If you are looking for a good type of wood to use for your next construction project, you have dozens of options at your disposal. Two very popular options often used in North America include pine and chestnut.
However, these are two fairly different types of wood, so it’s worth comparing them on a side-by-side basis. Let’s take a closer look at what sets both of these materials apart, so you know whether pine or chestnut is the best option for you.
What Is Pine?
First, we have the pine tree. Today, we are focusing specifically on the eastern white pine tree, as it is one of the most abundantly growing varieties in North America, as well as one of the most popular, particularly for structural and utilitarian purposes.
This tree is native to North America, and it is a coniferous evergreen, as well as a softwood. The wood from the eastern white pine features a pale yellow color, although it can also be whitish-brown.
The grain of this tree is typically straight and even, along with a medium coarse texture. One of the defining features of the eastern white pine is that it usually has a lot of gaps, knots, voids, and resin canals.
On that note, the eastern white pine tree is fairly soft, one of the softer types of wood that you will find in the world, so it’s not overly durable.
Additionally, it’s also not very resistant to decay, fungus, pets, or moisture, so it’s not something you want to use for outdoor purposes.
However, it is structurally sound enough to hold a bit of weight and pressure, so it’s often used for cabinets and low-end furniture. That said, it’s most commonly used for utilitarian purposes, such as for making carvings, millwork, crates, pallets, and boxes.
What Is Chestnut?
We then have the chestnut tree, and here we are focusing specifically on the American chestnut, as opposed to the Chinese chestnut. This is of course because the former is the more popular option in North America.
This is a type of hardwood deciduous tree, although, for hardwood, it is somewhat soft. Its durability is somewhat limited due to this, and it’s also not very dense or heavy.
That said, one of the biggest selling points of the chestnut tree is that it has a lot of resin and oil in it, which makes it extremely resilient to fungus, pests, moisture, and decay. For this reason, many people choose chestnut wood for outdoor purposes.
Furthermore, chestnut wood features a straight grain that can be a bit interlocked or wavy at times, along with a coarse texture, and a lot of holes, knots, and gaps. It also has a moderately dark brown color that’s perceived to get darker over time.
Chestnut is a relatively expensive type of wood, which is why it is generally only used for small applications. It is often used for higher-end decorative pieces, doors, windows, and small pieces of furniture. You may use it for larger products, but the cost might be too much.
Pine vs. Chestnut: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both of these types of wood are, let’s figure out what sets them apart from each other.
The eastern white pine tree features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, while the American chestnut comes in at 540 lbf.
As you can probably tell, both of these types of wood are relatively soft and not very resistant to various types of damage, although chestnut is slightly harder than eastern white pine. If we had to choose one in terms of scratch and dent resistance, it would have to be chestnut.
Not only is chestnut slightly harder than pine but also just a little bit heavier. Eastern white pine weighs 25 lbs/ft3, while chestnut lands at around 30 lbs/ft3.
In the grand scheme of things, both of these types of wood are fairly lightweight, with chestnut being just a bit heavier. Due to its slightly heavier weight, chestnut may therefore also be a bit harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
One of the biggest differences between these two types of wood is that one is moisture-resistant whereas the other is not. Pine by nature is not very pest- or moisture-resistant and is not ideal for outdoor use.
On the other hand, chestnut is quite moisture-resistant, and it’s thanks to all of the oils and resin it contains. All of this makes chestnut the much better option for outdoor applications.
In terms of overall strength, both of these types of wood are fairly on par. For instance, if we compare the modulus of rupture, they come in exactly the same. In terms of the modulus of elasticity, pine scores slightly higher than American chestnut.
However, if we are talking about the crushing strength, the American chestnut is slightly higher than the eastern white pine. What it really comes down to is that both of these two types of wood are fairly on par in terms of durability, although chestnut is a bit harder and heavier.
Both of these materials are not the easiest to work with, and it is because they both contain a good deal of knots, gaps, and resin canals. That said, due to the possibly interlocked grain of the chestnut tree, it is generally even harder to work with, and you’ll need a whole lot of sharpening tools for your saws.
Appearance – Color and Grain
The eastern white pine tree is either whitish-brown or pale yellow, along with a medium coarse texture, and a lot of imperfections. Chestnut, on the other hand, may have a more interlocked grain as opposed to pine, which is generally very straight, and chestnut is also much darker brown.
Although this is purely a matter of personal preference, most people would probably say that chestnut is by far the better-looking of the two.
Eastern white pine will generally cost you between $10 and $12 per board foot, whereas chestnut can cost you upwards of $30 per board foot.
When to Use Pine?
If you want something economical that is perfectly fine for utilitarian purposes, mainly for indoor use, then pine is a great choice.
When to Use Chestnut?
If you want something very aesthetically appealing, very durable, and something that also works well for outdoor purposes, and you are willing to spend a good deal of money, chestnut is the way to go.
Alternatives to Pine and Chestnut
Seeing as neither of these two types of wood is very hard, you may want to check out something like maple, alder, mahogany, ebony, and teak. These all have much higher hardness ratings.
Chestnut and pine are somewhat similar types of wood, which is surprising as one is technically a hardwood and the other is a softwood. Now that you know what sets them apart, you can make an informed decision about which one to use for your next project.