Whitewood vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

Whitewood vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

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If you are looking to build something around the house, solid wood is always a great material to consider. With that being said, there are dozens of different types of solid wood that you can use for construction.

Two very popular types include whitewood and pine, which is what we are here to compare today. Let’s take a closer look at both materials to see exactly what they are, what makes them different from each other, and which one is best for your next big project.

What Is Whitewood?

First, we have whitewood, which technically refers to the lumber that comes from the tulip tree, or the American tulip tree. This may at times also be referred to as yellow poplar.

Whitewood trees can be found all along the eastern half of North America, especially in Canada and the USA. It can be found all the way up from northern Ontario in Canada, to as far down South as the Mississippi River.

This is known for being one of the tallest hardwood trees that grows in the eastern half of North America, as they can reach heights of up to 160’ or higher. This is a very popular type of lumber to use for cabinetry, small items, knife handles, furniture, and other basic uses.

One of the reasons why whitewood is so popular is because it is a very fast-growing tree. Because of this, it’s also very sustainable, and not too expensive.

This material is a type of hardwood, although it’s definitely not one of the hardest ones out there, nor is it one of the densest. It is relatively strong, yet also lightweight, which makes it a very popular option, which is also true due to its flexibility. Whitewood is easily bent into a variety of shapes.

With that said, do keep in mind that, although whitewood has decent pest resistance, it’s not very moisture-resistant, so it’s not ideal for outdoor use. As for the appearance, whitewood has a creamy white color, hence its name, along with a relatively straight grain, and a somewhat smooth texture, and it can have a good deal of gaps, voids, and knots.

Learn more about whitewood

What Is Pine?

We then have the pine tree, which is a softwood evergreen tree, meaning the tree does not lose its needles during the winter. These trees can be commonly found all throughout the whole world, primarily in the cooler parts of North America, as well as in Europe, Russia, China, and Southeast Asia. There are some pine trees out there that can grow up to 250’ in height, with diameters of up to 4’.

There are a few different types of pine trees that we here in North America might be familiar with, which include the ponderosa pine, the southern yellow pine, and the eastern white pine. Eastern white pine is perhaps the most commonly used one for construction in North America, so that’s what we will mainly be focusing on here today.

This is an extremely soft type of wood, as it features a Janka hardness rating of just 380 lbf. However, although pine is very soft, it’s also fairly stiff, so it doesn’t easily bend.

This wood is decently durable, yet it is also lightweight and low-density, which does make it a popular option for indoor furniture.

With that said, untreated pine is not overly moisture or pest-resistant, so it does need to be treated and sealed first if you plan on using it for outdoor purposes. If treated, it should last for a long time.

As for the appearance, pine wood features a creamy yellow color, with a slightly darker brown heartwood. It features a straight grain with an uneven or coarse texture. Pine generally has quite a few knots, as well as many sap channels.

Whitewood vs. Pine: What Are the Differences?

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

1. Hardness

One of the major differences here is that whitewood is slightly harder than pine. Pine features a Janka hardness rating of roughly 390 lbf, whereas whitewood comes in at roughly 540 lbf.

This does mean that pine is significantly softer than whitewood, which also means that it has less impact, dent, and scratch resistance. As far as things like furniture go, if you need something that will resist physical damage, such as scratching, then whitewood is generally the better option of the two.

2. Weight and Density

Another difference to consider here is that whitewood is also slightly heavier and denser than pine. Pine features a density of about 22 lbs per cubic foot. On the other hand, whitewood features a density of roughly 29 lbs per cubic foot.

This does mean that whitewood is slightly more durable in this sense, as it is denser, although it is also significantly heavier, which means that it is also harder to work with.

3. Flexibility

The next difference to consider here is that whitewood tends to be somewhat flexible, which does make it a popular option for a variety of purposes, as it can be bent into shapes relatively easily.

Pine on the other hand is not very flexible, which can make it difficult to work with in this sense. Although pine is a softwood and whitewood is a hardwood, pine is still the stiffer and less flexible of the two.

