Heartwood vs Sapwood : Differences Based On Properties & Uses

difference between heartwood and sapwood
While the sapwood is the outermost portion of a wood log and the first thing you see when you start cutting a tree, the heartwood is the inner wood present in the centre of a wood log and usually the most precious and useful part of it.

In this article, we will discuss in detail about heartwood vs sapwood, including the various differences between the two in terms of color, uses, workability, strength, and other properties.

What is Heartwood?

Heartwood is the innermost part of the tree. It is formed after the older sapwood cells start dying with age and turn into the heartwood. This keeps happening as the tree grows older. The heartwood becomes denser while the sapwood is reduced to a thinner layer.

The Heartwood is mainly formed of dead cells. Besides the dead cells, additional chemical compounds are also present in the heartwood, which contribute to making it stronger, durable and more resistant and are also responsible for the heartwood’s darker color.

What is Sapwood?

Sapwood is the outer part of a tree trunk. You can see it by removing the bark from a tree. It is formed by a thin layer of living cells called cambium. Sapwood is responsible for carrying water and minerals through the tree, from the roots to the tree crown.

Sapwood is almost always light-colored and is formed by new, living cells.

Heartwood vs Sapwood

difference between heartwood and sapwood

Generally, it is possible to distinguish heartwood from sapwood based on the color, but not always.

Let’s talk about the various differences between sapwood and heartwood based on colors, uses and other factors.


In most cases, the color of heartwood is dark brown to red, depending on the wood species. In some species such as mahogany, the color of heartwood darkens with age.

Most of the time, the color of sapwood is light yellow or white. The light color of sapwood is because of the high moisture content and the presence of living cells.

Strength & Durability

Heartwood is almost always stronger than sapwood. It contains little to zero moisture and has chemical compounds that can add to the wood strength. The durability and rot resistance of heartwood is also generally high. Because of their strength, heartwoods need less maintenance compared to sapwood.

Sapwood is not very strong and also not very durable or resistant to fungi and insect attacks. This is because of the high moisture content in the sapwood. It needs a lot of maintenance and can start rotting soon after coming in contact with moisture.


Heartwood is almost always the first preference for any woodworking project. This is because the wood is stronger, harder and has good resistance properties. It has a good appearance, can survive for a long time and needs little maintenance. However, because of hardness, not all sapwood species may be easy to work with.

Sapwood is not always a popular choice for woodworking. However, it’s used in some projects (mentioned below). The wood is rather soft and very easy to work with.

Difference Between Heartwood and Sapwood Based on Uses

As mentioned before, the heartwood is stronger and denser than sapwood. Also, it has more durability and exhibits resistance to decay, rot and insect attack. All these properties make heartwood perfect for use in furniture making, flooring, roofing, and a variety of other woodworking projects. It is also commonly used for plywood, boat building, musical instruments, turned objects, and more.

Sapwood is not as strong or beautiful as heartwood, which is why it is not generally used in modern woodworking projects. However, the use of sapwood in combination with heartwood or for making small parts of a bigger object can be seen. Also, beginners use sapwood to practice woodworking, as it is not expensive and is easily available.

Sapwood generally has a higher moisture content, which makes it not so suitable for woodworking. It is also more vulnerable to fungi and decay. Also, drying sapwood makes it shrink and reduces density.

These are some of the major heartwood vs sapwood differences by which you can clearly distinguish each other To purchase the best quality hardwood in all leading African timber species, contact CameroonTimberExportSarl. We export wood timber and logs to customers worldwide with a 100% quality guarantee.