Pine vs. Hemlock: Which Wood to Use?

Pine vs. Hemlock: Which Wood to Use?

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If you are looking to do some woodworking around your home, then you may be trying to decide which variety is best for you.

There are of course dozens of different types of wood out there, and many of them have vastly varying properties. Right now, we want to take a look at two popular species of wood, which include pine and hemlock.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes these two different from each other, so you can make an informed decision as to which one to use for your next project.

What Is Pine?

First, we have the pine tree, and our focus here is on the eastern white pine tree. We are focusing on this specific species because it is one of the most commonly found in North America, and it’s also super popular for construction and woodworking purposes.

This is a coniferous softwood tree that grows all throughout eastern North America, and can grow as tall as 100’.

As for appearance, this particular type of pine typically has a straight and even grain, combined with a medium texture. Although, it can often have a lot of resin canals, knots, and gaps. The sapwood is usually a bit pale yellow, whereas the heartwood is light brown.

The eastern white pine tree is quite soft and is one of the softer types of softwood that can be found in North America. It’s also not very resistant to moisture, pests, or the elements in general. It’s just not a good option for outdoor purposes.

Because it’s not overly durable or ideal for outdoor use, it’s often used for basic indoor construction purposes, such as for decorative pieces, carvings, boxes, crates, millwork, and related tasks.

What Is Hemlock?

We also have the hemlock tree, and here we are also talking about the eastern hemlock tree. This species can be found in many parts of eastern North America, particularly in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Although the eastern hemlock tree is actually a bit hard, it is technically a softwood, and it’s a coniferous tree as well. This tree also grows to around 100’ in height.

This tree features a relatively straight grain, although it may be interlocked or spiraled, and it has a fairly coarse texture. The wood of this tree is reddish-brown, and it often contains small black knots.

The eastern hemlock has moderate density and hardness, so it’s fairly resistant to physical damage. That said, it’s not at all resistant to decay, pests, or moisture.

It’s not an ideal type of wood for outdoor use or high-traffic areas. Hemlock is most often used for making crates, boxes, plywood, framing, pallets, and other basic indoor construction purposes.

Pine vs. Hemlock: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both pine and hemlock are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.


In terms of overall hardness, pine features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, while eastern hemlock comes in at 500 lbf.

As you can see, hemlock is therefore slightly harder than eastern white pine, although both are still fairly soft in the grand scheme of things. Both of them just don’t resist physical damage, such as denting and scratching, very well.


The eastern white pine features a density of roughly 25 lbs/ft3. On the other hand, hemlock comes in at 28 lbs/ft3.

As you can see, not only is eastern white pine softer than eastern hemlock but also lighter. One can therefore rightfully assume that eastern white pine is a little bit less durable, but also easier to work with because there’s not as much to lift.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

This one is kind of a toss-up between the two because quite honestly, both of them are absolutely terrible when it comes to pest and moisture resistance. We wouldn’t want to choose one over the other because they do not fare well for outdoor purposes.

We wrote more about waterproof properties (or lack thereof) of pine wood here.

Overall Strength

What is interesting to note is that eastern hemlock has a higher compressive strength, whereas eastern white pine has a higher modulus of elasticity.

Hemlock also has a slightly higher modulus of rupture. Therefore, what this really means is that eastern white pine can handle a little bit more weight before it bends, but overall, eastern hemlock is more durable.


Because the grain of hemlock can sometimes be spiraled or interlocked, it can be difficult to work with, especially when compared to the straight and even grain of pine.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Pine tends to have a lighter color than hemlock, as well as a smoother texture and a straighter grain. Many people would say that hemlock is actually very beautiful, but it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.


What is nice is that both of these types of wood are fairly affordable, with eastern white pine costing you between $7 and $10 per board foot, and eastern hemlock costing between $3.50 and $8.50 per board foot. As you can see, eastern hemlock is the more affordable option.

When to Use Pine

Pine is perfectly fine for basic indoor construction purposes. This means that you can use it for plywood, boxes, crates, small decorative pieces, and even for low-end furniture and cabinetry. Just don’t expect it to hold a lot of weight or to hold up to moisture very well.

When to Use Hemlock

Quite honestly, the story with eastern hemlock is about the same as with pine. It’s perfectly fine for basic indoor purposes, but it doesn’t work well for outdoor use or for high-traffic areas.

It’s not something we would use for flooring or walls, and we wouldn’t use it for outdoor furniture either. However, it works fine for millwork, carvings, boxes, crates, and other basic purposes.

Alternatives to Pine and Hemlock

When it comes down to it, if you need much harder types of wood that are more durable and can resist more impact, then options such as oak, maple, ebony, mahogany, ash, and many more, all make for much better options. If you need something that is also resistant to the elements, cedar is one of the best.


When it comes down to it, both eastern white pine and hemlock are fairly similar. They’re both types of softwood that aren’t very hard or durable, and they’re not very resistant to moisture or pests either. However, they are affordable and they work well enough for basic indoor needs.