If you are looking for an affordable and basic type of lumber to use for various construction purposes around the home, then you’ve come to the right place, because we’re about to do a side-by-side comparison of two very popular types.
We want to figure out what the main differences between larch and Douglas fir are, so you can make an informed decision between the two.
What Is Larch?
The larch tree is a coniferous and deciduous tree variety, which means that, although it has needles, it loses them during the winter. This is a tree that grows in the lowlands in northern areas and on higher mountains further down South, mainly in temperate northern climates. It grows mainly in Canada, Siberia, and other regions with boreal forests.
The western larch is the variety we will be focusing on today, as this is one of the most common in North America.
This is a relatively hard type of tree that is quite resistant to scratching and denting, as well as other types of physical damage. However, it is only moderately resistant to moisture, insects, mold, and fungus. Therefore, it is generally not used for outdoor purposes.
Most people use this type of wood for paper, plywood, veneer, particle board, construction lumber, floor underlayment, and for other basic construction purposes. The larch tree features wood that is quite light in color, with light reddish-brown heartwood. It also features a medium texture, a straight grain, and a whole lot of knots.
What Is Douglas Fir?
We then have the Douglas fir, which is a coniferous evergreen tree that grows in eastern Asia and all throughout North America. This tree is a type of softwood and can grow up to 250’ tall, which makes it one of the largest trees in the world.
There are both coastal and Rocky Mountain types of Douglas fir, but they generally have more or less the same properties. Although Douglas fir is a type of softwood, it is relatively durable and even somewhat hard, but when compared to other types of hardwood, it is quite soft.
Something that stands out about Douglas fir, however, is that it is quite resistant to pests and moisture, therefore making it somewhat ideal for outdoor use, although there are still better options on this front.
That said, Douglas fir is often used for flooring, exterior siding, structural beams, and many other basic construction purposes. The wood features a straight and plain grain, a medium coarse texture, and a light brown color, sometimes with a reddish-orange hue.
Larch vs. Douglas Fir: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both larch and Douglas fir are, let’s take a look at the main differences between the two.
The Douglas fir tree features a Janka hardness rating of 620 lbf, while the larch tree comes in at 830 lbf. This means that the larch tree is slightly harder and more durable in terms of physical resistance to denting and scratching than the Douglas fir.
That said, the Douglas fir tree is still ideal for basic indoor purposes where a bit of impact resistance is required.
The larch tree features a density of 36 lbs/ft3, whereas the Douglas fir tree has a density of 32 lbs/ft3.
As you can see, not only is the larch tree harder than the Douglas fir, but also denser. This leads to it being slightly more durable, although also more difficult to work with due to its heavier weight.
Moisture and Pest Resistance
In terms of overall pest and moisture resistance, the larch tree is not ideal. This is not a type of wood that you want to use for outdoor purposes. On the other hand, the Douglas fir is very resistant to pests and moisture.
Although there are trees that are more resilient to the elements, Douglas fir definitely holds its own.
If you’re looking for a type of wood that is structurally sound and durable, it would have to be larch.
The reason for this is because in terms of the factors that contribute towards durability, mainly the modulus of rupture, the modulus of elasticity, and the compression strength, larch scores slightly higher.
That said, the scores are only slightly higher, with Douglas fir not being far behind. However, strictly speaking, larch is the more durable and stronger of the two.
Due to its slightly heavier weight and higher density, larch may be slightly harder to work with than Douglas fir, although not by much. Larch also has many more knots in it, however, these are two very soft and relatively easy types of wood to work with.
Appearance – Grain and Color
As for the appearance, larch features a reddish-brown heartwood, medium texture, a straight grain, and a whole lot of knots.
Douglas fir, on the other hand, features a light brown color, a plain and straight grain, and a medium coarse texture. Which one you prefer in terms of appearance really comes down to a matter of personal preference.
Larch may cost you around $7.50 per board foot, whereas Douglas fir should cost no more than $15 per board foot.
When to Use Larch?
If you’re just looking for a cheap type of wood that is ideal for indoor use and doesn’t need to be moisture-resistant, then larch is the way to go.
When to Use Douglas Fir?
If you need a type of wood that is ideal for outdoor purposes, mainly in terms of moisture resistance, then it is Douglas fir that you need.
Alternatives to Larch and Douglas Fir
Although they each have their own benefits, neither of these types of wood is very hard. If you need a very hard wood that features great impact and physical resistance, options such as ebony, teak, mahogany, and maple are far better choices.
Now that you know what the main differences between the larch and Douglas fir are, you can make an informed decision between the two.