If you have never heard of larch before, this is a type of tree that exists in Europe, western North America, and Japan. There are a few different species of this tree, and they are quite popular for a variety of purposes.
Today, we want to figure out whether larch is a hardwood or softwood, how strong it is, and more. There are a variety of factors that we will be looking at to determine just how strong this type of wood is.
Is Larch a Hardwood or Softwood?
First and foremost, larch is technically a type of softwood. Now, what is interesting to note is that although this is the case, it’s not actually that soft at all. Being a softwood doesn’t necessarily mean that a type of wood is soft or weak, as you will see. This is a gymnosperm, a coniferous tree that does not lose its leaves during the winter. Instead, it has cones and needles.
Larch Wood Strength: All You Need to Know
Today, we are going to be taking a look at larch wood based on five different factors to determine just how durable it actually is. We’re going to be taking a look at compressive strength, bending strength, stiffness, hardness, and density.
These are the five main factors that determine how strong wood is. There are also three different types of larch that we will be looking at including European, western, and Japanese larch.
Let’s take a look at the compressive strength of the three larch varieties:
- European Larch – 7,540 lbf per square inch (52.0 MPa)
- Western Larch – 7,620 lbf per square inch (52.6 MPa)
- Japanese Larch – 6,010 lbf per square inch (41.4 MPa)
Western larch is the strongest of the three on this front. When compared to other North American softwoods, larch is quite impressive in terms of its compressive strength. It even has a higher compressive strength than about half of the hardwoods that can be found in North America, making it quite strong.
The compressive strength of wood may also be referred to as the crushing strength. This refers to how much weight a piece of wood can take parallel to the grain. As a visual reference, imagine a kitchen table. How much weight could you put on a kitchen table before the vertical table legs give out?
Let’s take a look at the bending strength of the three types of larch wood:
- European Larch – 13,050 lbf per square inch (90.0 MPa)
- Western Larch – 13,000 lbf per square inch (89.7 MPa)
- Japanese Larch – 11,610 lbf per square inch (80.1 MPa)
European larch has the highest bending strength of all of these types of trees. When compared to domestic North American softwoods, it is one of the strongest of all and is also stronger than some types of North American domestic hardwoods. Considering that larch is a softwood, this is quite impressive.
The bending strength of wood may also be referred to as the modulus of rupture. This measurement refers to how much weight a piece of wood can take perpendicular to its grain, unlike compressive strength, which is about how much weight a piece of wood can take parallel to its grain.
For example, picture a stick being mounted on a wall so that it is completely horizontal with nothing supporting it. How much weight could you put on the end of that stick before it snaps?
Let’s take a look at the stiffness of the three types of larch wood:
- European Larch – 1,711,000 lbf per square inch (11.8 GPa)
- Western Larch – 1,870,000 lbf per square inch (12.9 GPa)
- Japanese Larch – 1,270,000 lbf per square inch (8.76 GPa)
Western larch is the stiffest of all three types of larch. It is also much stiffer than most other types of softwood that can be found in North America. On that note, western larch is also stiffer than red cedar and a couple of other types of North American hardwoods. However, most types of hardwood are stronger on this front.
The stiffness of wood may also be referred to as the modulus of elasticity. This refers to how much weight a piece of wood can hold in the center before it begins to sag or bend. For a visual reference, simply imagine piling bricks onto a 2×4 that is supported on either side. How much weight could you put in the middle of that board before it begins to sag downwards?
Let’s take a look at the hardness of the three types of larch wood:
- European Larch – 740 lbf
- Western Larch – 830 lbf
- Japanese Larch – 600 lbf
The hardest type of larch is western larch. This wood is harder than most types of softwoods that can be found in North America. However, it is quite soft in the grand scheme of things, much softer than any of the North American hardwoods.
The hardness of wood refers to how hard the outer surface is, particularly in terms of its durability and resilience towards physical damage such as denting and scratching. This is generally measured on the Janka hardness scale.
Let’s take a look at the density of the three types of larch wood:
- European Larch – 36 lbs per cubic foot (575 kg per cubic meter)
- Western Larch – 36 lbs per cubic foot (575 kg per cubic meter)
- Japanese Larch – 31 lbs per cubic foot (500 kg per cubic meter)
European and western larch are tied in terms of density. In relation to other types of wood, it is slightly heavier or about on par with most types of softwood, but much lighter than most types of hardwood that can be found in North America.
The density of wood refers to how much it weighs based on a specific size or area, which is usually measured in pounds per cubic foot or kilograms per cubic meter. This is important to know because the density of wood does in part determine its durability as well as how easy it is to work with.
Is Larch Strong?
In terms of compressive strength, bending strength, and stiffness, larch, particularly western larch, is very impressive, especially as far as softwoods are concerned. It scores about on par or even higher than many types of hardwood on all three of those fronts. In terms of hardness and density, it’s not the most impressive material out there, although it still holds its own, especially if we consider that it is a softwood.
In the grand scheme of things, as far as softwoods are concerned, larch, particularly western larch, is extremely impressive on most fronts. The fact that this type of softwood can compete with many domestic North American hardwoods is very impressive.