Whitewood vs. Spruce: Which One to Use?

Whitewood vs. Spruce: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning on building something around your home that is made out of solid lumber, then you have many different choices to consider. Two very popular choices of wood include whitewood and spruce. Now, these are two very different types of wood, so knowing what makes them different is important.

Let’s figure out what makes whitewood and spruce different, so you can determine which one is best for your next project.

What Is Whitewood?

Whitewood is a type of lumber that technically comes from the tulip tree, also known as the American tulip tree or yellow poplar. Whitewood trees are generally found in the eastern parts of North America, especially in the USA and Canada, and can be found as far north as northern Ontario, and as far south as the Mississippi River.

As far as eastern hardwood trees go, whitewoods are generally some of the bigger ones, as they can grow to 160’. This type of wood is generally used to make small items such as knife handles, cabinetry and furniture, and other basic indoor projects. It’s a popular type of wood to use because it’s very sustainable, fast-growing, and not overly expensive.

In terms of appearance, whitewood has a relatively straight grain and a fine to medium texture, a creamy-white color, and a decent amount of knots and gaps.

Although this wood is technically a hardwood, it’s not overly hard, and it is somewhat flexible too, as well as relatively lightweight. Because it is so flexible, it can be crafted into many different shapes. Keep in mind that this material is pest-resistant, although not very moisture-resistant.

Learn more about whitewood

What Is Spruce?

We then have the spruce tree, which is a coniferous evergreen tree, a type of softwood that can be found in most northern temperate and boreal climates, such as in the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. These trees are fairly large, as they can grow to around 200’ tall.

Although spruce is somewhat moisture-resistant over the short term, it doesn’t hold up as well over the long term, unless it is sealed. Although it won’t absorb moisture or decay in that sense, it can shrink and warp. On that note, spruce is also not very resistant to pests.

This wood is moderately hard and dense, so it is fairly resistant to various forms of physical damage. In terms of appearance, spruce features a reddish-brown heartwood that is relatively light in color, combined with yellowish-white sapwood. The grain of spruce is relatively straight and has a fine to medium texture.

Whitewood vs. Spruce: What Are the Differences?

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

1. Hardness

Whitewood comes in at roughly 540 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, while spruce has a hardness rating of roughly 490 lbf. This means that whitewood is just a little bit harder than spruce, yet also a bit more flexible too.

2. Density

In terms of weight and density, whitewood weighs roughly 29 lbs per cubic foot, whereas spruce, particularly Canadian spruce, weighs roughly 28 lbs per cubic foot. This means that not only is whitewood harder than spruce but also a bit heavier, which can make it harder to work with.

3. Overall Strength

Due to its hard but flexible nature, whitewood does tend to be a bit more durable than spruce. It can hold up to more physical damage and can flex under pressure, meaning it’s less likely to break.

4. Pest and Moisture Resistance

One huge difference here is that spruce is not very moisture-resistant or pest-resistant at all. In fact, it is not at all a good type of lumber to use for any kind of outdoor application. If you plan on using spruce outdoors, you do need to seal and protect it.

On the other hand, whitewood is fairly pest-resistant, although it’s also not moisture-resistant. In terms of a lack of moisture-resistance, it’s honestly hard to tell which of these two types of wood is worse. Both are really not ideal for outdoor use.

5. Workability

Because whitewood is harder and heavier than spruce, and because it has more knots in it, it is a bit harder to work with. With that being said, whitewood is a bit more flexible, so if you need pliable wood that you can bend, then it is the better option of the two.

6. Appearance – Color and Grain

Whitewood features a creamy-white color with a relatively straight grain and a good deal of knots and gaps. The grain of spruce is relatively similar, although the wood is more reddish-brown in color.

7. Cost

Both of these types of wood are going to cost anywhere between $3 and $7 per board foot, with spruce having the potential to be slightly more expensive.

When to Use Whitewood?

If you need something relatively hard and dense, whether it’s for indoor furniture, knife handles, and much more, and if you need something pliable to bend into shape, then whitewood is a good option to consider. It’s also very affordable and sustainable.

When to Use Spruce?

If you like the reddish-brown appearance of spruce, and you are looking to make some really beautiful indoor furniture, cabinets, or even door frames, then spruce is a good option to consider. Just keep in mind that you really shouldn’t use it for outdoor applications.

Alternatives to Whitewood and Spruce

If you are looking for wood that is resistant to the elements, ones such as teak, cedar, cypress, ipe, and mahogany are all good options to consider.


Now that you know what makes whitewood and spruce different from each other, you can make an informed choice between the two for your next project.