Walnut vs. Sumac: Which One to Use?

Walnut vs. Sumac: Which One to Use?

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If you are working on your next big construction project, the first thing that you need to do is choose the right type of wood. Two very popular ones include walnut and sumac.

Today, we want to figure out what the main differences between these materials are, and which one is best used for your next big project.

What Is Walnut?

First, we have walnut, which is a type of tree that really enjoys growing in plenty of sunlight and in well-drained soil. The walnut tree is native to eastern Canada and the eastern United States. The walnut tree is very large, and can grow to diameters of 8’ and reach heights of 150’.

Walnut is known for being a very hard, dense, and durable type of wood. It has extreme resistance to denting, scratching, and physical impacts.

This wood also has plenty of natural oils, which combined with its density and hardness, allow it to be extremely resistant to pests, fungus, moisture, and decay.

Walnut wood is therefore a fantastic option to use for outdoor purposes, although it can also be used indoors. This wood usually has a very straight and tight grain, although it can sometimes have some waves or curves. It can sometimes have a few knots, voids, and gaps, although usually not too many of them.

This type of wood is known for its extreme beauty, as it has a deep coffee or chocolate-like color, or in other words, is very dark brown. This is one of the darkest growing trees in North America, although it will get lighter over time. Because walnut trees take a very long time to grow, it also makes them very expensive.

What Is Sumac?

We then have sumac, which is a very interesting type of tree, as it is often referred to as a flowering plant or a shrub. This type of tree does not grow very tall, usually only about 35’ in height.

The sumac tree or shrub grows in temperate and subtropical climates all around the world, which includes North America, Africa, and eastern Asia.

This wood usually has a very straight grain, although it can sometimes be interlocked. It also has a fine to medium texture, combined with a moderate luster. Sumac wood can have a lot of knots.

What is interesting to note about this wood is that it is one of the few out there that is usually always a mix of yellow and olive-green in color.

In terms of overall density and durability, sumac wood is known for being fairly moderate on both fronts and is therefore moderately durable. With that being said, this wood is not rated as being very resistant to moisture, pests, decay, and rotting. What is also important to note is that sumac wood has been reported to cause some severe skin irritations and allergic reactions.

Walnut vs. Sumac: What Are the Differences?

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


The sumac tree features a Janka hardness rating of 680 lbf. On the other hand, walnut comes in at 1010 lbf. This means that walnut is significantly harder and more durable than sumac wood. It is far more resistant to scratching, denting, and physical impacts.

Weight and Density

In terms of overall weight and density, walnut is the heavier and denser of the two, as it comes in at nearly 44 lbs per cubic foot. On the other hand, sumac wood comes in at just 33 lbs per cubic foot.

This generally makes sumac wood a bit easier to work with, because it’s just not as heavy or dense.

Moisture and Pest Resistance

One of the big advantages of walnut wood is that it has a lot of oils in it, plus it’s also hard and dense, which makes it extremely resistant to moisture, fungus, and pests. However, sumac, on the other hand, is not really resistant to pests or moisture at all, and therefore not ideal for outdoor use.

Overall Strength

When it comes down to it, walnut is more durable than sumac in more or less every single way.

Appearance – Color and Grain

One of the biggest differences between these two types of wood is that walnut is a very deep brown color, whereas sumac is a yellow to olive green color. The grain of sumac is often more interlocked than walnut, which can sometimes be wavy.


Because it is not quite as hard, dense, or heavy, sumac does tend to be a bit easier to work with, especially as far as cutting and nailing are concerned.


Walnut does not usually cause any adverse skin reactions, but some types of sumac have been known to cause skin irritation.


Walnut wood can be fairly expensive, as it can cost up to $25 per board foot, if not more, depending on the retailer. Sumac is not overly expensive, and you can expect to spend about half as much on it as on Walnut.

When to Use Walnut Wood?

If you are looking for extremely beautiful wood that has a dark color, is very hard, dense, and physically durable, as well as very resistant to the elements, then walnut is always a good option to go with, as long as you are willing to pay for it.

When to Use Sumac Wood?

If you like wood that is olive-green in color, you want something that is moderately dense and durable, and you don’t want to have to pay too much for it, then sumac does make for a good option. Just keep in mind that sumac is not ideal for outdoor purposes.

Alternatives to Walnut and Sumac Wood

If you want wood that is super hard and dense, more so than either of the ones looked at today, some good options to consider include ebony, blackwood, ivory wood, rosewood, and olivewood.

In a separate article, we wrote in detail about walnut alternatives.


As you can see, both walnut and sumac do have their own uses, but they are very different from each other, so choose wisely.