Ash vs. Poplar: Which One to Use?

Ash vs. Poplar: Which One to Use?

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

If you are looking for a good type of wood to use for both indoor and outdoor purposes, then you have come to the right place. Today, we want to do a side-by-side comparison of two very popular materials, ash and poplar.

We will look at both to figure out which one is more durable, moisture-resistant, easier to work with, and more. Let’s figure out which of these two types of wood is better for your next woodworking project.

What Is Ash?

First, we have the ash tree, and here we are talking about white ash. there are actually over half a dozen different varieties of this tree, but when it comes to construction purposes, the white ash is what is most commonly used, plus most other types of ash also share similarities with it.

The ash tree is a deciduous hardwood tree that grows in all of the eastern parts of North America, especially in eastern Canada, and it can grow to heights of up to 80’. As for the appearance, this tree features a regular and straight grain, although it may at times have some figured boards or moderate curls. It also has a medium to coarse texture, along with some knots.

In terms of color, this tree features medium brown heartwood with a beige to light brown sapwood. As for durability, ash is a fairly hard type of wood with a whole lot of strength, although it is not resistant to insects, mold, fungus, moisture, or decay. It does work well for indoor furniture, but not for outdoor applications.

This is a very easy type of wood to work with, as it is easy to saw, screw, nail, paint, and stain, and it also bends quite easily with steam. This is an inexpensive type of hardwood, one generally used for utility purposes, such as for making crates, boxes, interior millwork, baseball bats, and turned objects.

What is Poplar?

Then, we have the poplar tree, which is also a deciduous type of hardwood tree, albeit a fairly soft one. Technically speaking, there are over 35 different species of this tree. The poplar tree is native to the northern hemisphere, mostly in the cooler parts of the world, such as in North America, northern Europe, and northern Asia.

As far as hardwoods go, this is one of the softest, lightest, and least dense types around, plus it also doesn’t have much resin or sap. Therefore, poplar is not the most durable, strongest, or most pest or moisture-resistant type of wood around.

Poplar has a fairly straight grain that is also quite tight and uniform in nature, plus it usually doesn’t have any voids, knots, or gaps. This wood features a creamy, yellowish, and white color, and it makes for quite the popular choice for utilitarian purposes, such as for plywood, slabs, pallets, low-end furniture, and other low-end applications. It is best used for indoor purposes.

Ash vs. Poplar: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both ash and poplar are, let’s figure out what makes the two different from each other.


Ash is a fairly hard type of wood, as it comes in at roughly 1,320 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. On the other hand, poplar comes in at just 540 lbf. Therefore, white ash is almost three times as hard as poplar, therefore making it much more resistant to denting, scratching, and other such forms of physical damage.


In terms of weight or density, poplar comes in at roughly 29 lbs per cubic foot, while white ash is roughly 42 lbs per cubic foot. Therefore, white ash is the heavier of the two, which makes it a little more durable, although also harder to work with due to its weight.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

What is interesting to note is that both types of wood are not overly ideal for outdoor use, although poplar is a little more resistant to moisture than white ash. That said, white ash is slightly more durable in terms of being resistant to pests and insects. At the end of the day, neither of these types of wood is ideal for outdoor use.

Overall Strength

When it comes to overall strength and durability, whether we are talking about hardness, compressive strength, the modulus of rupture, or the modulus of elasticity, white ash is always going to be the stronger of these two types of wood.


Because poplar is so soft and lightweight, it is very easy to work with in almost all regards, much easier than white ash, although ash is also not that hard to work with.

Appearance – Grain and Color

Poplar tends to have a straight and uniform grain combined with a medium texture, with a light cream to yellowish-brown color. Ash, on the other hand, is a bit darker, as it features a medium brown color, plus it also has a much coarser texture. Although they both have straight grains.


Ash is generally going to cost between $8 and $10 per board foot. On the other hand, yellow Poplar usually won’t cost you more than $5 or $6 per board foot.

When to Use Ash?

If you are looking for a type of wood that is very hard, durable, strong, and more than ideal for indoor purposes, while not being overly expensive, then ash is always a good option to consider.

When to Use Poplar?

If you need something that is fine for utilitarian purposes, you don’t need something that is very strong or durable, and one of your most important factors is cost-effectiveness, then poplar always makes for a good option. If you are using it for indoor purposes, then this material may also be used for furniture and decorations.

Alternatives to Ash and Poplar

It is no secret that both ash and poplar just are not ideal for outdoor use. If you are looking for wood that is great for this, options such as cedar, mahogany, ipe, teak, cherry, maple, and oak all make for much better options.


As you can see, both ash and poplar are perfectly fine types of wood to work with, especially for indoor purposes. If you are looking for inexpensive materials, then both of these are fine options to take into account.