If you are trying to determine what type of lumber is best for your next big project, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we want to compare two very popular types – birch, and mahogany.
Both have their uses, but there are some big differences between them that you need to be aware of. Once you know what these differences are, you can then make an informed decision about them. Let’s get to it and find out which one of these two types of wood is best for you.
What Is Birch?
Today we are focusing specifically on the yellow birch tree. It’s one of the most popular for construction and one of the most common in North America. The yellow birch grows from the eastern edge of Manitoba over to the Atlantic provinces in Canada, as well as in the Northeastern part of the USA. The birch is a hardwood tree and it is deciduous in nature.
The wood from this tree has a tight and straight grain, although it may have irregularities or waves at times. It also has a natural luster that is fairly low, a fine and even texture, and it can have some voids, knots, and gaps.
The heartwood of birch is reddish-brownish-yellowish in color, with the sapwood being mostly white, although it is the heartwood that is generally used for construction. Birch is also a fairly hard, heavy, and dense type of wood. It is also somewhat resistant to denting and scratching.
As far as North American hardwoods go, it is one of the tougher ones, but that said, it’s not very resistant to moisture or pests. It’s not a type of wood that is ideal for outdoor purposes, but it is not very expensive. Due to its limited cost, people like using it for low-end furniture, low-traffic flooring, cabinets, decorative pieces, and various utilitarian purposes.
What is Mahogany?
We then have the mahogany tree. This is a tropical hardwood tree that can be found in the Americas, Oceania, and Asia. One of the most common types is swamp mahogany, so this is what we will be focusing on today.
The wood from the mahogany tree features a straight and tight grain, a very smooth texture, and almost no knots, voids, or gaps. It also has a reddish-brown color that is very deep, and generally a bit redder than brown.
This type of wood will also darken with time. Mahogany is a very hard, durable, and dense type of wood, and is fairly resistant to the elements as well, so it may be used for outdoor purposes. Because of this, along with its beautiful appearance, it is a relatively expensive type of wood.
Although, it does make for a popular choice for a variety of high-end applications, such as for doors, cabinets, windows, and both outdoor and indoor furniture.
Birch vs Mahogany: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both birch and mahogany are, let’s find out what makes the two different from each other.
One difference here is that yellow birch is slightly harder than mahogany. Mahogany comes in at 1,250 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas yellow birch comes in at 1,260 lbf. This means that yellow birch is slightly more resistant to denting, scratching, and physical damage of all kinds. However, in the grand scheme of things, both are very similar.
Mahogany is roughly 49 lbs/ft3, whereas yellow birch is about 43 lbs/ft3. It is surprising that yellow birch is harder than mahogany but also heavier.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
One thing that stands out about mahogany is that it is quite resistant to both pests and moisture, making it ideal for outdoor use. This is one of its main advantages.
On the other hand, yellow birch is not very pest or moisture-resistant at all, and should really only be used indoors.
In terms of overall strength, swamp mahogany is stronger. Besides the fact that yellow birch is a bit harder, mahogany has higher ratings in terms of compressive strength, the modulus of rupture, and the modulus of elasticity. When it comes down to it, mahogany can hold more weight and is more structurally sound than birch.
Both of these types of wood are fairly easy to work with. Although, swamp mahogany may be slightly more difficult to work with due to its grain and texture.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Birch really isn’t the best-looking wood out there. It has a reddish-brownish-yellowish color, whereas mahogany has a beautiful deep brownish-red color. Moreover, the texture and grain of mahogany are more defined, yet also more aesthetically pleasing.
Yellow birch will cost you somewhere around $10 per board foot, whereas mahogany can cost up to $28 per board foot.
When to Use Birch?
If you are looking for a relatively affordable type of wood that works well for various indoor purposes, birch is a good option. It looks decent, it’s fairly hard, and it is also structurally sound.
It works really well for utilitarian purposes, furniture, cabinets, and decorative pieces, so long as you like the look of it. Just remember that it should not be used in areas where it will be exposed to moisture, such as kitchen and bathroom floors.
When to Use Mahogany?
If you need a very strong, durable, good-looking, and moisture-resistant type of wood, then mahogany makes for a great option. It works really well for both indoor and outdoor purposes, whether we are talking about doors, windows, furniture, decorative pieces, or anything in between. It is rather expensive, but based on its durability and appearance, it’s well worth it.
Alternatives to Birch and Mahogany
If you are looking for wood that is extremely hard and very resistant to denting and scratching, ebony, ironwood, teak, olivewood, and walnut all make for great options.
For more ideas, check our articles about the best alternatives to mahogany.
As you can see, both birch and mahogany are great types of wood to consider. Birch is better for indoor purposes and utilitarian uses, whereas mahogany is better for outdoor purposes, structural soundness, and aesthetic qualities.