Solid wood or solid timber? Here's everything you need to know about woods and the differences between them  

Living & building with the most sustainable raw material in the world. Wood appeals to us aesthetically and also provides a pleasant indoor climate, solid wood, solid timber or real wood  - We explain the differences.

Wood species
Author: Viola Haderlein

Solid wood, solid timber, real wood - What are the differences? With around 500 types of woods worldwide, it's hard to see the differences between them, or rather the forest for the trees. We help you to see clearly: Here's an overview of why woods with a positive ecological balance sheet are the best choice and which names and types of processing are available:

Solid wood, solid timber, real wood - These are the differences

  1. Solid wood
  2. Solid timber
  3. Real wood
  4. Waste wood
  5. Recycled wood

In Europe alone, there are 20 to 30 types of wood, including hardwoods such as oak, beech, birch as well as fruitwoods and softwoods such as pine, spruce and douglas fir. In the full use and processing of a tree's entire wood material, it is differentiated between solid wood, solid timber, real wood and wooden composite.

1. Solid wood

The most natural form is solid wood, which is sawn from a continuous piece of a tree trunk. In this way, the naturally grown grain is maintained. Wooden boards and furniture made of solid wood have no knotholes or cracks. Because solid wood changes with temperature and moisture influences, it also requires complex processing, which is often reflected in the price.

2. Solid timber

Solid timber consists out of wooden parts of the same size, assembled and glued. In this type of processing, damaged areas are removed. Solid timber is therefore suitable for kitchen worktops and interior fittings, as they react less to fluctuations in moisture and temperature. It is also cheaper than solid wood.

3. Real wood

At first glance, real wood hardly differs from solid wood and timber. However, it only appears to be made of wood: the optically visible surface turns out to be a thin layer of veneer that is glued to a plywood panel. Real wood is therefore cheap, significantly less durable and hardly resilient.

4. Wood waste  

A felled tree is processed to 100%. When solid wood and timber are extracted, there is enough residual material from branches or smaller logs to preserve wood-based materials and process them into plywood or MDF boards. Even the smallest residues such as wood shavings are processed into pellets and used in energy production or paper production.

5. Recycled wood

The recycling of used materials and products is an important aspect of the circular economy. In order to save resources, waste wood is transformed into paper or small pieces of furniture.

Criteria for sustainable wood

  • Certified woods FSC & Co.
  • Wood from Europe 
  • Protection of the rainforest 
  • Natural chain of materials

Around 3 billion cubic meters of wood are degraded in Germany every year. For the protection of the filigree forest ecosystem and the limited extent to which wood resources are available, there are strict guidelines for forestry. European forests have traditionally been managed sustainably: This means that at least one new tree is reforested for each one that is felled. That is why you usually choose wood products from sustainable cultivation.

No other material is as environmentally friendly. Wood is a guarantee for a resource-efficient circular economy with short transport routes, responsible processing and low-pollution disposal. But not every wood is ecologically justifiable. The following criteria help you choose sustainable wood.

Certified woods 

The FSC, PEFC and Naturland seals of quality are reliable signs of organic wood from responsible forestry. Participating wood manufacturers must adhere to strict requirements for nature and animal protection as well as social justice. Certified woods with these seals are unobjectionable.

Depending on the type of the FSC label, it can be recognized whether the products come from FSC-certified forestry ("FSC 100%") and whether only recycled material ("FSC Recycled") or a mixture that also uses wood from other controlled sources is used ("FSC Mix"). In the latter case, only companies whose processed amount of wood consists of at least 70% FSC-certified or approved recycling material may label their entire production with FSC Mix. The remaining 30% must meet the requirements of "Controlled Wood".

Wood from Europe 

Local types of wood such as oak, beech and stone pine guarantee compliance with strict environmental standards and short transport routes. This reduces CO2 production.

Protection of the rainforest 

Tropical wood is attractive and robust. They are mainly used for outdoor furniture or boat building. However, woods such as teak, mahogany or acacia are often plantation wood from so-called overexploitation. The deforestation of these tropical woods threatens the ecosystem of the rainforest. Deforestation of the tropical jungle kills over 100 animal species every day. Even with the strict international requirements of the FSC, compliance with environmental standards can hardly be guaranteed here, which is why you should avoid tropical wood if possible.

Natural chain of materials 

Pay attention to the surface treatment of woods with natural oils, wood wax as well as natural colors. To protect your health and the indoor climate, the cover fabrics for upholstered furniture should also be eco-certified.

Wood for future generations

Those who choose wood make a valuable contribution to climate protection. The renewable raw material is the only building material that binds the greenhouse gas CO2. Wood from sustainable forestry ensures the survival of our forest landscape and secures the livelihood of future generations. We need trees like the air we breathe.


Always informed about the latest lifestyle trends, architecture, design & interior, as well as current technologies around sustainability.

[ninja_form id = 3]

Related topics
Gunther Kleinert on fine design and the questioning of consumption The esthete and product designer is the winner of the German Design Award ...
Pollution ranger
Design Project Pollution Ranger & Smog Shade visualizes smog data Designer Huachen Xin inspires social change with his Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade In an interview with ...
Wallmakers House: Award-winning architecture with a sense of sustainability The architect Vinu Daniel is considered an architectural pioneer. How modern house construction is now sustainable ...