Is Elm Wood Good for Anything? (5 Facts with Pictures)

Autumn elm tree with the sky above

When you want to make or buy furniture, you consider tough and durable wood before anything else. This is because wood quality will determine how long you will use the furniture. What if you have Elmwood? Is it good for anything?

Elm wood is among the best wood for manufacturing furniture as it is sturdy, durable, and tough. Due to its versatility, it can be used to make a range of things such as boxes, furniture, cutting, and hockey sticks. It doesn’t have any odor or taste, making it perfect for making cutting boards. But it’s not the best for firewood, as it is hard to split and has poor heat output.

This article explores elm wood from different uses of this beautiful wood to its characteristics. Read on to find out where you can use elm wood and why.

What is Elm Wood?

Elm wood comes from a deciduous tree in the genus Ulmus. It would be wise to note that there are 35 species of true elm trees, with the most popular being American elm, Slippery elm,  and the English elm.

When grown in a forest, an elm tree can grow up to 140′ tall, but it is relatively shorter with a spreading umbrella-like crown in a domesticated environment.

They are primarily found in Europe and North America. The elm tree is grown as an ornamental tree, and you will see it along the roadside or park. And they are valued for their shade.

Is Elm a Hardwood?

Elm is classified as a soft hardwood with its hardness varying from 800 to 1,540 lbf. Elm wood is divided into two,

  • Soft elm includes Cedar elm, Rock elm, and Winged elm
  • Hard elm includes Wych elm, American elm, and English elm

Elm Wood Characteristics


People love Elm wood because of its beautiful grain pattern. And its heartwood takes on light to medium reddish-brown, while the sapwood has an off-white hue.

It makes exquisite pieces of relaxing furniture with a prominent growth ring pattern, and its interlocking wood grain has a coarse and uneven texture. 

Sometimes the wood grain has beautiful swirls and waves that make it stand out among other types of wood.

Susceptible Rot and Insects

Elm wood rots easily as it is highly vulnerable to insect infestation. They are also easily killed by diseases like black leaf spot, Dutch elm disease, Laetiporus and Inonotus root rot, and Botryodiplodia canker.

Although efforts to eradicate these diseases are not bearing any fruit, the propagation of hybrid elm has shown promise of resisting the Dutch Elm disease.


It is an overall good wood to work with as its density is low, and you can use small and machine tools. The fact that it can be curved makes it more perfect. Elm wood is beautiful and makes durable furniture. 

If you want to bend to fit your design, apply steam, and it will bend easily and hold its shape. But you will need a drilling pilot if you want your nails and screws to hold. You will have an easy time applying glue, staining, and finishing as it fits well.

However, its interlocked grain surface makes it hard to work with power tools, including a supercut. 


When it’s dry, elm wood has little to no odor, but wet elm wood has a strong and unpleasant smell. Elm absorbs a lot of water when growing so, avoid burning it when it is wet. It stinks, even more, when it is infested with diseases and insects.  

Some people say it smells like urine.


Although no severe allergies have been reported, elm wood from the Ulmus genus has been reported to be a sensitizer.

And most common irritations are observed in the eye and skin.

5 Facts Why Elm Wood is Good

People love Elm wood because of its versatility as it can be used to make an array of items such as boxes, furniture, veneer, and hockey sticks. So what is elm good for?

1. Makes Beautiful Furniture

Elm wood has a beautiful appearance which makes it perfect for making furniture. And the furniture made using this wood are of high quality due to its sturdy, durable, and tough nature. 

When used to make tables, chairs, and sofas, you will find it mainly in the frames, back, seats and legs. It is also used for making doors and windows.

For instance, if you are making a rocking chair, elm wood would be perfect for the rocking surface as it can steam bend and hold its position, and its sturdy and tough nature ensures that it won’t break easily.

2. Perfect for Boxes and Baskets

Elm wood is lightweight. However, please don’t mistake it for being weak.

As you can see, it can make pretty sturdy furniture. Thus perfect for making boxes and baskets.

3. Good for Wood Pulp

Like every other wood, elm wood is also used to make wood pulp for paper production.

So all species of elm can be used in paper production.

4. Good for Hilt

Elm wood can be used to make wood hilts as it is shock-resistant. That’s why you will find the parts you hold either on a knife or sword made of elm wood.

Their shock-resistant nature makes elm wood perfect for making hockey sticks, doubled by its tough and extensive interlocked grain. Thus, no matter how the hockey sticks hit against each other or the hard ball, the probability of them splitting is next to zero.

5. Firewood

Elm wood can be used as firewood, but it’s not every person’s top choice. And since there are dead elm woods almost everywhere, it would be reasonable to use them for firewood, mainly when dry. 

People avoid it because it’s hard to split due to its stringy fibers that hold the wood together, so it’s best to use a hydraulic wood splitter as it will take forever with an ax. And compared to other woods, it produces minimal heat.

What are the Challenges Experienced with Elm Wood?

Difficult to Dry

It can be frustrating to dry elm wood, especially Slippery elm, as it will warp, twist, and move in ways that will leave you wanting to discard it. 

Therefore, if it’s your first time, seek the help of someone who knows what they are doing.

The Wood Grain

The elm wood has an interlocked grain surface that switches direction suddenly, which can accelerate the wear and dullness of your tools. And if you are keen, you will feel the wood’s internal stresses as you cut. 


Elm wood is highly susceptible to rot, insect attack, and diseases. Thus it’s not suitable for making outdoor furniture. 

But if you want to use it, you will have to be extra careful with its maintenance.

Bottom Line

If you want to make exquisite pieces of furniture, elm wood is your ideal choice as it’s not only stunning but also sturdy, durable, and tough.

It is a soft hardwood without odor or taste, thus perfect for making kitchen items such as bowls and cutting boards. 

But be careful when cutting as it could dull your tool’s sharpness pretty fast due to its interlocked grain.

And ensure that all items made of elm wood are kept indoors as the wood is susceptible to rot and insects.


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