Birch vs. Beech: Which One to Use?

Birch vs. Beech: Which One to Use?

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Both birch and beech are fine types of wood to use for a variety of purposes. However, there are certain differences between them that are important for you to know.

Once you know exactly what the differences between these two types of wood are, you can then make an informed decision as to which one to use. So, which one of these two types of wood are you going to use for your next working project?

What Is Birch?

The birch tree, specifically the yellow birch tree, is one of the most commonly found types in North America. It’s also commonly used for construction purposes. Therefore, of all the different types, yellow birch will be the main focus for today. This tree can be found in the Northeastern parts of North America, particularly in the Northeastern USA, as well as in the eastern half of Canada.

The wood from the yellow birch tree has a straight and tight appearance, and it may have some waves or irregularities, along with a fine and even texture. It may also have some gaps, voids, and knots. The heartwood of the yellow birch is generally yellowish-reddish-brown in color, with the sapwood being white, although it is the heartwood that is typically used for construction and woodworking projects.

The wood from the birch tree is quite heavy and hard, but also easy to work with. Because it is fairly hard, it resists denting and scratching quite well, and as far as North American hardwoods are concerned, it is one of the harder ones. However, it is not very resistant to moisture or pests, so it’s not great for outdoor use. It may be a bit more moisture-resistant than pest-resistant, although the difference here is negligible.

Therefore, this type of wood is best used for indoor purposes, such as for relatively low-end furniture, flooring in dry areas, cabinets, decorative pieces, and utilitarian purposes. People do also like this wood for its affordability.

What Is Beech?

We then have beech wood that comes from the beech tree. There are two main types of this tree that can be found across the world, including the European and the American beech trees. We are in North America, so we will be focusing on the North American variety. This tree can be found in the eastern part of the United States and Canada and can grow up to 130’ in height.

Beech wood features a relatively straight grain with a uniform texture and a moderate luster. It may also contain a lot of gaps, knots, and voids. It usually features a pale cream color along with a slight pinkish or brownish hue. This type of wood is also quite durable and hard, and it is resistant to physical damage.

However, beech wood does not perform very well when it comes to pests and the elements, so it should not be used for outdoor purposes.

Beech wood does, however, work really well for indoor uses, such as for lower-end furniture, turned objects, crates, pallets, boxes, musical instruments, veneer, general lumber, and flooring in low-traffic or low-moisture areas. It is also known for being quite cost-effective, although its appearance is rather lackluster.

Birch vs Beech: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both birch and beech are, let’s figure out what makes these two types of wood different from each other.


Yellow birch features a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf, whereas North American beech comes in at 1,300 lbf. As you can see, the two types of wood are almost the same in terms of hardness, although American beech is just slightly harder. That said, both are fine for purposes that require resistance to denting and scratching, and the difference here is minor.


Just as with hardness, these two materials are also very similar in terms of density. Yellow birch features a density of about 43 lbs/ft3, whereas American beech comes in at 45 lbs/ft3. As you can see, they are almost the same in terms of both hardness and density.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

Although this is not really a difference between the two, it is worth noting that neither birch nor beech is very moisture or pest-resistant, and is not ideal for outdoor use.

Overall Strength

What is surprising here is that although yellow birch is lighter and a bit softer than American beech, it is generally more structurally sound and able to bear more weight.

If we look at factors such as compressive strength, the modulus of elasticity, and the modulus of rupture, birch scores slightly higher on all of these fronts. Therefore, strictly speaking, it is likely the better option for construction purposes.


Both of these types of wood are extremely easy to work with. The only thing worth noting is that yellow birch does often suffer from tear-out when being cut and sawed, so caution is recommended here. However, both types of wood take on paint, stain, and more very easily.

Appearance – Grain and Color

Worth noting here is that neither of these types of wood is generally used or chosen specifically for their appearances. The yellow birch tree features a brownish-reddish-yellowish color, along with an even and fine texture, and a straight and tight grain. It may contain a lot of knots, gaps, and voids.

Beech wood on the other hand is relatively similar in terms of grain and texture, but it may contain even more gaps and knots than yellow birch. Furthermore, the wood is also a different color, with beech often being very pale and creamy, with a slight pinkish or brownish hue.


Both of these types of wood are quite affordable, with North American beech costing around $9 per board foot and yellow birch costing around $10 per board foot.

When to Use Birch?

Birch works really well for indoor purposes, particularly for things like furniture, cabinetry, shelving, and flooring in areas that don’t have much moisture, as well as a wide variety of utilitarian purposes. Just remember to not use it outdoors because it’s not very pest or moisture-resistant.

When to Use Beech?

When it comes down to it, beech and birch are extremely similar, and they work well for more or less the same things. Anything that birch can do, beech can do as well. That said, birch might be slightly more structurally sound, and therefore technically the better choice for weight-bearing applications.

Alternatives to Birch and Beech

It is no secret that both of these types of wood are not very pest or moisture-resistant. Also, neither is very aesthetically appealing. Therefore, if you want something that looks good and works really well for outdoor purposes due to a high level of moisture and pest resistance, eastern and western red cedar both make for great options.


Now that you know exactly what makes birch and beech different from each other, you can make an informed decision between the two. However, in the grand scheme of things, in terms of their physical properties, both are quite similar.