Whitewood vs Pine Lumber: Which Softwood is Right For You

Whitewood vs Pine Lumber: Which Softwood is Right For You

As some of the most common types of softwood, whitewood and pine lumber are among standard choices for kitchen elements, furniture, or flooring. Similarities between these two materials can make it difficult to decide between whitewood vs pine lumber.

It is necessary to take a closer look at their properties since it is hard to differentiate between these softwoods by looking at them. However, exposure to high amounts of pressure for a long time tends to wear out both of these types of softwood.

Consequently, they are a poor fit for woodworking projects that are going to be installed in high-traffic areas.

In this whitewood vs pine lumber comparison, we’re going to take a look at the properties and best uses of these materials as well as help you choose a softwood for your project.

Main Differences Between Whitewood vs Pine Lumber

The main differences between Whitewood vs Pine lumber are:

  • Whitewood Lumber usually has a high number of knots, whereas pine lumber has fewer knots.
  • Whitewood Lumber has a 540lbf Janka scale rating, whereas Pine lumber has a 690lbf rating on the Janka scale
  • Whitewood Lumber is lightweight, whereas pine lumber is relatively heavy
  • Whitewood Lumber is usually affordable, whereas Pine lumber can be expensive
  • Whitewood Lumber rots and decays quickly, even if it is treated with preservatives, whereas pine lumber is less affected by rot

Key Specifications

  Whitewood Pine
Hardness 540lbf on the Janka scale, if made of the tulip tree 690lbf on the Janka scale
Water resistance Not water resistant Not water resistant
End grain type Open-cell Open-cell
Weight Relatively lightweight Heavier than Whitewood
Impact resistance From 4000PSI to 9000PSI depending on the grade 4800PSI
Moisture content 25% 19%
Latest price Check latest price Check latest price

Evaluating the features of whitewood and pine lumber

Whitewood lumber

Whitewood

Whitewood is an umbrella term that is used to describe and market lumber made from different types of wood. So, most whitewood softwoods you’ll find in a hardware store or online will have abbreviations like SPF, SYF, or SYP that indicate the tree types used to make the lumber.

The SPF grade of whitewood lumber is made of white pine, douglas fir, or spruce, and it is the most common pine lumber grade. The SYF grade suggests that the lumber is made of fir, while the SYP grade shows that the whitewood is made of southern yellow pine.

Consequently, the impact resistance of whitewood lumber or its hardness depends on the grade, which is the reason why you have to check the lumber’s grade before purchasing it. Although some types of whitewood are made of pine, this lumber type doesn’t have the same properties as the Pine lumber.

Key features

  • Available in three different grades
  • Good impact resistance capabilities
  • Durable and fairly resistant to damage
  • Lighter than pine lumber
  • Usually used to build furniture
  • Soaks up water or paint quickly
  • Characterized by a high concentration of knots
  • Affordable and easily available

Visual appearance

Ultimately, the color of whitewood depends on the type of wood that is used to make the lumber. Most commercially available options are made of the American tulip tree or the yellow poplar, but you may also encounter whitewood lumber made of spruce or southern yellow pine.

In most cases, the whitewood lumber has a creamy white color that is similar to the color of pine lumber. Arguably, the easiest way to differentiate between these two lumber types is to look at the number of knots a board has.

If the concentration of knots in a board seems to be high, chances are that you’re looking at the whitewood lumber. Also, planks made of whitewood lumber are somewhat lighter than the planks or boards made of pine lumber.

Despite these differences, it is difficult to tell whitewood and pine lumber apart just by looking at them, even if you have previous experience with both materials.

Hardness and usability

The hardness level of the whitewood lumber depends on the grade. Whitewood made of poplar has a 540lbf Janka rating, while its approximate compressive strength should be around 5400PSI.

However, if the whitewood lumber has the SYP grade, then its Yanka rating should be 870PSI, and its compressive strength will be around 8470PSI.

Sawing through any of the whitewood lumber grades isn’t a difficult task, but using woodworking chisels can be more or less difficult depending on the lumber’s hardness level.

In either case, Whitewood lumber can be used for flooring, although it is not a great choice for areas that are often exposed to water.

Most DIYers and carpenters use whitewood lumber to produce furniture such as chairs, tables, or cabinets as painting or staining it doesn’t affect its quality. Also, all grades of whitewood lumber rot easily, so it takes a lot of maintenance to keep the objects made from this material in good condition for decades.

