If you are looking for a good type of lumber to use for your next big construction project, then you’ve come to the right place, because we are about to examine two very popular and commonly used types of wood: larch and spruce.
Keep reading to figure out which is better for your next project.
What Is Larch?
First, we have the larch tree, which is a very large tree that can reach 150’ in height. This tree grows in most temperate northern climates, on lowlands in the north, and on higher mountains further down South, as it prefers cool locations. This tree is generally found in Canada, Siberia, and in other surrounding areas, primarily in boreal forests.
These are both deciduous and coniferous trees, which means that they lose their needles in the winter. The western larch tree is a type of softwood, although it is actually quite hard, and somewhat resistant to physical damage such as scratching and denting.
However, larch is only moderately resistant to insects, moisture, and mold, so there are better options to use for outdoor purposes.
Most people use larch wood for veneer, plywood, paper, particle board, construction lumber, basic flooring underlayment, and other related purposes. The larch tree has a fairly light color with the heartwood being reddish-brown.
This type of wood also has a straight grain and a medium texture combined with a somewhat greasy feel and a lot of knots.
What Is Spruce?
There is then the spruce tree, and here we are talking about the red spruce. This tree is generally found in boreal and temperate climates, specifically in the northern hemisphere, such as in northern Europe, Asia, and North America. The red spruce is most commonly found in eastern North America, and this is both a coniferous and evergreen softwood.
The red spruce tree is not overly dense or hard, but it’s definitely not the softest either. Furthermore, this type of wood has somewhat decent resistance against physical damage, but not much resistance towards the elements. It doesn’t really absorb water, so it won’t shrink or warp, but it’s also not ideal for outdoor use.
This type of wood is generally used for purposes such as veneer, musical instruments, joinery, and other projects that don’t require too much weight-bearing capabilities or structural soundness.
In terms of appearance, people generally like red spruce, because it doesn’t have many knots or gaps, it has a straight grain, medium texture, and a fantastic brown color.
Larch vs Spruce: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both the larch tree and the spruce tree are, let’s figure out what makes the two different from each other.
The larch tree features a Janka hardness rating of 830 lbf, while the red spruce comes in at around 490 lbf. As you can see, this means that the larch tree is nearly twice as hard as the red spruce, therefore making it more resistant to denting, scratching, and physical damage of all sorts.
The larch tree features a density of about 36 lbs/ft3, while the red spruce tree comes in at roughly 27 lbs/ft3. As you can see, the larch tree is not only harder than the red spruce, but also denser, which leads to slightly increased durability, but also makes it harder to work with due to its weight.
Moisture and Pest Resistance
When it comes down to it, neither of these types of wood is very resistant to pests or moisture, although it would appear that red spruce is slightly more moisture-resistant and ideal for outdoor purposes.
However, we really would not use either of these types of wood outdoors, especially not without properly treating them.
Overall Strength and Durability
When it comes down to it, larch is just more durable than the lumber that comes from the red spruce. When it comes to all of the measures of durability, such as the modulus of elasticity, the modulus of rupture, and the compression strength, larch scores higher.
Red spruce tends to be a bit easier to work with than larch, mainly because it doesn’t really have gaps or knots, and it’s much lighter and not nearly as hard. It’s not like larch is very hard to work with, but still a bit harder than red spruce.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Most people would agree that red spruce is the more attractive looking of these two types of wood, especially due to its darker reddish-brown appearance, combined with the fact that it has a straight and even grain and not many gaps or knots. Larch, on the other hand, doesn’t have quite as deep a color, and it also has more imperfections.
Both of these types of wood tend to be quite affordable, with red spruce costing around $7 per board foot and larch costing around $7.50 per board foot.
When to Use Larch
If you need a basic and affordable type of wood that is ideal for indoor purposes, especially for utilitarian projects that don’t require much aesthetic appeal, then it is larch that we recommend.
When to Use Spruce
If you are looking for a type of wood that is ideal for indoor applications and looks really nice too, therefore being ideal for some decorative uses, then spruce is the better option.
Alternatives to Larch and Spruce
The simple fact is that neither of these types of wood is very resistant to moisture and pests. If you need something that is ideal for outdoor use, mahogany, teak, and cedar all make for much better options.
The bottom line here is that although both larch and spruce are perfectly fine types of wood to use, they should really only be used indoors.