Whitewood vs. Douglas Fir: Which One to Use?

Whitewood vs. Douglas Fir: Which One to Use?

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If you’re planning on building something around the home, there’s really nothing better to use than solid lumber. With that being said, there are many different types of wood out there, with whitewood and douglas fir being two of the most popular ones.

Today, we’re going to compare these woods to see which one is right for your next woodworking project.

What Is Whitewood?

Whitewood is technically the type of lumber that comes from the tulip tree, also known as the American tulip tree or the yellow poplar. American tulip trees are generally found in Canada and the USA, as far north as Ontario, and all the way down to the Mississippi River.

This tree is known for being one of the tallest eastern hardwoods in the world, as they can grow to around 160’. This type of wood is generally used to make small items, such as knife handles, cabinetry, and other furniture, and due to its pliable nature, can also be bent into various shapes such as guitars.

This wood is relatively popular because it is very fast-growing and sustainable, as well as affordable. In terms of its appearance, whitewood features a relatively straight grain with a somewhat smooth texture, can contain some knots, and has a creamy-white color. Although whitewood is technically a type of hardwood, it is somewhat soft and flexible, and not very dense either. Whitewood is not very resistant to moisture, although it is pest resistant.

Learn more about whitewood

What Is Douglas Fir?

We then have the douglas fir, which is a type of coniferous evergreen tree that can be found in eastern Asia and western North America. These are very large trees, as they can grow to around 250’ tall, with trunks around 6’ wide.

There are both coastal and Rocky Mountain variations of douglas fir, and what is interesting to note is that they are both a part of the hemlock family. This tree is known for being quite hard and durable, which is why it is often used for structural applications.

It’s also highly resistant to moisture, which is why it is often used for marine-related purposes. Douglas fir is often used for structural beams, exterior siding, and flooring, due to its high strength and durability. Douglas fir has a light brown color with an orange-reddish hue. The grain of this wood is quite plain and straight.

Whitewood vs. Douglas Fir: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both whitewood and douglas fir trees are, let’s determine what makes them different from each other.


In terms of hardness, whitewood comes in at roughly 540 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas douglas fir comes in at roughly 620 lbf. This means that douglas fir is significantly harder than whitewood.


Whitewood weighs roughly 29 lbs per cubic foot. Douglas fir, on the other hand, weighs roughly 33 lbs per cubic foot, therefore making it heavier than whitewood. This density does make it a bit more durable, but also a bit harder to work with.


What is important to note is that whitewood is generally considered to be very flexible, whereas douglas fir is even more flexible. For this reason, both can be bent into shape quite easily.

Overall Strength

In terms of overall strength, especially in terms of physical impact resistance, as well as dent and scratch resistance, douglas fir is the more durable of the two.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

What needs to be said here is that whitewood, although it is somewhat pest-resistant, is not very moisture-resistant at all. It will begin to absorb moisture in a relatively short amount of time, it will warp and bend, and may start to decay as well. Douglas fir on the other hand is so moisture-resistant that it is often used for marine-related applications.

Appearance – Grain and Color

Both of these types of wood have a relatively straight grain, although douglas fir may sometimes have a bit of a wavy grain. Whitewood has a creamy-white color, whereas douglas fir is light brown combined with a reddish-orange hue.


Due to its hardness and weight, douglas fir is considered to be a bit harder to work with than whitewood. That said, the high amount of sap and resin contained in this wood can really gum up saw blades.


Whitewood can cost you anywhere between $3 and $7 per board foot, whereas douglas fir can cost you up to $14 per board foot.

When to Use Whitewood?

If you are planning on making indoor furniture, small items such as knife handles, cabinets, or anything that needs to be bent into shape such as a guitar or a skateboard ramp, and you need something that is relatively affordable and still looks decent, then whitewood is a good option to consider. Just keep in mind that it is not at all moisture-resistant, so it should not be used for outdoor applications.

When to Use Douglas Fir?

If you are planning on making any kind of furniture, whether for inside or out, or you need to make structural beams, fences, decks, railings, or anything in between, then douglas fir is a great option to consider. It’s extremely hard and durable, although you do have to be willing to pay for it, as it is not cheap. That said, if you are doing anything outdoors, especially if there is a lot of moisture involved, then the highly moisture-resistant douglas fir could be just the material you need.

Alternatives to Whitewood and Douglas Fir

Although douglas fir is somewhat hard, there are still much harder types of wood out there. If hardness and durability are your main concerns, then various types of words such as Brazilian walnut, ebony, oak, ash, and alder are all good options to keep in mind.


Now that you know what the main differences between whitewood and douglas fir are, you can make an informed decision for your next big woodworking project.