Birch vs Pine – Woods Compared (Pros & Cons)

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Birch trees grow primarily in the UK, but they also grow in Europe and the United States. Likewise, you will see pine growing throughout Europe and across the United States. Both these woods are different as birch is hardwood and pine is softwood.

Birch is a hardwood that you can get almost everywhere across the United States. It is mostly known for the plywood it makes. Pine, another hardwood makes excellent furniture, and we also use it for flooring. Birch normally doesn’t make flooring but it makes some attractive, economical furniture.

Birch vs Pine

In the United States, you will find yellow birch and white birch as the two predominant varieties of birch. Yellow birch, as the name indicates, may be pale yellow or even white. The heartwood of yellow birch is reddish-brown. White birch is paler than yellow birch. Birch is an odorless wood.

Pinewood is light and cost-effective. We make a wide range of furniture using pine. This wood is extremely shock-resistance and it is also a pale-colored wood. The abundance of knots in the grain pattern gives the wood a kind of rustic look that attracts many but puts off a few as well. Pine looks good even without a finish. It has a heavy, resinous odor, especially when freshly cut.

Birch: Background

Tree bark texture

There are several types of birch and the common names it gets come from the different colors. Yellow birch and white birch are among the most common species available in the United States. The trees grow up to 100 feet, and you will see tree trunks of up to 3 feet in diameter.

Birch is a pale wood and both varieties, yellow and white birch have the corresponding colors which give them their name, the heartwood being considerably darkish-brown. Birch looks like maple in its natural state. The attractive grain pattern of birch makes it an ideal wood for furniture. You can click HERE to know more about birch.

Pine: Background

Embossed texture of the bark of red pine. Pine bark background.

Pine trees are massive and grow in the north of the United States, but also in the Pacific, western and southeastern regions. The trees grow up to 100 feet and the tree trunks grow up to a diameter of 5 feet.

Pine trees have a very long life, and the oldest known living pine tree, the Methuselah that grows in northern California is estimated to be as old as 4,600 years! Despite being a tree with long life, pine trees grow to maturity quite rapidly, within a year and a half, making them one of the more sustainable varieties of trees.

Pinewood is cheap due to its short growing period. Old-growth pine makes the best furniture due to its tighter grain structure. You will get this type of pine mostly from reclaimed furniture.

Birch vs Pine: Appearance

Birch has a reddish-brown heartwood but the sapwood is pale and almost white. It has a rather unremarkable grain pattern with occasional figuring and curly patterns a bit like in cherrywood. All in all, birch is a dull-looking wood with a natural luster and even texture. There is not much differentiation between the annual growth rings.

Pine comes in different colors in pale shades and may range from pale yellow to creamy white. Because of its pale color, pine looks good if stained in different colors.

You can further enhance the appearance of pine by using wax polish on it. The characteristic dark-colored knots that punctuate the wood, give it a rustic look, making it a popular choice for making furniture, flooring, and cabins.

Birch vs Pine: Durability

Curly Birch Wood
Image Credit: Djupsjo via Creative Commons

Birch comes under the perishable category of woods, and decay and rots easily if left exposed to the elements. The wood also gets attacked by insects easily. For these reasons, birch is essentially an indoor wood.

Pine, although not as durable as many other kinds of wood, is more durable than birch. It is also a dimensionally stable wood which means that it has less tendency to shrink or warp. It will not crack easily in extreme climates. Therefore, you can use pine indoors and outdoors, but pinewood with a sealer lasts longer.

Birch vs Pine: Maintenance

It is easy to maintain birch but you should use a stabilizer for stabilizing the wood for best results. You can wash the wood with mild detergent, but you would be best advised not to use a brush with stiff bristles to prevent the surface of the wood from getting damaged.

The softness and porosity of pinewood make it a bit tricky to clean. The wood is more susceptible to dents and scratches. You need to be extra careful while handling pine when you are cleaning it to avoid damaging it.

Birch vs Pine: Workability and Uses

Red axe isolated on white

Birch is easy to work with by hand or machine. The straight-grained sections are quite easily cut and machined but you need to take care while cutting the places where the grains interlock to avoid tearout.

Birch makes some of the best plywood that you can find. We also use it for crates, boxes, interior trim, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

You will find pine an easy wood to work with using both machine tools or working it by hand. The wood also takes glues, nails, screws, and finishes quite well.

Open large kitchen interiorr with vaulted ceiling and white appli

We use pine as construction lumber and for interior millwork. It also makes good furniture, crates, boxes, and piano keys. Pinewood is the primary type of wood used in the packaging industry for packing and transporting heavy items. A well-made pinewood crate is capable of carrying a load of up to two tons.

Birch vs Pine: Price

Birch is considered to be one of the most economical types of wood. Figured birch boards might work out a bit expensive. Regular birch is on par with other types of wood like maple or oak, only considerably cheaper. In its plywood form, birch can cost a lot, depending on the grade of plywood.

Pine is also one of the cheaper varieties of wood. The wood is light and easier to transport, lowering transport costs. It is readily available at all places in the United States. It is one of the easiest types of wood to work with. These factors result in the low price of pinewood compared to other types of wood.

Birch vs Pine: Sustainability

Yellow birch and sugar pine (the commonest form of pine in the United States) are both considered sustainable. Neither feature on any of the lists of endangered wood species.

Birch vs Pine: Comparison Table




Botanical name Betula alleghaniensis Pinus lambertiana 
Color Pale yellow Pale yellow to off-white
Durability Not durable Moderately durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,260 lbf.  380 lbf.
Strength Moderately strong Moderately strong
Maintenance Easy to maintain Low maintenance
Price Cheap Cheap to moderately priced
Suitability for outdoors Not suitable for outdoors No
Suitability for wood carving  Yes Some species
Workability Easy to work with Yes
Smell No characteristic odor Faint, sweet odor
Availability Easily available Abundantly available
Special features if any Makes excellent plywood  Knotty, rustic appearance


Birch and pine are among the most readily-available and cost-effective woods you can find. The primary differences between both these kinds of wood are durability and hardness.

If you need a more durable wood, you can go for pine, but you need to factor in the softness of this wood. Extreme care needs to be taken while working it and also while using the finished products, be it furniture, flooring, or any other wooden items.

Birch on the other hand is harder, but not at all resistant to rot or insects, so, as long as you use it indoors, you’ve got a great wood to use.

Taking into consideration the information we have provided here about birch vs pine; you should be able to choose the correct wood for your next woodworking project using either of these woods.

Also See:

Birch vs Cedar