Is Cypress A Hardwood or Softwood?

Cypress wood lumber and wood texture patterns.

Cypress belongs to the softwood classification due to its Janka hardness rating of 510 pounds of force (lbf) or 2269. This rating is much higher than other softwoods. 

Although it is softwood, cypress possesses some properties in most hardwoods. Even if they are coniferous, they are deciduous trees that shed leaves during the fall season, an attribute common in hardwoods.  

Cypress species are familiar sights in parks and facades of churches in some parts of Asia as decorative trees. Some species can be helpful in timber and woodworking applications. 

Cypress is one of the coniferous trees in the list of hardwoods by the National Hardwood Lumber Association due to its characteristics of growing together with hardwoods despite its low hardness rating. 

It is one of the coniferous trees in the United States that shed foliage during the fall season, a common characteristic of hardwoods.  

What Is Cypress Wood?

Cypress, also known as Cupressus, is one of the evergreen conifers genera belonging to the Cupressaceae family. 

The word cypress is a common term that refers to different types of cypress trees or shrubs that can reach up to 5 to 40 meters in height. They have scaly leaves in alternating decussate pairs of 2 to 6 millimeters.  

The young leaves of cypress resemble needles up to 5 to 15 millimeters long. They produce ovoid or globose cones of 8 to 40 millimeters long.  

Most cypress species adapt to forest fires by keeping their seeds in close cones for several years. When the parent plant dies, the cones open and release the seeds to germinate in the ground.  

Cypress has a wide distribution worldwide. It can survive in warm temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere, Central America, Western North America, the Middle East, northwest Africa, northern Vietnam, the Himalayan region, and southern China. 

They are ubiquitous sights in gardens and parks in many parts of the world. 

What are the Characteristics of Cypress?

Cypress is softwood evergreen with desirable attributes for woodworking. Their heartwood is light yellow to medium brown with nearly white sapwood. This wood has a low density and is lightweight—these trees inhabit swampy areas alongside hardwoods and grow together with hardwoods.  

These are some characteristics of cypress that you must know.  

Rot Resistant

Cypress holds the reputation of being rot-resistant softwood. Cypress is suitable material for doing outdoor DIY projects like patio tables, garden chairs, workbenches, and garden sheds. 

The young wood of cypress has moderate resistance to rotting like its relatives, the sequoia, redwood, and cedar trees. If you are attracted to cypress, look for mature wood to begin your project as it has excellent resistance to air moisture and water damage when you bring them outside your home.  


Cypress bears beautiful mien with its rings neatly arranged close to each other. Since cypresses grow slow compared to other trees, they produce close rings that help minimize shrinkage. The wood can last for hundred years even if it is unpainted with less care. It makes them sturdy, durable, and energy efficient. 

Cypress produces less shrinkage when seasoned, but it can be challenging to dry when the lumber has expansive dimensions. According to research, cypress may have a shrinkage value of 10.5 percent volumetric, 6.2 percent tangential, and 3.8 percent radial. 

Natural Beauty 

This coniferous, deciduous tree produces pale honey hues with light streaks that emanate on a dark background. The sapwood is white, and the wood has light yellowish, brownish shades. The texture is medium with straight grain. The finished cypress furniture can still look good even if you do not paint it. 


Cypress is easy to work with your hand tools as they are easy to cut, screw, and nail. Beginners in woodworking may find it enjoyable to work with cypress due to its paint holding, finishing, nailing, and staining properties compared to other types of hardwood. 

Emits Characteristic Odor

When working with cypress, you must cover your nose with a face mask because it produces a distinct odor that can cause breathing problems. Open the windows of your workshop before you begin your project. 

Cypress releases a chemical known as Cypressene during cutting or manipulating the wood. This chemical acts as a natural repellent against insects and environmental elements that make the wood resistant to termites, decay, and rotting. 

High Stability

Don’t ignore cypress when it comes to its uses for interior applications. Cypress is rot and water resistant, which means it has high stability. It makes cypress suitable for building and construction. 

It is a good material for making cooperage, light posts, trim work, railroad tiles, stadium seats, doors, boats, siding, bridges, piers, dugout canoes, and caskets. 

The mature wood is excellent for doors, flooring, architectural woodwork, and turnery. Some lumberyards produce veneer and plywood from cypress for cabinetry. 

Types of Cypress Wood and their Uses

The durability of cypress and resistance to rotting makes it an ideal material for interior and exterior uses. A typical air-dried cypress wood is lightweight, with an average of 28 pounds per cubic foot. Since they have a more rigid texture, not all woodworking machines are compatible with cypress. 

Cypress tends to be sticky due to its resinous properties, but this does not affect gluing or workability. The straight grains require you to use power tools. Use sharp cutting tools when working with cypress. 

Sanding and planing are the most manageable tasks you can do with cypress but not on nailing and screwing. You must bore or drill the wood to prevent the nails and screws from getting stuck.  

The best cypress wood is those with deeper color, which is more resistant to decay than pale ones. However, certain types of cypress exude unique characteristics depending on their origin. 

The cypress sapwood has a very light shade, while the bald heartwood may have dark reddish brown or pale yellow-brown color. 

Here are the uses of cypress wood:

  • Boat building
  • Shingles
  • Ship decking
  • House siding
  • Docks
  • Outdoor & fine furniture
  • Paneling
  • Exposed structural features
  • Flooring
  • Cooperage
  • Light posts
  • Trim work
  • Railroad tiles
  • Stadium seats
  • Doors
  • Bridges
  • Dugout canoes
  • Caskets

The Value of Old Growth Cypress

Cypress is not all exempted from fungal infestation. When cut into lumber, the fungus dies, but it leaves unique patterns that make the wood a desirable material in woodworking. 

The holes designed by fungus about 1 inch long and 3/8 inch in diameter are called pecky cypress. People look for pecky cypress as they are appealing due to their unique pocket patterns created by fungus.  

The Pecky cypress is suitable for interior paneling because it produces a stunning three-dimensional appearance after cutting it compared to other wood types. This cypress grade is not always available. 

The New Growth Pecky cypress exudes a lighter shade with a light to medium peckiness. 

The Old Growth Pecky cypress has a darker color with a medium to heavy peckiness. The wood produces fewer knots and deeper shade with tighter grain, which are the most appealing to the onlookers. This cypress grade is rare and more expensive than other grade types. 

An old growth tree is at least 80-150 years old, and they are costly and valuable. Century-old cypress trees are scarce, and those harvested trees today are already second growth. 

Some old-growth trees available today are from former construction sites and the bottom of waterways after being carried away from flash floods. 

Since cypress trees are slowly growing, it will take more than 30 years to mature before they are harvested for timber, making the trees more expensive and valuable. 


Cypress is softwood that possesses many attributes of a hardwood. It has many uses in building, construction, and furniture making. Its demand in the market keeps growing due to its resistance to rotting, pests, and decay. 

Old growth and pecky cypress are one of the most expensive woods due to their rarity. It takes several years for this tree to mature to produce high-quality woodworking projects. It pays to plant cypress trees to save them from extinction. 

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