What Are the Differences Between Hardwood and Softwood Pallets

If you compare wooden pallets with pine platforms, you’ve probably decided between durability and affordable options. Unlike hardwood, softwoods such as pine are inexpensive enough to use stringers only one-way. So what are the differences between hardwood and softwood pallets? And which one to choose?

When pallets are produced, they come in several types of wood; hardwood and softwood materials. However, many people may not understand that difference. Softwood species influence pallet functionality and pricing. To understand the differences between hardwood pallets vs soft hardwood pallets and what is needed in each product, please read below.

Why Choose a Wooden Pallet in the First Place?

Unlike other types of pallets, wood pallets are strong: wood pallets have high stability which allows for the strong lifting of heavy objects. Outside of food-grade industries, hardwood is used for many applications requiring a stronger, more durable pallet that will make many more trips than its aspen counterpart. The durability of a pallet made of wood has a strong strength and can last a lifetime. Wood pallet is used in different applications for shipping and storage of products. Wooden pallets are produced using renewable materials so that they are reusable or compostable after being not used anymore.

Properties of Hardwood Pallets

Hardwood comes from deciduous broadleafs like oaks, maples, beech, hickory, and walnuts. This is a type of tree called a dicot that has a wide spread across the Midwest and Eastern Coast. Approximately a quarter of the hardwoods harvested annually from domestic markets are cultivated in regions that spread throughout the country.

Other kinds of hardwood, like maple, are imported into international countries. Hardwood can be extremely durable because they have dense properties. There has been much misinformation about hardwood pallets being much stronger than softwood. Realistically, the pallet is only slightly stronger when compared to softwood.

Choosing Wood for the Best Pallets

Depending upon the wood used, the pallet is often crafted according to the country of origin of its construction. Pallets represent only one component of a much more extensive supply system. Pallet manufacturers seek a material that will meet a specific need as well as be easily accessible.

If wood supply is high and accessible, the chain to produce pallets remains constant, and most importantly. The most common pallet type for wood is oak pine in the USA. Hardwood pallets were the preferred choice for many years but quite a few pallets are built from softwoods these days, especially southern yellow pine.

Pallet Wood Types

Each wooden pallet is differentiated by the materials used to make it. However, there are some other things that play a role in developing different types of pallets. The most common thing among those is the process used to obtain the pallet.


The most important change that leads people to pick pallet wood is sanding. It involves joining three or four pieces of sanding discs using a random orbiter, on both sides until very smooth. Some boards require a single piece. What are the good reasons a board is almost invincible? Is it really possible? Sanding makes the wood more durable as it can be molded to another piece of wood using adhesive materials. Hence, sanding is an important step and the pallets that are sanded prove to be more durable.


You can often notice scents of different trees from pallets. This happens usually when sanded, and sometimes when sliced. You can easily figure out if the pallets are made of pine wood because of the distinct smell. Since pine is a plentiful wood and is easy to process, pine pallets tend to be relatively cheap and easy to come by. Such smells can help you identify the type of lumber used in manufacturing the pallets which can also tell you the kind of wood used in it.

Pallet Wood Determines Its Type

It will determine whether or not wood is used as a material to construct a pallet and can also determine its cost. For example, pine is a woody material that has a light color and straight grain. Pine wood is a cheaper choice for pallets and is less strong than many kinds of wood. Oak is a hardwood that has a color range of white and reddish-brown. Its extremely coarse grain is very sturdy which makes the pallet ideal for outdoor use or heavy loads.

New hardwood pallets are generally stronger than new softwood pallets due to being denser, although the hardwood species vary quite a bit and some species are actually less dense than pine. In general, though, they withstand more stress before they bend and break and hardwood pallets tend to retain their shape under higher pressure than those made of softwood.

How to Choose the Right Type of Wood Pallet?

When selecting a wood pallet, think about the intended use and weight of the load needed. You can use the pallet as a guide when deciding what wood to use. Choose wood such as maple or oak to provide durability and withstand heavy outdoor use. For lighter-weight pallets to use indoors select softer woodlike pine.

Pallets come in many types: there are plastic pallets, steel pallets, and wooden pallets. Each kind of pallet offers benefits but also presents its disadvantages. Plastic pallets are more difficult to disinfect, steel pallets are costly, and wooden pallets can have a high replacement rate depending on their material.

Key Differences Between Hardwood and Softwood Pallets

Here are some main differences between hardwood and softwood pallets:

Hardwood Pallets

Pallets made of hardwood have historically been employed because of their strength and longevity. They are more affordable and environmentally friendly than metal or plastic, making them the greatest choice from an economic and environmental standpoint. Hardwood pallets can frequently be reused repeatedly without any problems. Hardwoods, like oak, maple, and walnut trees, are derived from blooming plants. Most frequently utilized in long-lasting projects like construction, luxury furniture, flooring, and others. Their density is higher than that of softwoods.

Hardwoods are typically more pricey. However, because of the resilience provided by their higher density, objects constructed of hardwood survive longer. What you’re shipping must be taken into careful consideration while choosing the right kind of wooden pallet for your business. A less thick material would be better for conveying lighter items like plastic or paper goods. However, the higher the density, the less sensitive it will be to mold and damage if you are transporting food-grade materials.

Softwood Pallets

When a hardwood shortage in the US occurred, demand for softwood pallets began to rise. To reduce the chance of mold or fungus formation, the majority of producers kiln dry their pallets. Using softwood pallets could have additional advantages besides just its desired hue, such as:

  • Gymnosperm plants like pine and spruce provide softwood.
  • You won’t have to worry about shortages because they make up 80% of all lumber.
  • A greater variety of uses than hardwood, such as windows, doors, paper, and furniture for simple pallet recycling,
  • Less costly and typically lower density than hardwoods


Choosing between different types of wood for your pallets can be a tricky task. There are a number of factors you need to consider before purchasing the right type of wood for your pallets. For instance, the weight of the wood matters the most. If your pallets are heavy, then your overall packaging will become heavy resulting in costly delivery. Hence, you should choose the type of wood that is not only practical but also durable.

Unaka Forest Products is a well-reputed pallet construction company. The pallets we produce are highly durable and can sustain high pressures. We will suggest the right kind of pallets you should be using for your business. We have all types of hardwood and softwood pallets to offer. We guarantee our customers long-lasting pallets. Contact us today and place an order!

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