for top furniture projects. Because they have good hardness and great appearance. These hardness properties make wood projects durable, rot-resistant, and great rich color.

But more hardness also sometimes becomes trouble. We know the hardness of heartwood is greater than sapwood. Janka’s hardness of some wood is too high. So it may make it difficult to work with such species of wood.  Such as Red Mahogany, Red Oak, and Ash (White), Ebony, and many more. So some machine applications with heartwood are difficult for such species.

But this is not the case with all wood species. Some wood species have an average and low Janka hardness rating. Such as Red Maple, Douglas Fir, Western White Pine, and many more. Whose Janka hardness is less than 1000 lbf. It is relatively easy to work, with good machining qualities

Sapwood woodworking

Sapwood is less used in the wood industry but it is easy to work with.  But some species that have good hardness, Sapwood of that species can also be usable. Because of such a species, sapwood also has enough hardness to use in the application.

Heartwood vs Sapwood Strength

Heartwood Strength

Heartwood has excellent strength properties. So it is best for its external and internal projects.  There is much natural water and rot-resistant wood is available.  Which you need less maintenance. Due to their good strength, these types of wood are a great choice for floor, fence, roof, and deck, and other external projects. When sapwood turns to heartwood. During the process, the heartwood becomes harder and stronger than sapwood.

Sapwood Strength

Sapwood has no excellent strength properties. So it is not well known for its workability.  It starts to rot as soon as it comes in contact with the ground. It cannot withstand moisture for a long time. It starts smelling and starts rotting within a few months of exposure to moisture.

Heartwood vs Sapwood Color

Heartwood Color

Most of the color of Heartwood is rich brown to dark chocolate brown. It depends on the wood species. The heartwood color of some species darkens over time, such as mahogany, cherry, and Sapele wood.

When trees grow and sapwood changes to heartwood, It stops transporting water, nutrients, and minerals to the leaves of the tree. The cell of the heartwood dies and begins to dry. This process darkens its color.

Sapwood Color

Most sapwood colors are white to light yellow.  But mostly it is very close to pure white. sapwood gets this color due to the high amount of moisture and open cell.

Walnut Sapwood vs Heartwood

Walnut Heartwood 

The walnut has a wider Heartwood part. This means that a high amount of heartwood can be obtained from a walnut tree. The grain is usually straight but can be irregular. It is irregularly formed during the growth of its tree.

The color of Walnut Heartwood is brown to dark brown. Color can sometimes have a gray, purple, or reddish cast.

Walnut Sapwood

Walnut Sapwood is not too wide. In the large size of a walnut, it does not appear in the trees. It’s a great thing. Walnut sapwood is mostly white in color. But it depends on the other species of walnut. Some walnut sapwood species range in color from gray to dark yellow.

Cherry Heartwood vs Sapwood

Cherry Heartwood 

The heartwood of cherry color is rich red to reddish-brown. Its color varies and depends on many things. Its color darkens over time when it comes in contact with light. The grain of the cherry wood is uniform, straight. So that it gives a great appearance.

Cherry Sapwood

The color of cherry sapwood is light yellow. Cherry trees have a wide amount of sapwood. It also darkens over time but never as much as heartwood.

Cedar Heartwood vs sapwood

Cedar Heartwood

Cedarwood has many species. Such as Western Redcedar, Aromatic Red Cedar, Northern White Cedar, and many more. All cedar heartwood has a difference in color. But are almost close to each other. Heartwood is reddish to pinkish brown. A 10–15 years old cedar tree has approximately 7–8 cm diameter heartwood.

Cedar Sapwood

Sapwood is pale yellowish-white to whitish-cream. The color of the sapwood also varies with the age of the cedar tree.  A 10–15 years old cedar tree has approximately 3-4 cm diameter sapwood.

Is Heartwood stronger than sapwood?

Yes, there is no doubt about it. Heartwood is stronger than sapwood. When the tree is small and the tree is growing, then the sapwood turns into heartwood and gradually the heartwood dies and its Heartwood portion becomes stronger than sapwood.

Does heartwood conduct water?

No heartwood tree does not conduct water. Because the tree needs less water and fewer nutrients the tree grows. Which completes the sapwood.

Very little moisture is found in the heartwood. Which decreases with time. The heartwood of the green tree contains only a lot of moisture. The moisture in the heartwood causes the wood to shrink as it dries.

The conclusion

You can use sapwood along with heartwood for home furniture and indoor application, but for the external application, Wood Expert suggests that we always use heartwood.