Elm Wood Strength (& Is It a Hardwood or a Softwood?)

Is Elm a Hardwood or a Softwood? (& Is It Strong?)

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If you are planning on building something around your home out of solid wood, then you are on the right track. That said, many types of wood are vastly different from each other, and this means that choosing the right one for your purpose is essential.

Today, we want to take a closer look at elm. Elm is a popular type of wood, but there are a few things that you need to know about it. Today, we want to figure out if it is a hardwood or softwood, and just how strong it really is. Keep reading to find out.

Is Elm a Hardwood or a Softwood?

First and foremost, the elm tree is an angiosperm, which means that it is a flowering tree. It is also deciduous in nature, which means that it loses its leaves and flowers during the colder seasons.

As you could probably guess, being a deciduous angiosperm means that elm is a hardwood. In fact, as far as hardwoods in North America are concerned, elm is one of the harder and more durable types.

Elm Strength: All You Need to Know

What you need to know here is that determining how strong a piece of wood is requires us to examine at least five different factors. We always need to look at the compressive strength, bending strength, stiffness, hardness, and density of the wood.

If we examine all five of these factors, we can then provide you with a clearer picture of exactly how durable and strong a certain type of wood, such as elm, actually is.

Moreover, there are a few different types of elm that we will examine today. These include the American elm, red elm, English elm, wych elm, Dutch elm, rock elm, cedar elm, and winged elm.

Compressive Strength

Let’s take a look at the compressive strength of all the types of elm:

  • American Elm – 5,520 lbf/in2 (38.1 MPa)
  • Red Elm – 6,360 lbf/in2 (43.9 MPa)
  • English Elm – 4,740 lbf/in2 (32.7 MPa)
  • Wych Elm – 6,710 lbf/in2 (46.3 MPa)
  • Dutch Elm – 4,640 lbf/in2 (32.0 MPa)
  • Rock Elm – 7,050 lbf/in2 (48.6 MPa)
  • Cedar Elm – 6,020 lbf/in2 (41.5 MPa)
  • Winged Elm – 6,780 lbf/in2 (46.8 MPa)

As you can see, rock elm has the highest compressive strength of all, and Dutch elm has the lowest. Generally speaking, for different types of hardwood, elm is up there with the best of them in this category. Rock elm scores especially high when compared to many other types of hardwood.

The compressive strength of wood is sometimes also called the crushing strength. This is in reference to how much weight a piece of wood can handle parallel to the grain.

For an example that is easy for you to picture, imagine a simple table. Imagine those table legs having to bear weight. How much weight could you put on the surface of the table before the legs buckle and snap?

Bending Strength

Let’s take a look at the bending strength of all of the different types of elm:

  • American Elm – 11,800 lbf/in2 (81.4 MPa)
  • Red Elm – 13,000 lbf/in (89.7 MPa)
  • English Elm – 9,430 lbf/in2 (65.0 MPa)
  • Wych Elm – 14,240 lbf/in2 (98.2 MPa)
  • Dutch Elm – 9,960 lbf/in2 (68.7 MPa)
  • Rock Elm – 14,800 lbf/in2 (102.1 MPa)
  • Cedar Elm – 13,500 lbf/in2 (93.1 MPa)
  • Winged Elm – 14,800 lbf/in2 (102.1 MPa)

As you can see, both the rock elm and winged elm have the highest bending strengths, with English elm having the lowest. If we compare this to other types of hardwood, elm in general scores fairly high, especially the bottom three on the list. Even the lower-scoring varieties are up there with the best of them in this regard.

The bending strength of wood is sometimes also referred to as the modulus of rupture. Whereas the compressive strength of wood was about how much weight a piece of wood can take parallel to its grain, the bending strength measures the amount of weight a piece of wood can handle perpendicular to its grain.

For example, imagine taking one of the table legs off of that table and then mounting it sideways on your wall so that it is horizontal without being supported from underneath. How much weight could you hang at the end of that table leg before it snaps?


Let’s take a look at how stiff the different types of elm are:

  • American Elm – 1,340,000 lbf/in2 (9.24 GPa)
  • Red Elm – 1,490,000 lbf/in2 (10.28 GPa)
  • English Elm – 1,032,000 lbf/in2 (7.12 GPa)
  • Wych Elm – 1,615,000 lbf/in2 (11.14 GPa)
  • Dutch Elm – 1,091,000 lbf/in2 (7.52 GPa)
  • Rock Elm – 1,540,000 lbf/in2 (10.62 GPa)
  • Cedar Elm – 1,480,000 lbf/in2 (10.21 GPa)
  • Winged Elm – 1,650,000 lbf/in2 (11.38 GPa)

As you can see, winged elm is by far the stiffest type of elm around, with English elm being the least stiff. As far as types of hardwood are concerned, elm is very stiff in general, with even the lowest one on the list being fairly stiff. Of course, this is also much stiffer than virtually all types of softwood.

The stiffness of wood is also known as the modulus of elasticity. This refers to how much weight a piece of wood can take in its center before it begins to sag or bend.

For an easy-to-visualize example, imagine yourself standing on top of a board that is being supported on either side. How much would you have to weigh to make it start to bend downwards under yourself?


Let’s determine just how hard the different types of elm trees are:

  • American Elm – 830 lbf
  • Red Elm – 860 lbf
  • English Elm – 810 lbf
  • Wych Elm – 990 lbf
  • Dutch Elm – 850 lbf
  • Rock Elm – 1,320 lbf
  • Cedar Elm – 1,320 lbf
  • Winged Elm – 1,540 lbf

Winged elm is by far the hardest type of elm out there, with English elm being the softest. In terms of hardness, the higher-scoring trees on this list are fairly hard in general. When compared to other types of hardwood, elm is moderately hard, with many types actually being fairly soft, even on par with some of the harder types of softwood out there.

The hardness of wood refers to exactly that, how hard or solid wood itself is. This measures how resilient to damage such as denting and scratching a piece of wood is and is generally measured on the Janka hardness scale. This is especially important to know when it comes to things like furniture and flooring.


Let’s see exactly how dense the different types of elm are:

  • American Elm – 35 lbs/ft3 (560 kg/m3)
  • Red Elm – 38 lbs/ft3 (600 kg/m3)
  • English Elm – 35 lbs/ft3 (565 kg/m3)
  • Wych Elm – 38 lbs/ft3 (605 kg/m3)
  • Dutch Elm – 36 lbs/ft3 (575 kg/m3)
  • Rock Elm – 47 lbs/ft3 (755 kg/m3)
  • Cedar Elm – 41 lbs/ft3 (655 kg/m3)
  • Winged Elm – 42 lbs/ft3 (675 kg/m3)

Rock elm is by far the heaviest type of elm, with American and English being the lightest. The heavier types of elm on this list are to be considered moderately heavy, as there are many types of hardwood that are heavier. However, these types of elm beat pretty much all softwood on this front.

The density of wood may also simply be referred to as its weight, and this refers to how much a piece of wood weighs in reference to a specific area or size.

This is usually always measured in either pounds per cubic foot or kilograms per cubic meter. It is important to know because it will, in part, determine how durable it is, as well as how easy it will be to work with.

Is Elm Strong?

When it comes down to it, yes, elm is a very strong type of wood. Comparatively speaking, it has a very high bending strength, compressive strength, and modulus of elasticity.

It is also moderately hard and heavy, although not overly so. In the grand scheme of things, this is a great type of wood that can hold a lot of weight, is structurally sound, and is very durable overall.


You should now know everything there is to know about elm so you can make an informed decision as to which projects it is suitable for and which it is not.