Mahogany vs. Alder: Which One to Use?

Mahogany vs. Alder: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning on building something around your home that is made out of real wood, you have many different choices to consider. Two very popular choices of lumber to take into account are mahogany and alder. Now, both are extremely beautiful and popular, but also very different.

Today, we want to take a closer look at both of them to see what makes them different, and which one is best for your next big woodworking project.

What Is Mahogany?

First, we have mahogany, which is a tropical hardwood tree found in the Americas, especially in the warmer regions. Besides being a tropical hardwood tree, it is also deciduous, which means that it will lose its leaves during the colder times of the year. Although it’s found mainly in the Americas, it can also be found in Asia and Oceania, mainly due to exportation.

Mahogany lumber features a very tight and straight grain, a smooth texture, very few voids, knots or gaps, and has a very deep reddish-brown color, which is redder than brown, and it does tend to darken over time. Mahogany is an extremely dense, durable, and hard type of wood that also contains some resin.

Due to these properties, not only is it very strong, but also very resistant to moisture, rotting, fungus, and pests. For this reason, mahogany is ideal for both outdoor and indoor use. Moreover, this is a very expensive type of wood, and it is a very popular choice for various high-end applications, particularly for indoor and outdoor furniture, doors, cabinets, windows, and more.

What Is Alder?

We then have the alder tree, which is native throughout the northern temperate zone, which means that it can be found in various parts of North America, northern Asia, and northern Europe. There are 35 different types of alder trees, and they are all in the birch family. The largest type of alder is the red alder tree that can be found on the western coast of North America. This tree can reach over 100’ high.

This wood is seen as being very resistant to pests, rotting, fungus, and moisture, and is often used for outdoor applications. Alder is one of the softer hardwoods out there, as it comes in at just 590 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. It also features a moderate density, but is not very flexible at all. This wood is often used for purposes such as cabinetry, flooring, indoor furniture, decorative veneers, crafts, wooden toys, and home decorations.

In terms of appearance, alder wood is almost bleach or white when it is freshly cut, but becomes light brown with a yellow tinge once it dries. Alder features a uniform texture, is fairly smooth, and has a straight grain.

Mahogany vs. Alder: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both mahogany and alder wood are, let’s take a look at some of their major differences.


One of the biggest differences here is that mahogany lumber features a Janka hardness rating of about 900 lbf, whereas alder wood features a Janka hardness rating of roughly 590 lbf. This means that mahogany is effectively about twice as hard as alder wood.

Because alder is so much softer, it is more susceptible to denting and scratching, as well as other forms of physical damage, such as direct impacts.


In terms of weight and density, alder wood features a density of roughly 37 lbs per cubic foot. On the other hand, mahogany features a density of up to 53 lbs per cubic foot. Therefore, not only is mahogany much harder than alder but also much denser and heavier.

For this reason, it can also be considered more durable, although it is much heavier and therefore harder to work with.


What is interesting to note is that although alder is not very hard or dense, it’s also not very flexible, which is unlike mahogany, as it is much harder, yet also more flexible and pliable. It’s easier to bend mahogany, especially without breaking it, than it is with alder.

Overall Strength

When it comes down to it, mahogany is just the far stronger and more flexible of these two types of wood, which is why it is often used for high-end applications, where alder is not considered quite as luxurious.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

Because mahogany wood is very hard and dense, and because it contains a good deal of sap and resin, it is also extremely resistant to pests, fungus, and moisture. In fact, mahogany is often considered to be one of the most moisture and weather-resistant woods out there, which is why it is a perfect option for outdoor use. Alder is also very resistant to moisture and pests, although not as much as mahogany.


Because mahogany is so heavy and hard, it is harder to work with in terms of sawing and cutting. Additionally, alder tends to take on paint and nails a bit easier.


Mahogany is generally one of the more expensive types of wood out there, and you can expect to spend anywhere between $15 and $28 per board foot. Alder wood is a bit less expensive and is generally going to cost you somewhere between $8 and $16 per board foot.

Appearance – Color and Grain

The other thing to keep in mind here is that alder wood tends to have a relatively straight and uniform grain, with a fine texture, and a light brown color. Moreover, distinguishing between heartwood and sapwood is nearly impossible. On the other hand, although mahogany does also have a straight and tight grain, it is much darker in color, featuring a very dark reddish brown color. Most people would agree that mahogany is one of the most beautiful types of lumber out there.

When to Use Mahogany Wood?

If you are planning on making anything high-end and luxurious, whether cabinets, desks, doors, windows, or indoor and outdoor furniture, then mahogany is a very beautiful-looking and durable option to consider, although also quite expensive.

When to Use Alder Wood?

If you want wood that is almost as durable and moisture resistant as mahogany, but not quite as expensive, and admittedly not quite as beautiful, then alder does make for a good choice. It’s not like alder wood is bad, but it’s just not quite as durable, good-looking, or moisture-resistant as mahogany. That said, it’s also much more affordable.

Alternatives to Mahogany and alder Wood

If you want something affordable to build with, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, then we recommend going for lumber such as maple, poplar, white oak, ash, and European beech.

We also wrote in detail about mahogany alternatives here.


Now that you know what makes mahogany and alder different from each other, you can decide which one is best for your next big project.