If you need a good type of wood for various construction and woodworking projects around your home, then you have come to the right place. Right now, we are going to compare two of the most popular types of wood used in North America, pine and Douglas fir.
Many people love that both of these materials are quite affordable, but there are also other reasons why they are so popular. Let’s figure out which of these two is the best choice for your next big woodworking or construction project.
What Is Pine?
First, we have the pine tree, and here we are talking specifically about the eastern white pine variety.
The reason we are focusing on this specific tree is that this is one of the most commonly found varieties in North America, plus it’s one of the most popular types of pine for construction and woodworking purposes.
Keep in mind that this is a softwood coniferous tree that grows in North America. This type of tree features an even, straight, and regular grain, combined with a medium texture. It may have a good deal of knots, gaps, and a lot of big resin canals.
The sapwood is pale yellow, with the heartwood being light brown. Furthermore, the eastern white pine tree is actually one of the softer types of softwood that can be found in all of North America. It is therefore not overly resistant to physical damage such as denting or scratching.
On that note, it also isn’t the best choice for outdoor use, as it’s not very resistant to pests, moisture, fungus, or the elements in general.
For this reason, eastern white pine, and pine trees in general, are typically used for basic indoor and practical purposes, such as for millwork, carvings, boxes, crates, pallets, decorative pieces, low-end furniture, and low-end cabinetry.
What Is Douglas Fir?
We then have the Douglas fir, an evergreen tree that grows all throughout North America and Eastern Asia. Keep in mind that the Douglas fir tree is also a softwood, but it can grow up to 250’, therefore officially making it one of the tallest trees in the world.
Additionally, there are both Rocky Mountain types and coastal types of the Douglas fir tree, although they have more or less the exact same properties.
Douglas fir is a softwood, but for a softwood, it’s actually quite durable, and even somewhat hard. However, when compared to other types of hardwood, it doesn’t quite stack up. What stands out about this wood is that it is somewhat resistant to moisture and pests, although there are still better options on this front.
However, if properly treated, this wood may even be used for coastal or marine-related applications.
Douglas fir is often used for structural beams, flooring, exterior siding, and many things in between as well. Keep in mind that this wood features a plain and straight grain, a medium coarse texture, and wood that has a light brown color, often with a slight reddish-orange tinge.
Pine vs Douglas Fir: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both pine and Douglas fir are, let’s figure out what makes these two types of wood different from each other.
In terms of hardness, the eastern white pine tree features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, whereas the Douglas fir comes in at 620 lbf.
As you can see, Douglas fir is therefore significantly harder than eastern white pine. It is also far more resistant to various forms of physical damage, such as denting, scratching, and more.
As for the density, Douglas fir once again comes out on top. Eastern white pine comes in at roughly 25 lbs/ft3, while Douglas fir weighs around 32 lbs/ft3.
Due to this increased weight and density, Douglas fir is a bit more durable and structurally sound, although this heavier weight does also make it a bit harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between these two types of wood is that Douglas fir is quite moisture and pest-resistant. If properly treated, this is actually one of the best types of wood that you can use for outdoor purposes.
For this reason, it is often used for marine and coastal applications. On the other hand, eastern white pine is not very resistant to moisture and pests at all and is certainly not ideal for outdoor use.
If we look at various other factors that determine the overall strength of wood, such as the modulus of elasticity, the modulus of rupture, and the compressive strength, Douglas fir scores much higher on all three fronts.
This means that it can hold more weight, handle more pressure, and it is more structurally sound in general.
In terms of workability, both of these types of wood are very easy to work with. They both have relatively straight and even grains, they aren’t overly hard, and they aren’t too dense either.
That said, eastern white pine may have some more knots and resin canals than Douglas fir, which can be a challenge, especially for cutting.
Appearance – Grain and Color
In terms of appearance, these two types of wood aren’t all that different from each other. Their grains are fairly similar, as they both have a fairly straight, even, and coarse appearance.
Furthermore, the color of both is also somewhat similar, with Douglas fir often having a bit more of an orange hue than pine, which tends to be a bit lighter in color.
Eastern white pine should not cost you more than $10 per board foot, whereas Douglas fir can cost you up to $15 per board foot.
When to Use Pine?
If you are looking for a utilitarian wood that works well for basic indoor purposes, such as for crates, boxes, millwork, low-end furniture, and cabinetry, then eastern white pine is perfectly fine. It’s certainly very cost-effective, just don’t use it for outdoor or weight-bearing purposes.
When to Use Douglas Fir?
If you are willing to invest slightly more money, and you need something that works well for both indoor and outdoor applications, then Douglas fir is always a good option to consider.
There is no denying the fact that Douglas fir is both resistant to the elements and structurally sound, while also being very moderately priced.
Alternatives to Pine and Douglas Fir
At the end of the day, these two types of wood aren’t the very best looking in the world. If you want a material that looks beautiful, most people would recommend something like mahogany or ebony.
Now that you know exactly what makes pine and Douglas fir different from each other, you can choose the best one for your next big construction project. Remember that both have their advantages and disadvantages, so keep all of these considerations in mind.