Birch vs. Cherry: Which One to Use?

Birch vs. Cherry: Which One to Use?

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If you’re planning to build something around your home, choosing the right type of wood is essential. There are hundreds of types of wood out there, and they all have different properties.

Therefore, which one you choose depends on the application at hand. Today, we want to compare two very popular types of wood, birch, and cherry. Let’s see what the differences between them are, so you can then make an informed decision between them.

What Is Birch?

First, we have the birch tree, and here we are talking specifically about the yellow birch. This tree is one of the most common types of birch in North America, and it is very popular for construction and woodworking purposes. The birch tree grows in the eastern half of Canada as well as in the Northeastern United States.

The yellow birch is a deciduous hardwood tree. The wood features a tight and straight grain, although it may have some waves and irregularities at times.

It also has a fine and even texture, along with a good amount of knots, voids, and gaps. The heartwood of the yellow birch is generally yellowish-reddish-brown, with the sapwood being white for the most part, although it is the heartwood that is used for construction and woodworking purposes.

The yellow birch tree features wood that is fairly heavy and hard, and quite resistant to denting, scratching, and other forms of physical damage. As far as North American hardwoods go, yellow birch is one of the stronger ones. However, it is not very moisture or pest-resistant, although it is slightly more resistant to moisture than to pests. That said, it should not be used outdoors.

This is a type of wood that works well for indoor purposes, such as for cabinets, flooring in areas that don’t see much moisture, decorative pieces, low-end furniture, and for many utilitarian purposes. People also like yellow birch because it tends to be quite affordable.

What Is Cherry?

We then have cherry or cherry wood, and yes, here we are talking about wood that comes from the fruit-bearing cherry tree. These trees can be found in the USA and in Canada, particularly in the northeastern areas, such as New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The cherry tree is a deciduous tree and it is a type of hardwood.

Keep in mind that here we are talking about the black cherry tree, as this is the most common one in North America.

It is durable, hard, and difficult to damage. That said, cherry wood is not overly dense or heavy, but it’s still very strong. If steam is involved, it is also easy to bend. The wood also contains a good deal of natural oils and resins, which makes it quite resistant to decay, moisture, fungus, mold, and pests.

Cherry wood works really well for both indoor and outdoor purposes. As for appearance, it has a tight and straight grain, uniform and fine texture, and a fairly deep and rich reddish-brown color, usually a bit browner than red.

Because this type of wood is easy to work with, durable, and looks nice, it is used for many different outdoor and indoor applications. It can be used for high-moisture areas, and even for purposes related to marine use, such as dock and boat building.

Cherry wood is often also used for millwork, flooring, luxury furniture, musical instruments, molding, high-end decorative pieces, and more. It is also moderately priced.

Birch vs Cherry: What Are the Differences?

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


The yellow birch tree features a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf, whereas black cherry comes in at 950 lbf. As you can see, the yellow birch tree is therefore significantly harder, and therefore also more resistant to denting, scratching, and other forms of physical damage.


The yellow birch tree features a density of 43 lbs/ft3, while black cherry comes in at 35 lbs/ft3. As you can see, not only is yellow birch harder than cherry wood but also heavier. This does in part lead to birch being more durable, but it can also be harder to work with due to its increased weight.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

One of the very biggest differences between these two types of wood is that cherry wood is very resistant to moisture and pests, and is therefore ideal for outdoor purposes. On the other hand, yellow birch is not at all resistant to the elements and should not be used outdoors.

Overall Strength

If we take a look at all of the different factors that determine exactly how strong wood is, such as compressive strength, the modulus of elasticity, and the modulus of rupture, the yellow birch scores higher on all of these fronts. Therefore, yellow birch is, strictly speaking, the better option for structural purposes as well as weight-bearing applications.


Because yellow birch can have a good deal of knots and gaps, and because it is quite hard and heavy, it is going to be harder to work with than cherry wood. Black cherry is actually known for being one of the easiest woods to work with.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Both of these types of wood have a relatively straight and tight grain, as well as a relatively fine texture. People do usually say that cherry is the much better-looking of these two, as it has a rich brownish-red color that is very appealing to the eye. Birch is nothing special to look at, although some people do still like the appearance of it.


Yellow birch should cost you no more than around $10 per board foot, whereas black cherry will usually cost around $11 or $12 per board foot.

When to Use Birch?

If you need a type of wood that works well for indoor purposes, then birch is the way to go. It’s very strong, durable, resistant to damage, as well as structurally sound. It can be used for indoor furniture, decorative pieces, millwork, veneer, trim, various utilitarian purposes, shelving, cabinetry, and more, as long as it’s kept away from moisture.

When to Use Cherry?

Although cherry might not be quite as strong or durable as birch, it can still be used for a variety of structural purposes, and it works well for indoor furniture, flooring, decorative pieces, and more. However, the big advantage of cherry is that it also works well for outdoor applications due to its high level of moisture resistance.

Alternatives to Birch and Cherry

Although both of these types of wood are very hard and durable, there are still much harder varieties of wood out there. Just some of these include elm, oak, ebony, ironwood, olive wood, and teak.


Now that we have done a side-by-side comparison of birch and cherry wood, you should know exactly which one to use for a variety of woodworking and construction purposes.