4. Strength and Overall Durability

When it comes down to it, if you are looking for something with great impact and scratch resistance, as well as great compressive strength, then whitewood is the better option of the two to consider. With that being said, pine does tend to be more flexible, so if you need something that can flex a little bit without snapping, this is the better option of the two.

5. Moisture and Pest Resistance

Something else to consider here is that both whitewood and pine are not the best options to use for outdoor purposes. Now, whitewood is slightly less moisture-resistant than pine. When it comes down to it, pine is probably the better option for outdoor use.

That said, both types of wood are not very moisture resistant, and both will end up absorbing moisture over time, which will end in warping, bending, rotting, and decay. However, if it is sealed, then pine does generally make for the better outdoor option.

On the other hand, if you are looking for something that is more pest-resistant, then whitewood is the better option. This wood is fairly pest-resistant, but pine is not.

There are many different insects that will happily feed on pine, including termites. In fact, pine is one of the least pest-resistant types of wood out there.

6. Appearance – Color and Grain

What is interesting to note is that pine and whitewood do look very similar. Both pine and whitewood have relatively straight grains with medium coarseness. In fact, it can be very difficult to tell whitewood and pine apart based on their appearance alone, especially if we are talking about grain and color.

As for the color, both types of wood have relatively light sapwood with medium or dark brown heartwood. If you put them side by side, telling them apart can be very difficult. One of the only distinguishing features in terms of appearance here is going to be the knots. Whitewood is always going to have a lot of knots, more than pine.

7. Workability

Most people would say that whitewood is significantly harder to work with than pine. The reason for this is that whitewood is heavier, denser, and harder, plus it also has many more knots.

This means that maneuvering it, cutting it, and painting it, are all more difficult than with pine. Whitewood is hard to paint and stain, an issue that pine does not suffer from. That said, if you need wood that is easy to work with in terms of bending and flexibility, then whitewood is probably the better option of the two, as pine is relatively stiff.

8. Cost

What is interesting to note is that in terms of the cost, both of these types of lumber are going to be fairly similar. For pine, you can expect to spend anywhere between $2 and $5 per board foot, with whitewood coming in at between $3 and $7 per board foot. This is one of the benefits that both of these types of lumber have, that they are fairly affordable.

9. Sustainability

Another important note here is that both of these types of lumber are fairly sustainable, as they both grow relatively quickly and are generally ready for harvest within about 20 years.

Moreover, these types of trees can be readily found all throughout North America. With that said, pine is slightly more sustainable as it grows just a little bit faster, plus it also helps to capture much more carbon than whitewood does.

When to Use Whitewood?

If you are looking for some hardwood that is relatively affordable, looks good, and is relatively hard and dense, then whitewood always makes for a good option. You can use whitewood to make a variety of furniture and small woodworking pieces.

With that being said, This wood is certainly not the best option to use as far as outdoor purposes are concerned. Whitewood is also fairly flexible, so if you need something that can be bent into shape relatively easily, then it is a good option to consider.

When to Use Pine Wood?

If you need a very affordable type of lumber that looks good, is somewhat dense and hard, yet also lightweight enough to be easy to work with, as well as something that is very easy to paint and stain, then pine is always a good option.

If you seal and treat pine properly, it is something that can be used for outdoor purposes, such as for doors, decks, windows, railings, fencing, and more. However, it is also better used for indoor purposes, as it is not very moisture-resistant.

If you need to make plywood, veneers, wood flooring, and more, pine is a good option. Just remember that pine is not very hard, which means it will dent and scratch relatively easily.

Alternatives to Whitewood and Pine Wood

As you can probably tell, the biggest issue with both whitewood and pine is that they are not very moisture-resistant, so they’re both not ideal for outdoor purposes. However, there are other types of lumber out there that are ideal for outdoor use, with cedar being one of the top ones.

If you are willing to spend the money on them, and you need something that is ideal for outdoor use, is very hard, and is super durable, then types of lumber such as teak, ipe, and mahogany all make for fantastic options too.


As you can see, pine and whitewood are significantly different from each other. You do want to keep all of the main differences when choosing between the two. All of that said, if you need relatively affordable lumber that is ideal for indoor purposes, both whitewood and pine are ideal.