If you are planning on building something around your home, using solid wood is always a good idea. That being said, there are dozens of different types of solid wood to consider. Two very popular types include ash and beech.
With that being said, these two materials are fairly different from one another, and this is what we are here to discuss today. Let’s compare the two on a side-by-side basis to see which one is better used for a variety of purposes.
What Is Ash?
First, we have the ash tree. Here we are talking specifically about white ash. The reason for this is that there are many different kinds of ash trees in North America, but white ash is the most commonly found and popularly used for construction purposes.
This tree is deciduous in nature and is a hardwood tree that grows in eastern North America, mainly in eastern Canada, and it can reach heights of up to 80’. The ash features lumber that has a regular and straight grain, although it may sometimes have some curls. It also has a medium to coarse texture, along with some knots. The heartwood of the tree is medium brown, with the sapwood being beige to light brown.
The ash tree is quite strong, hard, and durable, so it is resistant to physical damage, although it is not very resistant to the elements, including pests, fungus, moisture, and decay. Ash is therefore a good option for indoor purposes but is not ideal for outdoor use.
On that note, ash is fairly easy to work with. It is very easy to stain, paint, screw, nail, and saw, plus it’s also fairly easy to bend with steam. In terms of hardwood, ash is one of the most affordable types, and it is most often used for utilitarian purposes, such as crates, boxes, flooring, baseball bats, interior millwork, and turned objects.
What Is Beech?
We then have the beech tree. Now, there are two major types of beech trees, the American beech tree, and the European beech tree. Of course, here we are talking about North America, so we will focus on the North American variety, which can be found all throughout the eastern United States, and grows up to 130’ tall.
This tree features a very straight grain, combined with a medium uniform texture, as well as a moderate natural luster. It may have some knots and gaps, although not many of them. Moreover, beech wood features a pale cream color, sometimes with a brownish or pinkish hue.
The wood itself is quite hard and durable, therefore making it fairly resistant to physical damage. However, just like ash, it is not very resistant to the elements. It doesn’t resist pests, fungus, or moisture very well, and will rot with prolonged exposure to moisture.
This type of wood is often used for crates and pallets, railroad ties, veneer, lumber, flooring, furniture, turned objects, musical instruments, and more. It may have a bland and basic appearance, but it works well for interior purposes.
Ash vs. Beech: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what ash and beech wood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
Although they do feature different hardness ratings, both types of wood are almost the same. Ash features a Janka hardness rating of 1,320 lbf, whereas beech comes in at 1,300 lbf. As you can see, there is a 20 lbf difference between them. This means that they are both fairly hard, and both fairly resistant to physical damage, such as denting and scratching.
While both of these types of wood feature almost the same hardness levels, they do have somewhat different densities or weights. Ash has a density of 42 lbs per cubic foot, whereas beech features a density of 45 lbs per cubic foot. This means that beech is significantly heavier than ash, therefore making it slightly more durable on this front, but also heavier and harder to work with.
Moisture and Pest Resistance
Neither of these woods is very moisture or pest-resistant at all. When it comes down to it, neither should be used for outdoor purposes, especially if they have not been sealed. That said, if we had to choose one, beech is probably the slightly better option for outdoor use, although not by much.
When it comes to the modulus of elasticity, the modulus of rupture, and the hardness level, ash is just slightly more durable than beech, although negligibly so.
ash is often known as being one of the very easiest types of wood to work with, easier than beech, which is also fairly easy to work with.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Ash features a medium brown color, combined with a straight and even grain, and a medium to coarse texture. American beech on the other hand has a tailor or creamy color, with a straight grain, and a medium texture. Most people would say that ash is the better-looking of the two, whereas beech is slightly plain and bland.
Ash is going to cost you between $8 and $10 per board foot, whereas beech will usually cost you between $5 and $9 per board foot.
When to Use Ash?
If you need a material that is decently durable for interior purposes, such as for interior millwork, some low-grade furniture, or turned objects, then ash is a fine option to use, especially because it’s not very expensive. It also happens to look quite nice.
When to Use Beech?
When it comes down to it, ash and beech are so similar that you can generally use them for more or less the same purposes. Both of these types of wood are best used for utility or utilitarian purposes. They both certainly should not be used outdoors.
Alternatives to Ash and Beech
If you need a type of wood that is best for outdoor use, options such as mahogany, teak, ipe, redwood, cypress, and cedar all make for good options.
The bottom line here is that both ash and beech are very similar types of wood. If you need wood that is ideal for indoor use, and you don’t want to pay very much, then both are fine.