Other noteworthy features

Woodworkers who would like to produce wooden objects for outdoor use may find the whitewood lumber to be an intriguing option even though it soaks the water quickly.

The material can withstand moderate exposure to rain or snow, but if it gets soaked it may start to warp and crack as the water evaporates. Consequently, this type of lumber can be a good fit for deck building projects as well as fences and all other wooden structures you can construct in a garden.

Besides water, the whitewood lumber also absorbs paint quickly, so you can protect it by applying several coats of paint to it.

Reliability

Most objects made from whitewood lumber can last for years if they are kept in relatively dry conditions. In addition, this type of lumber is great for outdoor projects, especially if you live in an area that has a warm climate.

The whitewood lumber is reasonably priced since you can spend between $4 and $20 for a single whitewood board depending on its size.

It is worth noting that the material can start to rot if you keep it in humid conditions and that applying a finish or a layer of paint is necessary if you want to slow down the decaying process.

Pine lumber

Pine Lumber

Pine trees are available in abundance in most parts of the world, which is the reason why they are so often used to make lumber. They also grow quickly, which makes it easy to cultivate deforested areas.

Despite their widespread availability pine lumber is more expensive than whitewood lumber, although not by much. The properties of pine lumber depend on the grade and in the United States you can choose between Select, Common, Appearance, Construction, and Stud pine grades.

Each of these grades has its own classification, so for instance within the Select grade, that is usually used to create trims or to make furniture, can be rated C or D. The Common class of pine lumber contains Standard, Finish, Premium, and Industrial sub-classes.

So, which grade of Pine lumber you’re going to choose largely depends on the purpose for which you want to use it.

Key features

  • Suitable for a broad range of purposes
  • Driving brad nails and all other types of nails through Pine lumber is easy
  • Excellent resistance to rot and decay
  • Absorbs paint and finish quickly
  • 690lbf hardness rating on the Janka scale
  • Moderate impact resistance
  • Beautiful creamy white color
  • Relatively low amount of knots

Visual appearance

There are 120 species of pines, but only a handful of them are used to make lumber. The vast majority of pine lumber you can find on the US market is made of Sugar Pine, Pine Ponderosa, White Pine, and Yellow Pine.

The color or the number of knots a pine board is going to have depends on the material’s grade and the Pine species used to produce the lumber. A pinewood board is usually heavier than a whitewood board because they have different densities.

Also, the number of knots you can find on a pinewood board is usually lower than on whitewood boards. The pine lumber has to meet certain requirements regarding the knot sizes to fall into one of the Select Grade categories.

That’s why a Class C pine lumber can have just one ½-inch knot on the 4-feet surface area, while Class D Pine lumber can have one-half-inch know per foot of the surface area.

Hardness and usability

Pine is a softwood, so you shouldn’t expect the same hardness level you’d get from hardwoods like red oak or maple. Even so, different types of pine lumber can be used for construction purposes or as flooring in high-traffic areas.

According to the Janka scale, pine has a 690lbf hardness rating, but you should keep in mind that all of the pine species used to manufacture lumber have different compressive strengths.

Yellow pine can hold the highest amount of pressure from the group, while sugar pine and white pine can withstand 4460PSI and 4800PSI. Pine lumber can be utilized to manufacture furniture because it has low density or used for load-bearing applications.

Most types of Pine lumber are already treated with preservatives before they reach the market, which helps slow down the rotting process. Consequently, pine lumber is usually more durable than whitewood lumber.

Other noteworthy features

The material’s low-density structure allows it to absorb finish or paint quickly, and painting or staining pine lumber won’t affect its internal structure. Even though most lumber made of pine performs well when exposed to the elements it is not an ideal material for outdoor projects.

Seasonal changes might cause it to swell or shrink which in the long run can lead to substantial damage to the material. Also, pine lumber starts to lose or change its natural color if it is exposed to sunlight continually, which makes it a high maintenance option for most outdoor projects.

Besides, pine lumber has low water resistance and it shouldn’t be used to build objects that are going to be installed below the waterline.

Reliability

Pine lumber is arguably one of the most reliable types of softwood you can get, as it has the capacity to remain in good condition for a long time despite heavy usage. The furniture made from this material is elegant and durable because the material has a naturally high impact tolerance.

