If you are looking for a type of lumber to build something around the house with, whether a wall, door, patio furniture, or anything in between, there are many different options to choose from. Two of the most popular options at this time include pine and cypress.
Both pine and cypress have their advantages as well as disadvantages, and today we are here to figure out what those are.
Let’s take a closer look at both materials to see what sets them apart, and which one is best used for your next project.
What Is Pine?
First, we have the pine tree, and here we are talking specifically about the eastern white pine, as this is one of the types of pine that grows most commonly in North America, and is also very popular for construction and woodworking purposes. The eastern white pine tree is a softwood evergreen tree that grows mostly in North America.
This wood generally has an even and straight grain, medium texture, and plenty of knots, gaps, and resin canals. The sapwood of the eastern white pine tree is pale yellow, and the heartwood is light brown.
This is not an overly hard type of tree, and it’s not very resistant to physical impacts, denting, or scratching. It also isn’t very resistant to pests, moisture, fungus, or the outdoors in general.
This is not a type of wood that is suitable for outdoor purposes, but it is affordable and strong enough to be structurally sound for basic use.
Therefore, it is a popular option for indoor purposes, especially for utilitarian use, such as for boxes, pallets, millwork, crates, carvings, decorative pieces, and other low-end pieces of furniture.
What Is Cypress?
We then have the cypress tree, which is also an evergreen, and it grows mostly in areas that are wet and swampy. The cypress tree can be found along the Atlantic coastal plain, in the Mississippi River valley, in the Gulf of Mexico, and generally in the Southeastern United States.
There are many different types of cypress trees, with red cypress and swamp cypress both being common, although the bald cypress is most commonly found in the USA. A really interesting note here is that although this is a coniferous tree, it also loses its needles during the winter.
The wood of the cypress tree features a straight grain that sometimes may be uneven, and is also usually fairly coarse. It also has a lot of knots in it. The sapwood of the bald cypress is almost white, with the heartwood being yellow or medium brown.
Cypress wood also isn’t the hardest or most durable in the world, and it’s not very resistant to denting or scratching, but it is extremely moisture-resistant.
For this reason, it is considered an ideal choice for outdoor purposes, even marine-related applications such as making docks, boats, and other structures that are designed to be near water. Many people also use this type of wood for veneer, exterior furniture, interior trim, and more.
Pine vs. Cypress: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both pine and cypress are, let’s take a quick look at what sets the two apart.
In terms of hardness, eastern white pine features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, whereas bald cypress comes in at 510 lbf.
This means that it is slightly harder than eastern white pine, and therefore also slightly more resistant to denting, scratching, and similar types of physical damage.
The eastern white pine tree features a density of 25 lbs/ft3, whereas bald cypress weighs 32 lbs/ft3.
Therefore, not only is bald cypress a little bit harder than eastern white pine but also a little bit heavier, which in part also leads to slightly increased durability. Although, that heavier weight also makes cypress a bit harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
If we are talking about pest and moisture resistance, eastern white pine has neither of those properties. This is not the type of lumber that is ideal for outdoor purposes in any way. On the other hand, bald cypress is the exact opposite.
Bald cypress is very resistant to moisture, pests, fungus, and decay, which is why it is often used for outdoor purposes, even marine applications. Between these two, cypress is the much better option for outdoor use.
When it comes to the overall strength of these two types of wood, whether we are talking about the modulus of rupture, the modulus of elasticity, or the compressive strength, cypress scores slightly higher on most of these fronts.
In the grand scheme of things, if we are talking about structural integrity or weight-bearing capabilities, bald cypress is the better of the two.
Bald cypress may cause a bit of tear-out when it is being cut, and it can make your saw blades duller too. However, in the grand scheme of things, cypress is not overly difficult to work with, and pine isn’t either.
Pine is fairly soft and lightweight, therefore making it relatively easy to work with. However, what can make eastern white pine hard to work with is the number of knots, gaps, and resin canals contained in it.
Appearance – Color & Grain
What’s interesting to note is that both of these types of wood look fairly similar, with the heartwood being yellowish or brown in color. They both also feature straight and sometimes uneven grains, combined with some knots and gaps.
Which one of the two looks better is subjective at best, although many people do say that cypress is the slightly more beautiful of the two. Also, remember that bald cypress has a much coarser texture than eastern white pine.
You’ll pay around $10 per board foot for eastern white pine, and up to $8 per board foot for bald cypress. As you can see, both of these types of wood are fairly affordable.
When to Use Pine?
If you need a really cheap type of wood that is suitable for indoor purposes, specifically for utilitarian projects and low-end furniture, then eastern white pine is just fine.
This is an affordable type of indoor wood that works well for basic purposes but don’t try using it for outdoor needs, as it just won’t hold up against the elements.
When to Use Cypress?
If you need a type of wood that is both structurally sound and resistant to the elements, therefore making it suitable for outdoor use, then cypress is a fantastic option to consider. It’s one of the best outdoor woods out there.
Alternatives to Pine and Cypress
The reality is that both pine and cypress are very soft, which might not work for you. If you need something much harder, heavier, and more durable, really any type of hardwood will work. This could include elm, maple, mahogany, ebony, teak, and dozens of other types too.
Now that you know what all of the major differences between pine and cypress wood are, you can make an informed decision between the two.
What it all comes down to is that pine is the better option for indoor purposes, whereas cypress is the better option for outdoor use.