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Whitewood Vs Pine: Which To Choose?

Throughout the year, woodworkers spend many hours at the lumberyards, trying to decide on the best wood for their next task. Pine and whitewood are popular choices for a wide range of projects. But which one should you choose? We consulted with the experts to answer this question.

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

To choose whitewood or pine for your project, you need to know the characteristics of each type of wood. If you want a softwood with a light color, then whitewood is the best option. It's a good choice to use in a child's bedroom. With pine you have a choice of colors: red, yellow, and white. Pine is great for floors and decks.

Keep reading as we discuss the trees whitewood and pine come from and their characteristics. We'll also cover their uses and how much they cost.

A collaged photo of pine wood and whitewood textures, Whitewood Vs Pine: Which To Choose?

Is Whitewood Or Pine Best For Your Project?

To begin with, pine and whitewood can be used to make a wide array of projects like furniture, decorations, and ornaments. They are also excellent building materials for decks, flooring, and house-framing, to name a few. 

Since they are both popular and sought after by woodworkers for various wood projects, which one should you select?

Below, we discuss the characteristics of each type of wood to help you decide on the best one for your project: 

Availability

Whitewood comes from the tulip tree, which grows quite fast, making it a good choice for lumber. The trees grow between 8 and 10 feet annually. Their growth slows when they reach 10 years.

Whitewood used for living room siding

During winter, the tree produces a dark red bud that sprouts into a greenish-yellow flower in spring. The heartwood is light yellow or brown, while the sapwood is creamy white. 

Pine wood comes from the evergreen pine tree with thin leaves that look like needles. Pine trees grow very fast, with some varieties growing as fast as two feet per year. Some species like the Canary Island pine grow at least three feet or more per year. Unlike whitewood, pine trees do not produce flowers. 

The heartwood of a pine tree has a reddish-brown color, while the sapwood has a yellowish-white or reddish-white color. That’s the reason it is available in three colors.

Color

If you would like softwood with a light color, then whitewood will meet your needs. You can use this wood to make light-colored furniture that's perfect for spaces such as children’s bedrooms, or sunrooms.

In addition, light-colored furniture can make any small room you have in your home appear and feel bigger. 

Pinewood gives you three color options: red pine, yellow pine, and white pine. Pinewood makes good furniture and is great for decking, flooring, moldings and trim. 

Pine trees are commercially grown in many countries for Christmas trees. Some pine species produce seeds referred to as nuts used for baking and cooking.  

Knots

Whitewood has a higher number of knots than pine. It is hard to cut the knots because they are denser than the rest of the wood.

They also take longer to cut than the rest of the wood. In addition, the grains in the knots can fly off as you cut the wood. Knots can add appeal to the wood, but if there are too many of them, it can detract from the beauty of the wood. 

Grain Of Wood

Check out this whitewood lumber on Amazon.

Due to its straight grain, you can cut whitewood much more precisely. Pine is also easy to work with because of its straight grain.

Check out this pine wood lumber on Amazon.

With both kinds of wood, the grain is oriented in one direction, making it easier for you to cut. Drilling and nailing are also not a big deal when working with these two types of wood. Furthermore, their texture is smooth.

Hardness

You can rate the hardness of your wood on by using that Janka scale. Wood that ranks high on this scale is denser and more resistant to denting and normal wear and tear. 

The harder the wood, the higher it is on the Janka scale, making it more difficult to work with. Sometimes, special tools are needed to cut this type of wood because it does not bend easily. Instead, this type of wood is brittle and more prone to splintering.

However, it’s good to note that these woods last longer than those lower on the Janka scale. 

Depending on the species, the hardness of pine wood can rate very low or very high on the Janka scale. 

Up close photo of pine wood flooring

For example, on the lower end of the scale, Eastern white pine ranks at 380 and white pine at 420. Southern yellow pine ranks at 690. On the higher end of the scale, we have true pine at 1570 and red pine at 1630. 

Whitewood from the tulip tree falls on the lower end of the Janka scale at 540. This wood, and some species of pine lower than 1000 on the Janka scale, are more prone to scratches and dents. They are also flexible, making them easier to work with. 

Water Resistance

Whitewood does not resist water well and is therefore susceptible to rot and decay. That’s why you need to apply a sealant after you are done with your projects to keep out moisture and extend their life.

However, sealing only once will not be enough. You’ll need to do this frequently to keep the wood in good shape. If left untreated, it may only last for one year and no more than 3 years if used for your outside projects. 

Pine stands up better to moisture than whitewood. Thus, it resists warping, swelling, and shrinking better than whitewood. However, you still need to apply a finish. You could apply varnish or use polyurethane like the one shown below to protect it from moisture. 

You can find this wood finish on Amazon.

Moisture Levels

The typical moisture content of wood is between 8% and 25%, but any moisture level below 30% is acceptable. Moisture levels ranging between 9% and 14% are suitable for outdoor projects, while levels between 6% and 8% are most suitable for indoor projects. 

With that in mind, moisture levels in whitewood are 25%, while that of pine is 19%. 

You can learn the moisture content in your wood by using a moisture meter. There are pin-type and pin-less meters. The pin-type meters have pins, which are pushed into the wood to capture the readings. 

On the other hand, a pin-less meter like what is shown below has an electromagnet sensor that reads the moisture content when you place it on the wood. These meters are considered better than the pin-type because they do not leave damaging pin holes in the wood. 

Have a look at this pin-less moisture meter on Amazon.

Is The Whitewood You Are Buying Really Pinewood?

This is a question you have to ask yourself when purchasing whitewood. This is because lumberyards can falsely sell pine or other types of lumber instead of whitewood. Pine and whitewood share similarities but are not the same, as discussed in the previous paragraph.

If you notice the letters SYP on whitewood lumber, you are likely buying southern yellow pine and not whitewood from the tulip tree. They are similar in appearance—you may not notice the difference. That’s why it is good to know the characteristics of each type of wood.

How Much Do Whitewood And Pine Wood Cost?

Being softwoods, whitewood and pine are generally affordable and cheaper than hardwood. About 80% of softwood timber is used worldwide.

Pine and whitewood are both affordable woods. However, pine wood is more expensive than whitewood because it is multifaceted. You can use it for indoor projects like furniture and outdoor projects like structural building. Pinewood costs $2 for an 8 feet long lumber and $20 for lumber 16 feet long. 

Final Thoughts

A collaged photo of pine wood and whitewood textures

Whitewood and pine wood are popular softwoods used in a variety of indoor and outdoor projects.

To know the best wood to use, you need to know the characteristics of each that are mentioned in this post. This is especially true because a buyer can confuse these two kinds of wood. Furthermore, lumberyards are partly to blame, because they sometimes market pine wood as whitewood.

Both types of wood are used worldwide and are affordable, though pine wood is more expensive than whitewood.

You are welcome to read more of our posts related to this topic by clicking the links below:

What Color Bedding Goes With Pine Furniture

How Long For Wood Filler To Dry

How To Restore Outdoor Wood Furniture