Oak vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

Oak vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning on building something around your home, there really isn’t a better material than solid wood. With that being said, there are dozens of different types of wood that you can choose from, which can make coming to a final decision fairly difficult.

Two very popular types of wood used for construction and woodworking in North America are oak and pine. That said, the two are fairly different from each other. Today, we are going to do a side-by-side comparison to figure out what the major differences between them are. Let’s see which one is the better choice for you.

What Is Oak?

First, we have oak, and today we are talking specifically about red oak. There are well over 160 different types of oak trees that can be found throughout the world, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the most commonly found in North America, as well as the most commonly used for construction and woodworking purposes, is the red oak.

This is a deciduous tree, so it loses its leaves during the winter; oak is a type of hardwood. Oak is known for being very resistant to physical damage, mainly denting and scratching, as it is quite hard, plus it is also structurally sound, dense, and durable in general.

One downside that oak has, however, is that it is not very resistant to either pests or moisture, so it is not a good choice for outdoor purposes. If properly sealed and treated, it may be used outdoors, although it’s not really recommended. Furthermore, oak is also not very pest resistant. However, oak is hard and durable, so it is generally acceptable for indoor use.

As for appearance, oak has a tight and straight grain, combined with a coarse and uneven texture, as well as a lot of knots, gaps, and holes. It is usually brownish-red and tends to lean more toward the brown side. This wood can be used for many different indoor purposes, usually for furniture, decorative pieces, cabinets, flooring, and other small pieces.

What Is Pine?

We then have the pine tree, and today we are talking about the eastern white pine tree. The reason for this is that it is one of the most commonly found in North America, as well as one of the most commonly used for construction and woodworking purposes.

The eastern white pine is a softwood coniferous tree, which means that it does keep its needles all year long. This tree grows all throughout eastern North America and can grow up to 100’ tall.

Pine usually has a straight grain combined with an even and medium texture, but it can have many resin canals and knots. The heartwood of this wood is light brown, while the sapwood is pale yellow in color.

In terms of overall hardness and durability, pine is quite soft, and it is one of the softer types of wood that can be found in North America. Unfortunately, eastern white pine also isn’t the most resistant to moisture or pests, so it’s not a great choice for outdoor use. Although not recommended, if you do plan on using it outdoors, you do have to properly seal it first.

Because it is neither very strong nor moisture resistant, this wood tends to be used for indoor projects more than anything else. It is commonly used for basic construction purposes, as well as for interior millwork, boxes, crates, carving, and other basic needs.

Oak vs. Pine: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both oak and pine are, let’s figure out what makes these two types of wood different from each other.


Red oak features a Janka hardness rating of 1,220 lbf, whereas eastern white pine comes in at just 380 lbf. As you can see, red oak is therefore nearly four times as hard, making it much more durable in terms of denting and scratching.

For this reason, oak makes for a much better choice when it comes to indoor furniture and anything that needs to be able to take a beating. Pine is very soft, and therefore easily dents and scratches. It’s not something that you would want to use for high-traffic areas.


In terms of density, red oak comes in at 43 lbs per cubic foot, while eastern white pine comes in at just 25 lbs per cubic foot. As you can see, red oak is nearly twice as dense as pine. This does in part lend to oak’s better durability and structural soundness when compared to eastern white pine, although this weight does also make it significantly harder to work with.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

Although it’s not necessarily a difference, one thing that does need mentioning about both of these types of wood is that they just aren’t very moisture or pest resistant. Now, eastern white pine does have a decent amount of natural resin and oils, which can make it somewhat resistant to moisture and pests over the short run, but not in any substantial way that would make it suitable for outdoor purposes.

Therefore, neither of these types of wood should be used for outdoor projects, although if you had to choose one, it should probably be pine.

Overall Strength and Durability

In general, red oak is just the far more durable, damage-resistant, stiffer, and more structurally sound type of wood. In terms of bending strength, stiffness, and compressive strength, red oak scores far higher on all of these fronts. If you were to choose one type of wood for its structural soundness and durability, it would absolutely have to be oak.


Both of these types of wood are relatively easy to work with. They both glue, paint, and stain pretty easily, and they also aren’t overly difficult to saw. Yes, both do contain some knots and gaps, which can make sawing a challenge at times, although nothing too difficult. The only thing to watch out for here is that oak is substantially heavier than pine, which can make it harder to work with, as there’s just a lot more weight to deal with.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Eastern white pine features a medium texture and straight grain, a lot of knots and resin canals, and pale yellow sapwood along with light brown heartwood. On the other hand, red oak features a reddish-brown color, combined with a straight and coarse grain. In general, people would usually say that red oak is the far better looking of these two types of wood, as it has a more pronounced texture, more beautiful grain, and much richer color.


Red oak can cost you up to $25 per board foot, whereas eastern white pine usually won’t cost you more than $8 per board foot. This difference has to do with both availability and durability. Eastern white pine is just a very common tree, so it’s not very expensive.

When to Use Oak?

If you are looking for an extremely durable type of wood that is going to last for a long time to come, then red oak does make for a fantastic option. It is extremely durable and structurally sound, which means that it is generally acceptable for all indoor purposes.

It’s ideal for high-traffic areas that need to handle a lot of punishment, it can hold up a lot of weight so you could use it for structural beams, and it looks really nice, so it works well for furniture and decorative pieces. Just remember that it is not moisture-resistant, so it should not be used for outdoor purposes.

When to Use Pine?

Generally speaking, everything that pine can do, oak can do better. Yes, eastern white pine is structurally sound enough to be used for basic construction purposes, and it is durable enough to be used for basic decorative pieces and even for low-end furniture.

However, it’s not overly hard, dense, or structurally sound, so if you need something to last for a long time, oak is going to make for the better option. With that being said, eastern white pine is of course the much more affordable option, as it costs about a third as much. Just keep in mind that just like red oak, eastern white pine should also not be used for outdoor purposes.

Alternatives to Oak and Pine

Seeing as both oak and pine are not suitable for outdoor use, you might want to consider something a bit more moisture-resistant, like cedar, spruce, mahogany, or teak.


Now that you know what makes oak and pine different from each other, you can choose the one that will work best for your next construction project or woodworking task.