Poplar vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

Poplar vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

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If you are trying to figure out what type of wood to use for your next construction project, both Poplar and pine make for fine options. That being said, there are certain differences between these two that you need to be aware of.

These differences will determine which one you use for your next project. Let’s get to it and determine exactly what makes poplar and pine different, so you can figure out which one to use.

What Is Poplar?

First, we have the poplar tree, and here we are referring specifically to the yellow poplar. There are 35 different species of poplar trees around the world, but we are going to focus on the yellow poplar because it is one of the most commonly found in North America, and one of the most popular for construction purposes.

These trees can be found all throughout the Northern Hemisphere, mainly in Northern Europe, Northern Asia, and North America. The poplar tree is a deciduous tree that loses its leaves during the winter, and it is a hardwood.

Although it is technically referred to as a hardwood, this wood is actually fairly soft. The wood also isn’t very dense, structurally sound, or really that durable in the grand scheme of things.

Poplar wood also really doesn’t contain many resins or oils, so it’s not the most resistant to moisture, pests, fungus, or decay. Due to this, it is not the best choice for outdoor use, but it works well for indoor purposes.

Additionally, it has quite a basic appearance. It features a straight grain with a tight and uniform texture. It also generally doesn’t have many knots, gaps, or voids. The color of this wood is yellowish or creamy white.

Due to its limited strength and moisture resistance, it is generally used for indoor utilitarian purposes, particularly for things like pallets, plywood, and slabs, for making low-end furniture, and low-end decorative pieces, and for other such applications. Something that many people really like about this material is that it is very affordable.

What Is Pine?

We then have pine, and today we are talking specifically about the eastern white pine tree. The reason we are going to focus on this variety is it is very commonly found in North America, and it is very popular for construction.

The eastern white pine is technically a coniferous tree, which means that it has needles that it keeps all year, and it is a softwood. This is a tree that grows all throughout North America, particularly in the eastern half, and it can grow up to 100’ in height.

This type of pine tree generally has a very straight grain with a medium and even texture, but it can have many knots and resin canals. It features sapwood that is pale yellow in color, and heartwood that is light brown.

The wood itself is quite soft and not very durable, and it’s actually one of the softer types of wood found in North America. At the same time, it also isn’t overly resistant to pests or moisture, so it doesn’t work well outdoors.

Because it’s not the strongest or most moisture-resistant, it is usually used for indoor projects. You can use it for basic construction and basic lumber purposes, as well as for interior crates, boxes, millwork, carvings, and other very basic applications.

Poplar vs. Pine: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know exactly what both poplar and pine are, let’s figure out what makes these two different from each other.


As mentioned above, both of these types of wood are fairly soft. Yellow poplar features a Janka hardness rating of 540 lbf, while eastern white pine comes in at 380 lbf.

As you can see, yellow poplar is therefore slightly harder than eastern white pine, which means that it is also slightly more resistant to physical damage such as denting or scratching. However, in the grand scheme of things, both of these are very soft, and neither is very resistant to physical damage.


Not only is yellow poplar a little harder than eastern white pine, but it is also a little denser and heavier. Eastern white pine weighs 25 lbs/ft3, whereas yellow poplar weighs around 29 lbs/ft3.

In the grand scheme of things, when compared to other types of wood, especially hardwood, both of these are fairly lightweight, but of course, poplar is a bit heavier than pine.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

What can be said about both the pest and moisture resistance of eastern white pine and yellow poplar is that they are decidedly low.

Now, if we had to make a choice between the two of these, we would say that eastern white pine is slightly better, just because it has some sap and resins. However, in the grand scheme of things, neither is very pest or moisture-resistant, and neither is ideal for outdoor purposes.

For more information, read our article about the waterproofness (or lack thereof) of pine.

Overall Strength and Durability

In the grand scheme of things, if we look at various factors such as the compressive strength, the modulus of rupture, and the modulus of elasticity, yellow poplar has higher ratings in all of these categories than eastern white pine.

This means that the yellow poplar is a bit stiffer, takes more weight to bend, and can handle more weight and pressure in general. This makes yellow poplar slightly more structurally sound and therefore makes it the better choice for construction-related purposes.


Although yellow poplar is heavier, harder, and denser than eastern white pine, it’s not necessarily much harder to work with. Pine has a lot of sap and resin canals that can make working on it difficult, and it might also have some knots. Those sap and resin canals can wreak havoc on sawblades, which is largely avoided with poplar.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Eastern white pine has a straight grain and a medium texture, a lot of resin canals and knots, and a light brown heartwood, along with pale yellow sapwood. On the other hand, yellow poplar features a creamy white or yellowish color, not many knots or gaps, and a fine, even, and straight grain.

Neither of these is known for being overly aesthetically pleasing, and both are generally reserved for utilitarian purposes. That said, most people would say that eastern white pine is the better-looking of the two.


Yellow poplar should not cost you more than $6 per board foot, whereas eastern white pine will cost you around $8 per board foot.

When to Use Poplar?

If you need a very affordable type of wood that works well for indoor purposes, especially for utilitarian needs and basic construction purposes, then yellow poplar is fine. Many people will use it for making pallets, slabs, plywood, and more.

However, it could also be used to make low-end furniture and decorative pieces, so long as you aren’t too worried about them being scratched or dented. Just remember that yellow poplar is not very pest or moisture-resistant, so it is not ideal for outdoor purposes.

When to Use Pine?

The same thing can be said about eastern white pine as for yellow poplar. It is more than good enough to use for basic indoor utilitarian purposes. You could use it for making slabs, crates, pallets, interior millwork, low-end furniture, and decorative pieces.

However, poplar is not very dent or scratch-resistant, so it’s not ideal for any high-traffic areas, nor is it very pest or moisture-resistant, and therefore also not ideal for outdoor use. That said, if we did have to choose one of these two types of wood for outdoor purposes, it would be eastern white pine, although it’s still not really recommended.

Alternatives to Poplar and Pine

It is no secret that neither of these two types of wood is very pest or moisture-resistant, nor are they really structurally sound.

If you are looking for much harder and more durable types of wood, ones such as elm, oak, maple, mahogany, teak, ebony, meranti, and ironwood are all fantastic options to consider. On that note, woods such as teak, mahogany, and cedar also happen to be extremely moisture-resistant and ideal for outdoor use.


Now that you know what all of the major differences between yellow poplar and eastern white pine are, you can make an informed decision between the two. As you can see, both are fine for basic indoor needs, but we wouldn’t build anything that needs to be structurally sound out of them, and we also wouldn’t use them for outdoor purposes.