SYP has become the wood of choice for most pallet and crate applications, occupying about 80% of the timber market, because it’s less expensive, fairly abundant, weighs less, and does a good job protecting most loads. Southern yellow pine is used in many more applications than hardwoods outside of the wood packaging industry, such as windows, doors, paper, furniture, and housing. That means there is more industrial grade SYP on the market for the wood packaging industry, keeping supply up and prices lower.
Let’s Talk Density
When it’s time to make a decision whether you want to use hardwood or SYP for your pallets or crates, one of the most important factors to consider is whether your application requires a higher density wood or a lower density wood.
Manufacturers in industries producing extremely heavy products may need to choose higher density wood because it will stand up better to the weight of the load. Here at Conner, we often see this in the HVAC industry, where huge appliance units need to be transported. Depending on the size and weight, other types of manufacturing may lean towards the higher density hardwoods for their pallets and crates as well. Very large/heavy turbines, heavy industrial equipment, and steel often fall into that category. We recently built custom hardwood pallets for a manufacturer shipping train cabs (picture on right) because they were large and very heavy – it’s a train after all.
SYP, on the other hand, is the wood choice for the majority of pallets and crates built in the united states. As we mentioned earlier, SYP is a lower density wood than most hardwoods, but that doesn’t mean it’s inferior to hardwood.
For the majority of products manufactured, the use of hardwood would simply be overkill. It’s just not necessary to manage the weight of the load.
Wood density also affects other aspects of your wood packaging. For example, the choice of fasteners used in an application can vary greatly depending on density. In addition, the weight of hardwoods can affect your load. Because it’s so dense, it weighs more.
Is Softwood Ever As Strong As Hardwood for Wood Packaging?
So now that we’ve talked about both kinds of wood, let’s get down to the big question: Is softwood ever as strong as hardwood for pallets and crates?
The answer: It depends.
Hardwood, by its very nature, is strong and dense, and it’s ideal for the really heavy stuff. If it goes toe-to-toe with softwood, it is stronger, but there’s more to the story.
Pallets and crates made from SYP can often be designed to rival hardwood applications. The addition of a couple of fasteners, an extra deck board, or some strapping in the design can often be all it takes to give an SYP pallet or crate the added strength needed and bypass the need for hardwood.
Going the SYP route also generally means lower costs. Even with extra components added to an SYP pallet, it will still likely cost less than its hardwood equivalent.
Which Type of Wood Should You Use?
Ultimately, your pallet or crate designer should be able to answer this question for you. A designer can look at your product specs, along with where and how you’re shipping your product, and tell you the best material to use. Trust your designer to know what’s best.
If you don’t trust your designer, get a new one.
Beyond the design factor, there’s also cost. Can you afford hardwood? Does it make sense to incur the expense?
The last think that should be considered in the decision is location. If you’re palletizing loads in Southern Florida, where hardwoods aren’t harvested, then they’ll have to be brought in by truck or rail. For many applications, that makes hardwood cost prohibitive.
Wrapping It Up
In the end, choosing between hardwood and softwood for your pallets or crates comes down to:
- The product you’re palletizing
- Your budget
- The wood packaging design
- Wood availability
- Your location
Careful consideration must be applied, because it’s not always a black and white decision.
It’s unfortunate that softwoods have been labeled as “softwood” because it implies that the wood is inferior to hardwood and often creates a reluctance to use it. If they were both simply called “evergreen” and “deciduous”, there would be a lot less debate about which one is better.
SYP offers plenty of strength and durability for most applications. After all, it’s the type of wood used to frame houses, and they seem to hold up pretty well.