Ash vs. Birch: Which One to Use?

Ash vs. Birch: Which One to Use?

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If you are looking to build something around your home, there is rarely a better choice than solid lumber. With that being said, there are of course many different types of wood to choose from. Two very popular options include birch and ash.

They might both be popular, but they certainly aren’t the same. Today, we want to do a side-by-side comparison of these two materials to see which one is best used for a variety of applications. Let’s figure out which one is best for you.

What Is Ash?

First, we have the ash tree, and here we are talking about white ash. There are a few different types of ash out there, but white ash is the one that is most commonly found in North America, and generally the most popular for construction purposes.

This is a deciduous hardwood tree that grows in eastern Canada and other parts of eastern North America, and can reach heights of up to 80’. The ash tree has lumber that features a straight and regular grain, although it may have moderate curls at times. It also comes with a medium to coarse texture and may contain some knots. The sapwood of the ash tree is beige to light brown, with the heartwood being a more medium brown.

This tree is relatively durable, as the wood is quite hard and strong, although it is not overly resistant to fungus, pests, moisture, or decay. Ash is therefore a decent choice for indoor use, but is not suitable for outdoor use, at least if it has not been treated.

However, ash is very easy to work with, as it is easy to nail, saw, screw, paint, and stain, plus it also bends easily with steam. As far as hardwood goes, this is one of the most inexpensive types, and it is best used for utility purposes. It is often used for basic flooring needs, boxes, crates, baseball bats, interior millwork, and turned objects.

What Is Birch?

We then have the birch tree. In North America, there are over a dozen species of the birch tree. However, yellow birch is the most commonly used for things like hardwood flooring, so this is what we will focus on.

This tree can be found in the Atlantic provinces, all the way over to Manitoba, and in the northeastern parts of the United States. The birch tree grows to around 75’ tall.

This wood usually has a fairly straight grain, although it can have some waves. It also has a low natural luster, with a very fine and even texture, along with some knots, gaps, and voids. As for the color, the sapwood is nearly white, with the heartwood being reddish brown. Birch is usually quite easy to work with, is fairly hard, and is moderately heavy.

In fact, this is one of the harder types of wood found in North America, therefore making it quite resistant. However, birch isn’t a very good option for outdoor purposes, as it is fairly susceptible to pests, and even more susceptible to moisture and rotting. Birch is therefore something that you would only use for indoor applications.

Ash vs. Birch: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what ash and birch trees are, let’s take a quick look at the main differences between them.


On the Janka hardness scale, ash comes in at 1,320 lbf, whereas birch comes in at 1,260 lbf. This means that ash wood is just a little bit harder, meaning that the surface is less susceptible to damage, such as denting and scratching. However, as far as differences go, this is quite minimal. There isn’t even a 100 lbf difference between them.


Ash features a density of 42 lbs per cubic foot, while birch wood has virtually the same density, as it comes in at somewhere between 42 and 43 lbs per cubic foot.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

What is interesting to note is that neither of these materials is very resistant to pests or moisture. In fact, the difference here is going to be which one is even worse. When it comes down to it, ash is probably slightly better for outdoor use than birch, although both should be avoided for outdoor applications at all costs.

Overall Strength

In terms of things like compressive strength and the modulus of rupture, ash may be slightly stronger than birch, although the two are very similar on most fronts.


When it comes to how easy these types of wood are to work with, birch is very easy to work with, and ash is even easier. Both are very easy to paint, stain, saw, nail, screw, and bend.

Appearance – Color and Grain

In terms of color, ash tends to be a fairly light to medium brown, whereas birch is a light reddish-brown color, or white if you use the sapwood. Birch also has a bit of a finer texture than ash, which tends to be somewhat coarse.


What is interesting to note is that both of these types of wood are going to cost you around $10 per board foot, with both starting somewhere around $8 per board foot.

When to Use Ash?

Ash is a perfectly fine wood to use for utility purposes, such as making subflooring, boxes and crates, low-end indoor furniture, and for many other purposes too. As long as you plan on using it indoors, it should be fine.

When to Use Birch?

Birch is virtually the same as ash in the grand scheme of things, particularly when it comes to strength, durability, and resistance to the elements. Whatever ash is good for, so is birch, and whatever ash isn’t good for, neither is birch. They are two very similar types of wood. The bottom line is that both should not be used for outdoor purposes.

Alternatives to Ash and Birch

If you need wood that is ideal for outdoor use, woods such as teak, mahogany, ipe, western red cedar, and maple all make for decent options.


As you can see, both ash and birch are very similar types of wood. Now that you know what does make them different, you can make an informed choice between them.