Two prevalent types of wood are redwood and Douglas fir due to their easy workability and high durability. Both types of wood come under the class of trees called conifers, thus called because they bear “cones” as seeds. Conifers grow as trees, but some come in the form of shrubs.
Other species of conifers include cedar, spruce, juniper, yew, and cypress. These trees grow all over the world, and we use them for making paper and timber. Although conifers come under the category of softwood, some species of wood are quite hard. In this post, we discuss the differences and similarities of redwood vs. Douglas fir.
Redwood vs. Douglas Fir
Redwood trees and Douglas fir trees are distinctively different from each other in appearance. However, after the logs are processed into timber, there can be some confusion between the two types of wood. Here, we shall attempt to clarify any doubts you may have between redwood and Douglas fir.
Redwood trees are considered to be the tallest trees in the world. They have linear growth and can reach heights of up to 300 feet. The bark of the redwood tree is reddish-brown with deep furrows, and it has a ragged appearance. It feels soft while wet. Redwood grows in Oregon on the south coast, and in the north, you can find them in the Chetco River region. They then extend to the central California coast.
This variety of wood is lightweight, strong, and offers considerable resistance to decay. Due to its resilience and attractive color, we use redwood for outdoor furniture; it plays a prominent role in making fencing, lawn furniture, decking, and siding.
Redwood trees are held in awe due to their grandeur. The highest redwood tree in the world is a tree named Hyperion. This tree is 375 feet tall and is located in the Redwood National Park, California. A redwood tree’s maturity age is 500 years, and the oldest known redwood tree is 2,500 years.
Douglas fir, like redwood, is another tree that grows tall and straight. We consider it the tallest conifer that grows in the northwest, and these trees grow up to 300 feet high, second only to redwood. The bark of Douglas fir is gray and smooth and has blisters of resin, typical of firs. It also has deep furrows.
These trees grow abundantly in the Oregon and Washington states. Douglas fir grows even on the ground, destroyed by fire. Hence, it is a preferred choice in areas where logging operations have recently been completed. Douglas fir trees grow up to 300 feet and above, and the tallest tree recorded is one that grew to a height of 327 feet.
Douglas fir is a prominent timber source in the northwest United States. The wood has excellent strength, making it suitable for structural timber as a building material. The tree gets its name from David Douglas, a renowned Scottish botanist. Other names of Douglas fir are Oregon pine, red spruce, and red fir.
How to Differentiate Between Redwood and Douglas Fir Lumber
As we mentioned earlier, although the trees are easily distinguishable from each other, it isn’t so easy to identify the lumber. However, this is a critical process for any woodworker, and by following a set of guidelines, you can identify one wood from another. While the experienced woodworker can identify one from the other with a single glance, others may note other parameters discussed here. To make a positive identification, you may need to have a magnifying glass and a pocket knife with you:
If you look at these two types of wood carefully, you will notice that Douglas fir has a light color. The reddish-brown color of redwood, after its name, sets itself apart from the light-colored redwood immediately.
There is a difference in the grain pattern of each of these woods. Douglas fir has a straight grain and has an intrinsic roughness to its surface. Redwood, on the other hand, has a finer grain and is smoother than Douglas fir.
Although you can usually see resin canals with the naked eye, you can see them better through a magnifying glass. The resin canals appear as dark streaks along the lines of the grain in Douglas fir. There are no resin canals in redwood.
For the above three procedures, you need a magnifying glass. Here, you may need to use your pocket knife. If the wood is newly cut, you should be able to smell it. If not, you can scrape the surface with your pocket knife to be able to smell it. While Douglas fir smells sweet and resinous, redwood has a milder smell.
By combining your observations based on the guidelines given above, you should be able to distinguish between Douglas fir and redwood.
Douglas Fir Vs. Redwood: Which One is Superior?
After comparing the characteristics of these two types of wood, you may wonder which one has the upper hand over the other, if at all.
For outdoor use and fencing material, the preferred choice is redwood. The primary reason for choosing redwood is that it produces natural oils that make it relatively weather resistant. As a result, it may last two to three times longer than Doulas Fir. The weight factor comes in – redwood is lighter than Douglas fir, so more comfortable to handle. Finally, the shrinkage rate is less for redwood than Douglas fir, making redwood boards less prone to warping and splitting.
A further advantage of redwood worth mentioning is that it is more porous, so stains quicker than Douglas fir. This property of redwood makes it useful for using for making indoor furniture and construction projects.
Despite its advantages, redwood is more expensive than Douglas fir. Hence, although we use redwood for outdoor structures, especially for making fence posts, builders and woodworkers use pressure-treated Douglas fir to be used outdoors. We can also reduce Douglas fir’s susceptibility to the elements and rot by painting the wood or using sealants.
In our discussion of redwood vs. Douglas fir, we have covered various aspects of both these types of wood. As you can see, each type has its unique characteristics. Both of them are versatile and durable as wood that we can use in various woodworking projects. Although redwood is seemingly superior to Douglas fir, you can use both types of wood with equally-satisfying results if you consider each one’s properties.
Featured image: Mitch Barrie