Heartwood vs Sapwood: Its Uses and Wood Working

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.

Heartwood is more durable, stable, and rot-resistant than sapwood. 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 vary depending on the species of wood.

In other words, Heartwood is the dead portion of the middle part of the tree and 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 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, floors, roofs, and other many wooden applications. Most of the furniture you see is made of heartwood. 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 in 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 rarely use sapwood because it is susceptible, sapwood is more prone to fungi and insect attacks. That’s why woodworkers don’t use sapwood.

Heartwood vs Sapwood WoodWorking

Heartwood and Sapwood are easy to work with, but the wood of different species holds its own quality. Here is my working experience with heartwood and sapwood.

Heartwood Woodworking

Generally, Heartwood is easy to work with hand and machine tools. Some species are very hard and dense, while some have irregular or interlocked grains, which can be difficult to work with. The working experience of heartwood depends on the species of wood.

These are a few wood species that are extremely hard and heavy such as Ebony, Brazilian Walnut, Black Ironwood, and many others. It is challenging for woodworkers to work with these species.

But there are many species whose heartwood is very easy to work with, they are easy to bend and finish very well. Woods that are easy to work with are Cedar, Pine, Redwood, Douglas Fir, Western White Pine, Cherry, and many more.

Sapwood woodworking

Sapwood is much easier to work with than heartwood, as it is not as hard as heartwood. Although sapwood is used by beginners for the practice of woodworking. Because it is very cheap and easily available.

Heartwood vs Sapwood Strength

Heartwood Strength

It has excellent strength properties. So it is best for structural purposes where the wood needs to handle heavy loads. Due to its good strength, this heartwood is a great choice for beams, floors, fences, roofs, decks, and other external projects. 

When sapwood turns into the heartwood. During the process, heartwood becomes harder and stronger than sapwood.

Sapwood Strength

Sapwood does not have good strength, it is weaker than heartwood. It cannot be used for structural projects. It starts to split and crack under high pressure.

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.

Heartwood Pros and Cons


  1. Heartwood is rot-resistant and moisture resistant, therefore it requires low maintenance.
  2. Heartwood is strong and durable.
  3. Heartwood has a beautiful appearance.


  1. It is more expensive than sapwood.

Sapwood Pros and Cons


  1. It is very light and soft so it is easy to work with. 
  2. It is very cheap and easily available


  1. Sapwood contains a lot of moisture which causes the wood to bend or crack after drying.
  2. It cannot withstand moisture for a long time. It starts smelling and starts rotting within a month when exposed to moisture.

Walnut Sapwood vs Heartwood

Walnut Heartwood 

The color of Walnut Heartwood is brown to dark brown. The color can be gray, purple, or red depending on the species of walnut.

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.

Walnut Sapwood

Walnut Sapwood is not too wide. 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 factors such as native place and species. Its color darkens over time when it comes in contact with sunlight. The grain of the cherry wood is uniform, and 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

Generally, Cedar heartwood is reddish to pinkish-red-brown in color with random brown stripes. By the way, the color is dependent on the species. The color of all cedar heartwoods is slightly different, some species are very similar to each other, which are difficult to identify by color. A 10–15-year-old cedar tree has approximately 7–8 cm of 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-year-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 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.

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