Whether you want to build a patio, picture frame, doorway, or anything in between, using the right kind of wood is essential.
Therefore, today we are going to compare two very popular types of wood that you might come across, pine and larch. We’ll compare them on a side-by-side basis to see which one is better for your next project.
What Is Pine?
First, we have pine, and here we are talking about the eastern white pine tree. This variety is one of the most popular options for utilitarian construction in North America, as well as one of the most commonly grown trees in the USA and Canada. This is a coniferous evergreen and softwood tree that grows primarily in North America. This lumber features a white-brown color, although the sapwood can sometimes be a pale yellow.
The grain is typically quite straight and even, along with a medium texture, and plenty of gaps, knots, and many resin canals. The eastern white pine tree is quite soft, one of the softer trees in North America, and it’s not very durable or resistant to physical damage. On that note, pine trees in general do not really hold up well against the elements, moisture, decay, or pests.
However, many people like the eastern white pine tree because it has enough structural soundness to hold up a good deal of weight, it looks decent, and it’s also very affordable. This type of wood is therefore often used for furniture, cabinetry, utilitarian purposes, boxes, crates, pallets, carvings, millwork, and for other such items.
What Is Larch?
We then have the larch tree, which can grow up to 150’ tall. The larch tree grows in temperate northern climates, usually in cooler locations, on low lands in the north, and on higher mountains further down in the south. The larch tree can be found in boreal forests in Siberia, Canada, and in surrounding areas.
These are coniferous and deciduous trees, so they do lose their needles in the winter. The western larch tree is a type of softwood but is actually fairly hard, so it is somewhat resistant to physical damage such as denting and scratching.
However, larch wood is only moderately resistant to decay, insects, and moisture, so it’s not the best type of wood to use for outdoor purposes.
Most people would use larch wood for paper, plywood, veneer, particle board, flooring, construction lumber, and related purposes. In terms of appearance, the sapwood is fairly light in color with the heartwood being reddish-brown or yellow. This wood also features a straight grain combined with a medium texture, as well as a greasy feel and a good deal of knots.
Pine vs. Larch: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both pine and larch are, let’s do a side-by-side comparison to see which one is better for your purposes.
The eastern white pine tree features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, while the larch tree comes in at 830 lbf. This means that the larch tree is over twice as hard as the eastern white pine, making it much more physically resistant to damage such as denting and scratching.
The eastern white pine tree weighs roughly 25 lbs/ft3, whereas the larch tree comes in at about 36 lbs/ft3.
As you can see, the larch tree is therefore much denser and heavier than the eastern white pine. This leads to increased durability, although it can also make it harder to work with because it’s much heavier.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
As far as moisture and pest resistance are concerned, larch is the better of the two. That said, larch is also not very moisture and pest-resistant, but pine is even less so. When it comes down to it, neither of these types of wood is ideal for outdoor use.
If we look at various factors that determine the overall durability of wood such as the compressive strength, the modulus of elasticity, and the modulus of rupture, larch wood scores higher in all of these categories than eastern white pine.
Pine just is not as structurally sound and cannot hold as much weight as larch, making the latter better for construction on this front.
Both of these types of wood have their drawbacks when it comes to workability. On one hand, larch is denser and harder than pine, which can wreak havoc on sawblades.
However, pine tends to have more knots, gaps, and resin canals, which also present their own problems. In the grand scheme of things, neither of these two types of wood is particularly easy or hard to work with.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Both of these types of wood feature a fairly straight and even grain, along with a somewhat coarse texture, and a good deal of knots and gaps.
However, pine tends to have more resin canals than larch, and it’s a bit lighter in color. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference.
Larch is not overly sought-after when it comes to building purposes, which is why it usually tops out at around $7.50 per board foot, whereas eastern white pine can cost up to $12 per board foot.
When to Use Pine?
If you like the appearance of pine, and you need something relatively affordable for indoor purposes, then pine is a fantastic option to go with. It looks nice, it smells good, and it’s strong enough for basic use.
When to Use Larch?
When it comes down to it, larch is significantly stronger than pine, so if you are worried about weight-bearing capabilities or structural soundness, this is definitely the better of the two types of wood to consider. Surprisingly enough, it’s also more affordable.
Alternatives to Pine and Larch
Neither of these two types of wood is very resistant to the elements and they are not ideal for outdoor purposes. If you want what is effectively one of the best types of wood for outdoor purposes, take a closer look at cedar.
As you can see, both pine and larch have their own pros and cons to consider, so now it’s up to you to make a decision between them.