Sapwood and Heartwood: Uses, Strength, Durability & Pros Cons

Features that you usually come across when analyzing a tree. Sapwood and Heartwood are two different parts of a tree. Sapwood is the outer living part of the tree, while Heartwood is the dead middle part of the tree. They are both parts of a tree but have differences and similarities.

The Sapwood can also be called albunurm. It serves as the medium through which water and minerals are passed to the leaves. Due to this, the cells in the Sapwood contain more water and do not have dark staining chemical substances you find in Heartwood.

The Heartwood can also be called duramen, the central dead part of a tree. The Heartwood tends to be stronger than the Sapwood. Even though it is the dead part of a tree, it is resistant to decay, less absorbent, and naturally strong. Sapwood cells will be converted to Heartwood eventually.

Another difference between the Sapwood and Heartwood, apart from one being dead and the other being living, is that the Sapwood is the light-colored part of a tree’s trunk while the Heartwood is dark-colored.

Sapwood and Heartwood

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 SapwoodHeartwood
ColorThe Sapwood is the light-colored portion of the tree.The Heartwood is the dark-colored portion of the tree.
WeightSapwood is lighter in weight compared to Heartwood.It has a high density, and cells store ergastic substances such as resins, making it heavier in weight.
MoistureSapwood contains little to no moisture.Heartwood contains more moisture than Sapwood.
DurabilitySapwood is the less durable part of the wood.Heartwood is more durable than sapwood.
ResistanceSapwood is not resistant to rot and is susceptible to fungal and insect attacks.The Heartwood is strong and resistant to rot, fungal, and insect attacks.
CellsThe cells in the Sapwood are comparatively young.The cells in the Heartwood are relatively old.
StrengthThe Sapwood is not as strong as the Heartwood.The Heartwood is stronger than the Sapwood.

Key Differences Between the Sapwood and Heartwood

Uses

The Heartwood and the Sapwood are used for entirely different purposes. The Sapwood is not as strong as the Heartwood; therefore, you cannot use it for some of the things the Heartwood is suitable for. It is mainly used for DIY purposes.

Many woodworkers use Heartwood for most woodworking applications because it is considered more durable. Heartwood is stronger, denser, and dryer than Sapwood. It also contains less moisture which makes it easier to dry.

The Heartwood is the best choice for furniture. It is also perfect for outdoor furniture because of its natural resistance to rot, decay, and insect attacks.

It is a good option for flooring, roofing, decking, fencing, and other woodworking applications.

The Sapwood, as it is less durable, cannot be used to make whole furniture pieces. It is used to make some furniture parts and can also be used for wood carving. Most woodworkers do not like to use this wood because it is susceptible to insect and fungal attacks.

Strength and Durability

Strength and durability are the essential factors to consider for woodworking applications. They are determinants of whether your wood will last or not. As seen in the tabular differences, the Heartwood has the upper hand in strength and durability.

Since the Heartwood is the dead portion of the wood, it has a natural resistance to rot and insect attacks. Wood preservative chemicals do not easily penetrate it, and the little moisture in it makes it shrink less when dried.

On the other hand, the Sapwood is the living portion of the wood, making it more susceptible to insect and mold-producing fungal attacks. The cells in the Sapwood contain a lot of water, making them crack and shrink quickly over time. Sapwood will rot after it comes in contact with the ground.

Color

The Sapwood is always the lighter-colored part of the tree, while the Heartwood is the darker-colored portion. The Sapwood is light due to new wood formed with living cells. The Heartwood is darker due to the tree’s natural aging process and the disposed of organic matter (extractives).

The Sapwood is always the lighter-colored part of the tree, while the Heartwood is the darker-colored portion. The Sapwood is light due to new wood forHeartwoodmed with living cells. The Heartwood is darker due to the tree’s natural aging process and the disposed of organic matter (extractives).

For example, the Sapwood color of Pinewood ranges from a creamy white to yellow, while the Heartwood color is a golden brown which sometimes looks like reddish-brown.

Similarities Between the Sapwood and Heartwood 

There are several things that the and Sapwood have in common, and some of them are listed below:

  • The Sapwood and Heartwood are derived from the action of the Vascular Cambium.
  • They are both essential factors to the tree’s growth as they provide structural support. For example, the Sapwood transports water from the roots to the leaves.
  • Some parts of the Sapwood and Heartwood contain the secondary xylem.

Pros and Cons of the Sapwood.

Pros

  • The Sapwood transports water and minerals from the roots to the leaves.
  • It provides structural support to trees.
  • The rings are essential for the nourishment of trees.
  • It is the part of the tree where energy reserves are stored.

Cons

  • The Sapwood is not the best choice for woodworking applications.
  • It is susceptible to insect and fungal attacks.
  • It has no resistance to microorganisms and rot.
  • It has a lot of moisture which makes it shrink and crack.

Pros and Cons of the Heartwood

Pros

  • It is resistant to insect attacks, rot, and decay.
  • It is widely used for woodworking applications because of its durability and strength.
  • Heartwood has little moisture, so it will not shrink or crack.
  • It is perfect for outdoor woodworking applications.
  • It serves as structural support to trees.

Cons

  • The extractives in the Heartwood change the wood structure, making it difficult for chemical preservatives to penetrate.

Conclusion

Experienced woodworkers often take out the Sapwood and use just the Heartwood to make furniture. The Heartwood is the best option for interior and exterior applications. If you choose to use Sapwood, it will only be best for interior applications.

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