Pine vs. Alder: Which Wood to Use?

Pine vs. Alder: Which Wood to Use?

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If you can’t decide on the right type of wood to use for your next construction or woodworking project, then you’ve come to the right place. Today, we are here to compare two very popular types of lumber often used for a variety of purposes.

These include pine and alder. That said, these two do have some differences between them that are important for you to know, so you can make an informed decision about which one you use.

Let’s figure out what sets these two types of lumber apart, so you can choose the right one for your next task.

What Is Pine?

First, we have the pine tree. Today we are talking specifically about the eastern white pine, as it grows very commonly in North America and is one of the most popular options for a variety of utilitarian construction purposes. Remember that the eastern white pine tree is both a softwood and coniferous evergreen that grows mostly in North America.

This tree features a light brown color, or pale yellow if we are talking about sapwood. This tree typically has a straight grain with an even appearance, and a medium texture, along with plenty of gaps and knots, and tons of large resin canals.

The eastern white pine tree is also fairly soft and is in fact one of the softer trees in all of North America, so it’s not very resistant to any type of physical damage.

Furthermore, pine trees usually are not very resistant to pests, decay, or the elements in general. This is not the type of one that you want to expose to a lot of moisture. It is however very affordable, and structurally sound enough to hold up a good bit of weight.

Therefore, many people use eastern white pine for basic indoor cabinetry and furniture, as well as for utilitarian purposes, such as decorative pieces, crates, boxes, carvings, pallets, and millwork.

What Is Alder?

We then have the alder tree, which can be found in North America, Northern Europe, and Northern Asia. Additionally, there are over 35 different types of the alder tree, although the most commonly used and found in North America is the red alder, so that will be our main focus here.

The red alder is a tall tree that can grow up to 100’ in height and is generally found in the western part of North America, in both the USA and Canada. Unlike pine, alder is a type of hardwood, although for a hardwood it is somewhat soft.

Alder is not highly ranked when it comes to hardness, durability, or structural soundness, at least not as far as hardwoods are concerned. That said, it’s also not very resistant to pests, moisture, and mold, and it just is not ideal for outdoor purposes.

Many people do use alder for indoor purposes, especially for utilitarian needs, just like pine. It can be used for decorative pieces, veneers, cabinets, crafts, wooden toys, and low-end furniture.

Lastly, the red alder tree features a smooth and uniform texture along with a straight grain, and a reddish-brown color, although most people would say that it’s nothing special in terms of appearance.

Pine vs Alder: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both eastern white pine and red alder are, let’s take a closer look at what sets these two types of wood apart.


In terms of hardness, the eastern white pine tree features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, whereas the red alder tree has a rating of 590 lbf.

This means that the red alder is significantly harder than eastern white pine, and should therefore be more durable and resistant to various types of damage, such as denting and scratching.


The eastern white pine tree features a density of 25 lbs/ft3, whereas red alder weighs around 28 lbs/ft3. As you can see, the wood from the red alder tree is therefore significantly heavier and denser than that from the eastern white pine.

This does in part make it much more durable and structurally sound, although this heavier weight also makes it a bit harder to work with.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

When it comes to pest and moisture resistance, unfortunately, neither of these types of wood is ideal. These are strictly indoor types of wood, as both types of wood are not very resistant to the elements.

We wrote more about the water resistance (or lack thereof) of pine here.

Overall Strength

In terms of the overall strength and durability of these two types of wood such as the modulus of rupture, the modulus of elasticity, and the compressive strength, the red alder tree scores significantly higher in all of these categories.

This means that the red alder tree is better able to bear weight and it is more structurally sound. It’s just the tougher of the two types of wood.


Although red alder is a bit heavier and harder than eastern white pine, its grain and texture are very easy to work with, and it also doesn’t have many resin canals or gaps.

On the other hand, eastern white pine has plenty of knots, gaps, and resin canals, all of which make pine somewhat difficult to work with. You can have some really hard and sticky spots.

Appearance – Color & Grain

Eastern white pine features a straight grain with a medium texture and plenty of resin canals, knots, and gaps, along with a light brown color, whereas red alder features more of a reddish-brown color and a smoother texture. Neither of these two types of wood is anything special to look at, and it really just comes down to a matter of personal preference.


Red alder should not cost you more than $6 or $8 per board foot, whereas eastern white pine should not cost more than $10 or $12 per board foot at the most.

When to Use Pine

If you like the appearance of pine, then it is something we recommend using for indoor purposes, especially for low-end furniture and cabinetry, utilitarian purposes, and decorative needs. Just remember that pine is in no way ideal for outdoor use, as it is not moisture-resistant in the least.

When to Use Alder

If you prefer the slightly darker reddish-brown appearance of alder, then we recommend choosing this wood instead.

What it really comes down to is that, although alder is slightly harder, denser, and just ever so slightly more durable than pine, they’re generally used for the same purposes, and they have the same advantages and disadvantages. If you need a good type of wood for basic utilitarian indoor use, then alder works just fine.

Alternatives to Pine and Alder

There is no denying the fact that both alder and pine are fairly soft types of wood that aren’t very structurally sound or resistant to the elements.

If you need the types of wood that are resistant to the elements, we recommend going for cedar, teak, or mahogany, or if you just need something really hard and durable, elm, maple, and ebony are all great options as well.


Now that you know what sets pine and alder apart, you can choose which one is best for your next project. Remember that they’re both generally best used for indoor purposes.