Birch vs. Spruce: Which One to Choose?

Birch vs. Spruce: Which One to Choose?

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If you need a good type of wood to use for a variety of construction projects around your home, you have many different options to choose from. Two extremely common types of wood are birch and spruce.

That said, there are some major differences between the two that you need to be aware of. Today, we’re going to find out what all of those differences are, so you can then make an informed decision between the two.

What Is Birch?

The birch tree, specifically the yellow birch tree, grows very commonly in North America. This specific variety is one of the most popular options for construction and woodworking projects, so this is what we are focusing on today.

The yellow birch can be found in the northeastern sector of the USA, as well as all the way from the eastern edge of Manitoba ranging to the Atlantic provinces. The birch tree is a deciduous tree, and it is a hardwood.

This lumber features a straight and tight grain, although it may have some irregularities or waves at times. It also has an even and fine texture. Additionally, it may have some knots, gaps, and voids. The sapwood of this tree is mostly white, with the heartwood being a brownish-reddish-yellow color. It is the heartwood that people generally use for construction and woodworking purposes.

The birch tree is fairly heavy, and quite hard, yet also easy to work with. It resists physical damage such as denting and scratching quite well. As far as North American hardwoods are concerned, it is indeed one of the harder varieties. However, birch wood is not very moisture or pest-resistant, so it should not be used for outdoor purposes.

It is more moisture-resistant than pest resistant, but it’s still not great for outdoor use either way. Birch is most often used for indoor purposes, for things such as cabinets, flooring, decorative pieces, low-end furniture, and utilitarian purposes. Keep in mind that birch is not very expensive.

What Is Spruce?

Then we have the spruce tree, which is coniferous evergreen. This is a softwood tree that can be found in most temperate and boreal climates throughout the Northern Hemisphere, such as in Northern Europe, North America, and Northern Asia. This is an absolutely massive species that can reach 200’ in height.

That said, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on red spruce, as this is one of the most commonly used options for construction in North America, and grows all throughout the eastern region of the continent.

The wood of the spruce tree is relatively soft and lightweight, and it can resist physical damage quite well, considering that it is a softwood. That said, it is not the most moisture or pest-resistant type of wood out there. Although it might not decay due to moisture absorption, it will change shape, shrink, and warp.

People do like the appearance of red spruce, as it has a light reddish-white color, along with a medium texture, a straight grain, and very limited knots, gaps, and voids.

That said, spruce is often used for utilitarian purposes such as veneer, joinery, and trim, as well as for musical instruments. It is also often used for projects that don’t need a lot of structural soundness or weight-bearing capabilities.

Birch vs Spruce: What Are the Differences?

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


One difference here is that yellow birch features a Janka hardness ranking of 1,260 lbf, while red spruce comes in at just 490 lbf. This, therefore, means that yellow birch is far more resistant to denting, scratching, and physical damage of all kinds. Red spruce is not very hard and will not resist physical damage very well.


Just like with hardness, birch is also heavier. Yellow birch comes in at roughly 43 lbs/ft3, with red spruce coming in at just 27 lbs/ft3. This heavier weight does make the yellow birch a bit more durable and structurally sound, although this heavier weight does also make it harder to work with.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

What needs to be said about both of these types of wood is that neither is very pest or moisture-resistant. Yellow birch may be slightly more so than red spruce, but when it comes down to it, neither is ideal for outdoor use. We would not recommend using either of these materials outdoors.

Overall Strength

If we are to take a look at other factors that determine the overall strength of wood, such as the modulus of rupture, the modulus of elasticity, and the crushing strength, yellow birch scores much higher on all of these fronts than red spruce, making it the better option for weight-bearing applications.


Both of these types of wood are quite easy to work with. However, because yellow birch is much heavier and harder, it does take more of a toll on your saw blades. It can also be slightly harder to paint and stain than red spruce.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Both types of wood have somewhat similar appearances in terms of grain and pattern. Both tend to have a fairly straight and tight grain, combined with a fine texture and very limited knots, gaps, or voids. However, the biggest difference here is in terms of color. Yellow birch tends to be more yellowish-brownish-reddish, whereas red spruce is whitish-red.


You can expect to spend around $10 per board foot with yellow birch, and around $7 per board foot on red spruce.

When to Use Birch?

If you need a type of wood that is extremely strong and durable, has high weight-bearing capabilities, and is structurally sound, then yellow birch, and most types of birch in general, are ideal to use.

This type of wood works very well for indoor purposes where durability is required. Just remember that you should not get it wet for prolonged periods of time and that it is not suitable for outdoor use.

When to Use Spruce?

If you need a type of way that is extremely cost-effective and works fine for utilitarian purposes, then red spruce is just fine. Just remember that you don’t want to use it for high-traffic areas, furniture that needs to take a lot of punishment, or for any kind of outdoor purposes.

Alternatives to Birch and Spruce

Both birch and spruce are not very pest or moisture-resistant. However, one type of wood that works very well outdoors is red cedar. Both eastern and western red cedar are extremely ideal for outdoor purposes. There are also other types of wood that work well for outdoor use, such as teak and mahogany.


Now that you know exactly what all of the major differences between yellow birch and red spruce are, you can make an informed decision between the two. Just keep their main advantages and disadvantages in mind, and you should have no problem making a solid decision.