Whether you want to build a whole new house or just a small chair, having the right lumber in your arsenal is very important. Of the dozens of different types of wood to choose from, cherry and pine are two of the most popular ones.
Today, we want to do a side-by-side comparison of both to see which one is better for your needs. We’ll be comparing them based on a variety of factors, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
What Is Cherry?
First, we have cherry, and here we are in fact talking about the wood that comes from the fruit-bearing cherry tree. This type of tree can be found in Canada and the USA, particularly in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia. Keep in mind that cherry is a type of hardwood deciduous tree. The most commonly occurring type of cherry tree in North America is the black cherry tree, so this will be our focus for today.
The cherry tree is one of the harder types of hardwood that can be found in North America, and it is very difficult to damage. Surprisingly enough, it’s not overly dense, but still quite strong, and also easy to bend if steam is involved. This wood also has a lot of natural resins and oils, so it’s fairly resistant to pests, mold, fungus, moisture, and decay.
This type of wood is therefore a great option for both outdoor and indoor purposes. In terms of appearance, cherry wood features a straight and tight grain, a fine and uniform texture, along with a rich and deep reddish-brown color, usually slightly more brown than red.
Because cherry wood is durable, easy to work with, and looks good, it can be somewhat expensive and is often used for decorative pieces. However, it’s also used for musical instruments, high-end furniture, millwork, flooring, and even for purposes that require great moisture resistance, such as docks or boats.
What Is Pine?
We then have the pine tree, and because it is the most commonly used for building purposes in North America, here we are talking about the eastern white pine. When it comes to utilitarian construction purposes, it’s a very popular choice to consider. This is a softwood coniferous evergreen that grows mostly in North America.
The lumber itself has a pale yellow or whitish-brown color, along with an even and straight grain, a medium texture, and a lot of knots, gaps, and resin canals. The eastern white pine tree is fairly soft and is one of the softer types of wood that can be found in North America.
It’s also not very resistant to pests, decay, or moisture. This is not a type of wood that is ideal for outdoor purposes, but it is structurally sound enough to be used for a variety of applications. It is often used for utilitarian purposes, cabinetry, furniture, crates, boxes, pallets, millwork, carvings, and for other basic applications.
Cherry vs. Pine: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both types of wood are, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.
Cherry wood features a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf, whereas the eastern white pine tree comes in at just 380 lbf. This means that cherry wood is significantly harder than pine, and is therefore much more resilient to damage of all sorts. Cherry is the much better option if you need something that will resist denting, scratching, and physical damage.
The cherry tree weighs 35 lbs/ft3, whereas the eastern white pine tree weighs around 25 lbs/ft3. As you can see, not only is cherry much harder than pine but also heavier. This does allow for greater overall durability and structural integrity, although the heavier weight also makes it a bit harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between these two types of wood is that pine is not at all resistant to moisture, pets, or decay, whereas cherry wood holds up extremely well against the elements.
This means that pine is not at all an ideal option to use for outdoor purposes, whereas cherry wood is one of the best options for outdoor use.
When it comes to the other main factors that determine the overall strength of wood, such as the modulus of elasticity, the modulus of rupture, and the compressive strength, cherry wood scores much higher on all three fronts.
What this means is that cherry wood can handle more pressure, it can bear more weight, and it takes a lot more to bend it as well. It is just the much more structurally sound of the two.
Although cherry wood is somewhat heavy and hard, it doesn’t have many gaps or resin canals, so it’s really not that hard to work with, as long as you have sharp enough tools.
On the other hand, although pine is relatively soft and lightweight, it has a lot of knots, gaps, resin canals, and voids, which means that it can be somewhat difficult to work with when cutting it apart.
Appearance – Grain and Color
Most people would agree that cherry is by far the better-looking of the two. It features a rich reddish-brown color as opposed to a white or pale yellow color, plus a much finer and more uniform texture.
Pine is more often used for utilitarian purposes, whereas cherry is much better for decorative work. Keep in mind, however, that this all really comes down to personal preference.
Although prices can fluctuate, both of these types of wood generally cost anywhere between $10 and $13 per board foot.
When to Use Cherry?
First and foremost, if you are looking for an absolutely beautiful type of wood that is aesthetically appealing, then cherry is the way to go.
Even better is the fact that cherry is structurally sound, so it works well for flooring, decorative pieces, cabinetry, and furniture too. It’s even very moisture and pest-resistant, so it works well for outdoor purposes.
When to Use Pine?
If you need something relatively affordable that is strong enough for some structural soundness, and you only want something for indoor use, then pine is perfectly fine. Just don’t try using pine outdoors, because it won’t resist the moisture for very long.
Alternatives to Cherry and Pine
Although cherry is a fantastic type of wood to consider, there are still other options that are more moisture-resistant.
If you are looking for one of the most moisture-resistant types of wood out there, we recommend checking out red cedar. On the other hand, if you need something that is rock solid, we recommend going for something like ebony.
The bottom line here is that cherry and pine are two very different types of wood, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks. Now that you know what sets these two types of wood apart, you can make an informed decision between the two.