Pine lumber is a versatile material that can be used for a wide range of woodworking projects, but its versatility is also a part of the reason why it is more expensive than whitewood lumber. However, the quality of the material and its visual appeal make it a great investment.

Whitewood lumber – Pros and cons

Pros

  • Excellent compressive strength
  • Applying finish or several coats of paint doesn’t affect the material
  • Whitewood lumber is lighter than pine lumber
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • The material rots easily
  • Not suitable for load-bearing applications

Pine lumber – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Beautiful color and texture
  • One of the most versatile types of lumber
  • Holds pressure well
  • Suitable for outdoor use

Cons

  • High maintenance requirements
  • Material shrinks and swells

The best alternatives to Whitewood and Pine lumber

You will have a vast selection of softwoods at your disposal while choosing lumber for your upcoming project, which is why it is important to study the properties of the material before choosing it.

Pine and whitewood are probably the most common types of softwood, but their strength or hardness rating might be a poor fit for a project you’re working on. We’ve selected a few of the best alternatives to whitewood and pine lumber so let’s take a closer look at their features.

Redwood

Redwood

As one of the premium building wood options, redwood lumber is an excellent choice if you need structural beams or you want to build a new deck. This lumber type can also be used to make furniture or trim.

Even though its Janka hardness rating is relatively low at 420lbf, Redwood has the capacity to withstand 5220PSI of pressure, which makes it one of the toughest softwoods.

The material is naturally waterproof so there is no reason to treat it and you can use it for all types of outdoor structures that are going to be exposed to the elements. Redwood lumber is more expensive than most softwoods.

Cedar

Cedar Lumber

Woodworkers who are searching for a material that is unaffected by seasonal changes should consider getting cedar lumber. This type of wood is water-resistant and it’s commonly used on decking or similar outdoor projects.

The material is available in different grades, that have a clear, knotty, or textured surface, and its hardness rating depends on the cedar species used to manufacture the lumber. Aromatic red cedar has a 900lbf rating on the Janka scale, while western red cedar and white cedar are much softer.

However, this type of lumber is suitable for heavy-duty applications regardless of the cedar species it is made of.

Douglas fir

Flooring

Douglas fir is an evergreen pine species and it is native to the western region of the North American continent. It is as versatile as any other type of pine lumber, as it is used to make furniture, boats, or flooring.

Seasonal changes don’t affect the material that holds its shape in cold and hot weather conditions, while its hardness level prevents it from bending or buckling. Although it is classified as softwood, Douglas fir has impressive compressive strength.

Its rating on the Janka scale is 720lbf, while it can withstand 7230PSI of pressure.

Frequently asked questions about whitewood and pine lumber

Question: Is whitewood lumber treated with preservatives?

Answer: Yes, it is, but you can also get whitewood lumber that hasn’t been treated with preservatives in case you would like to treat the wood by yourself.

Question: How long does whitewood lumber last?

Answer: There is no definitive answer to this question since the material’s durability depends on several other factors, but whitewood lumber can last for decades with proper care.

Question: What is the best type of pine lumber?

Answer: Yellow pine has the highest hardness rating, while white pine is the easiest to work with, so you should choose the option that matches your project’s demands.

Question: Can I paint pine lumber?

Answer: Yes, you can. Applying several coats of paint over pine lumber won’t affect its structure. Using a clear wood finish will enable you to protect the material and preserve its natural color.

Our Verdict: Is Pine Lumber Better Than Whitewood Lumber?

Deciding which softwood to use for your project can be a daunting task, as there are so many options to choose from. Pine or whitewood lumber are some of the most common types of softwood and they are a popular option for a broad range of woodworking projects.

Some types of whitewood are made of southern yellow pine, but this lumber can also be made of tulip trees or spruce. Also, different species of pine are used to make the pine lumber, as the properties of these two lumber types depend on the wood they’re made of.

We recommend choosing whitewood lumber if you want to build furniture in your workshop or create items for outdoor use. Pine lumber is more versatile as you can use it on construction projects, make flooring out of it or create trims.

Was this whitewood vs pine lumber compassion useful? Let us know in the comments or continue reading our red oak vs white oak comparison to learn more about these hardwoods

David Borgogni

David is passionate about sharing his insights on top trending and mainstay products for the home. As an avid renovator, he has become well accustomed to the tools used to build houses, which in turn allows him to help others make better purchasing decisions when choosing which tools and equipment to use to renovate their homes.

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