Oak vs Pine


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Oak trees grow primarily in the UK, but you will find them in many parts of Europe and the United States. You will see pine growing throughout Europe and also in many parts of the United States.

Oak and pine are by far one of the most common woods you can find globally, although differ widely from each other. Oak, a hardwood, and pine, a softwood both have their pros and cons, which bring particular benefits to end-users. They are both widely used in a variety of woodworking and construction projects.

Oak: Background

Solid white oak wood texture background in filled frame format

There are more than 600 species of oak. These trees produce acorns which makes them easy to identify. Many oak species grow well over 100 feet high, and the tree trunks are wide with diameters up to 6 feet with many thick branches.

We associate oak trees with the adjective “mighty.” There is a saying that it takes oak trees 300 years to grow, another 300 years to live, and yet another 300 years to die. Although this is somewhat exaggerated, it reflects the longevity of these trees.

The long life of oak trees results in extremely dense, strong, and durable wood. Whatever you make out of oak is solid, and it lasts a lifetime.

Pine: Background

treated pine wood

You will find pine trees growing abundantly in the northern regions of the United States. Still, they also grow in various other places like in the Pacific, western and southeastern regions.

Pine trees have a history of longevity, and this species has the distinction of having the oldest living tree on earth named The Methuselah, which grows in northern California. It is over 4,600 years old!

These trees also grow very tall but have narrower tree trunks than oaks. The time for a pine tree to grow to full maturity is less and may range from one-and-a-half years to three years, depending on the species.

Pine is the cheaper of these two kinds of wood because of the short growing period. When you consider making furniture out of either of these types of wood, you will do well to use old-growth wood, which tends to have tighter grains. But you are more likely to find such wood only with reclaimed furniture.

Softwood vs. Hardwood

Since this discussion revolves around oak, a hardwood, and pine, a softwood, it is worth touching upon the difference between the two types of wood.

Softwood

Softwood plywood fibers as background

Softwoods are gymnosperms, which means that they produce cones for reproduction. Softwood trees are evergreens, which means that the trees retain their leaves throughout the year. Softwoods are generally softer than hardwoods. However, some species of maple, a softwood, are harder than many softwoods.

Hardwood

Hardwood floor samples at flooring store.

There is are thousands of species of hardwood trees. Hardwoods are angiosperms, and they reproduce through seeds that germinate in the ground. Hardwood trees are deciduous, meaning that they shed their leaves during the winter.

Most hardwoods are harder than softwoods, with a few exceptions like balsa which is softer than many softwoods. Hardwoods are also more durable than softwoods, making them the preferred choice over softwoods. You will find hardwoods used much more than softwoods for various applications, especially for making furniture.

Oak vs. Pine: Grain and Appearance

Oak vs. Pine-Grain and Appearance Wood Texture

Oak comes in different shades and hues. However, the grain pattern makes oak stand out. The wood has a marked waviness with more knots, creating more attractive patterns than pine. The combination of the grain pattern and natural golden color adds class to oak furniture.

Pine also comes in various colors but is limited to pale shades ranging from creamy white to yellow and other shades in-between. The light color makes pine a good candidate for staining in different colors. We often do not apply a finish to pine, but leave it as it is, giving the wood a rustic look.

You can also use wax to polish it with satisfactory results. A unique feature of pine is the contrasting dark-colored knots which give it a characteristic look that makes it a popular choice of wood.

Oak vs. Pine: Durability

When we consider that an oak tree takes over a hundred years to grow to full maturity, we can expect it to be durable. If you apply a suitable finish to oak furniture, you can improve the durability even more.

Pine, on the other hand, is less durable than oak. However, it is stiff and relatively strong and is more dimensionally stable than many hardwoods. It means that pine is less likely to shrink, swell, warp or crack in humid environments or extreme weather.

Despite the advantages of pinewood, oak is a preferred choice in households due to its resistance to wear and tear.

Oak vs. Pine: Maintenance

You need to exert less effort for maintaining oak than you do for pine. You will find it easier to wash oak with soap and water and wash it off later. Pine is softer and more porous, making it a bit difficult to clean.

Also, the softness of pinewood makes it susceptible to scratches and dents, which are difficult to repair. Oak being a harder wood, will not easily get scratched or dented.

Oak vs. Pine: Weight

When you compare the weights of oak and pine, oak is considerably heavier than pine, as it is denser. Pine is a good choice if you have furniture that needs to be moved around a lot, like stools or side tables.

But you can use oak for furniture like a sofa or dining room table which will be more or less in the same location for a long time. Oak is also a popular choice for use in the paneling of walls where weight isn’t a factor to consider.

Oak vs. Pine: Price

Oak takes a long time to grow, and it is also denser and heavier than pine making it more difficult to transport. Many varieties of oak are imported in the United States. All these factors make oak an expensive wood.

On the other hand, pine is easy to work with, and it is lighter, so easier and thus cheaper to transport. Pine is readily available all over the United States, another reason for it being more affordable than oak.

Oak vs. Pine: Sustainability

The pine that we use to make furniture usually comes from plantations, and its growth is highly regulated. Even if they grow in forests, pine grows fast and efficiently, making it a sustainable option.

Oak needs more biodiversity and space. It isn’t as easy to grow as pine. Since oak takes much longer to grow than pine, it is not as sustainable as pine. It results in pinewood being a more sustainable wood than oak.

Oak vs. Pine: Comparison Table

Parameter Oak (Red) Pine (Sugar)
Botanical name  Quercus rubra  Pinus lambertiana
Color Light to medium-brown with a reddish tint  Pale yellow to off-white
Durability Highly durable Moderately durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,220 lbf.  380 lbf.
Strength Extremely strong Moderately strong
Maintenance Less maintenance than pine Higher maintenance than oak
Price Expensive to prohibitive Cheap to moderately priced
Suitability for outdoors No No
Suitability for wood carving Yes Some species
Workability Yes Yes
Smell Characteristic odor Faint, sweet odor
Availability Abundantly available Abundantly available

Uses of Oak

Master bedroom in suburban home with oak wood furniture

Oak is such a strong, durable, but aesthetically good-looking wood that we use it for various applications. Any items or furniture made of oak can last for generations. The primary use of oak is for furniture, doors, windows, and wall paneling.

It also plays a significant role in cladding, decking, flooring, and skirting boards. We use it for bookshelves, closets, garage structures, pergolas, railings, and porches.

Uses of Pine

Long table console sofa table Pine wood modern furniture

Pinewood is susceptible to damage, so you rarely find it used for outdoor applications. But as an indoor wood, it’s widely used, particularly if you are looking at cost-effective projects.

We use pine for children’s furniture, desks, wardrobes, drawers, Crates, boxes, interior millwork, flooring, construction lumber, decking, and musical instruments.

Conclusion

While comparing oak and pine, there is no clear winner. Both are beautiful woods to look at and moderately to highly durable.

Pine has the advantage of being shock-resistant and is highly cost-effective for those on a budget. It is a more sustainable choice, and you can personalize the wood by staining or painting it.

Oak, on the other hand, has a timeless quality that makes it a lifetime investment. It is a long-lasting and attractive wood that adds class to any room where you use it.

Choose either of these two types of wood for your woodworking projects for some outstanding results.

Happy woodworking!