Whitewood vs. Redwood: Which One to Use?

Whitewood vs. Redwood: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning to build something around your home, then it is important that you choose the right type of lumber. Two very popular types of wood out there at this time are whitewood and redwood.

With that being said, both are quite different from each other, so choosing the right one is crucial. Let’s figure out what the differences between these types of wood are, so you can make an informed choice between the two.

What Is Whitewood?

First, we have white wood, which actually refers to the wood that comes from the tulip tree. This is otherwise known as the yellow poplar or the American tulip tree. Whitewood trees are generally found in the eastern half of North America, particularly in the USA and Canada. They can be found in the northern parts of Ontario, all the way down to the Mississippi River.

These trees are known for being some of the tallest eastern hardwood trees, as they can grow up to 160’. Whitewood is quite sustainable, fast-growing, and not overly expensive. This type of wood has a creamy white color with a straight grain, although it can contain some gaps and knots.

Whitewood is technically a type of hardwood, although not overly hard or dense, yet also fairly flexible. This is one of the reasons why it’s so popular, as it’s very easy to work with and can be crafted into virtually any shape. Although it’s not overly moisture-resistant, this wood is quite pest resistant. It’s a popular type of wood to use to make indoor furniture, small items, cabinets, and other related things.

Learn more about whitewood

What Is Redwood?

We then have redwood, otherwise known as giant sequoia trees, which happen to be the largest trees in the world, reaching heights of up to 250’, with trunks up to 30’ thick. This tree is native to California, Washington, Oregon, and other areas close by in The United States.

This is a coniferous tree that loses its needles in the cooler seasons, and it is a softwood tree. Redwood is not overly hard, so it is not very dent or scratch resistant but is durable due to it being resistant to moisture, pests, and fungus. Redwood is also quite lightweight, which makes it a popular choice to work with.

As for its appearance, redwood has pale to dark reddish-brown heartwood, with a creamy sapwood. Redwood features a relatively fine texture with a straight grain, although it can sometimes contain some knots and imperfections. Due to its moisture resistance, it’s a popular choice for outdoor constructions, as well as for doors and cabinets.

Whitewood vs. Redwood: What Are the Differences?

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

1. Hardness

One difference here is that whitewood is significantly harder than redwood. Whitewood comes in at roughly 540 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas redwood comes in at just 420 lbf. This means that whitewood is significantly more resistant to physical damage such as scratching and denting.

2. Density

What is interesting to note is that whitewood is also much denser and heavier than redwood, as it comes in at roughly 29 lbs per cubic foot, whereas redwood comes in at 28 lbs per cubic foot. For this reason, redwood can be a bit easier to work with. That said, whitewood is still a bit more flexible and pliable, which is beneficial for various reasons.

3. Overall Strength

Whitewood is generally considered the much more durable of these two types of wood, especially in terms of physical strength. It is harder than redwood, and also more flexible, both of which lead to it being more durable and resistant to various types of physical damage.

4. Pest and Moisture Resistance

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between these two types of wood is that whitewood is not very moisture resistant. This type of wood, if exposed to high levels of moisture for prolonged periods of time, will absorb it, start to rot, and will also warp and bow.

That said, although it’s not overly moisture resistant, this material is relatively pest resistant.  However, due to its low moisture resistance, whitewood is not ideal for outdoor use. On the other hand, redwood is extremely resistant to moisture, pests, and fungus, therefore making it extremely ideal for outdoor applications.

5. Appearance – Grain and Color

Both of these types of wood have a relatively straight and uniform grain, combined with a somewhat smooth appearance. However, where they differ in terms of appearance is the color, as redwood features a reddish-brown color, whereas whitewood is more of a creamy white. Most people would agree that redwood is by far the better-looking of the two.

6. Workability

Something that does need to be noted here is that because whitewood is heavier and harder than redwood, and also contains more knots and gaps, it can be a bit harder to work with, especially as far as cutting and sawing are concerned. That said, whitewood is more flexible and pliable, so it’s easier to bend to shape than redwood is.

7. Cost

Whitewood is going to cost you anywhere between $3 and $7 per board foot, whereas redwood can cost over $10 per board foot.

When to Use Whitewood?

If you are planning on making some indoor furniture, desks, cabinets, chairs, or anything in between, particularly if it is for indoor use, then whitewood is a good option to go with. Whitewood is also sustainable and affordable and can be used to make irregular shapes that have to be bent into place, as it is quite pliable. That said, we definitely would not recommend whitewood for outdoor use, as it’s not very moisture resistant.

When to Use Redwood?

If you are planning on making some really beautiful furniture, and you don’t mind paying a bit extra for it, then redwood Is a good option to consider. Moreover, because of its high moisture and pest resistance, it’s also a great option for outdoor purposes. Most people who want a beautiful-looking type of lumber will go with something like redwood.

Alternatives to Whitewood and Redwood

Seeing as both of these types of wood are not very hard, you might be looking for something a bit more durable and dense, in which case things like ebony, oak, ash, and walnut are all great options to consider.


Now that you know what the main differences between whitewood and redwood are, you can make an informed decision between the two and choose the right one for your next big woodworking project.