9 Main Disadvantages Of Poplar Wood

poplar wood disadvantages

Poplar wood is a popular wood that can be used in the making of cabinets, furniture, toys, carvings, and many woodworking projects. It is a quality wood with lots of benefits.

But on the other hand, there’re some drawbacks of popular wood which only highlight in some scenarios. So, let’s figure out, Poplar wood disadvantages

Here’s the list of Poplar wood disadvantages,

  • Dent and scratch easily
  • Need regular maintenance
  • Difficult to stain
  • Poor stability
  • Poor durability
  • Require more sanding
  • Irritant
  • Darken over time
  • Expensive than softwoods

From this article, we’ll explain deep down each of the above poplar wood disadvantages and all you need to know about poplar wood.

Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

First of all, let’s have a quick look at the Advantages of poplar wood.

Advantages Of Poplar Wood

  • Hardwood
  • High workability
  • Lightweight
  • Uniform texture
  • High availability
  • Inexpensive
  • High machinability
  • Poplar wood is strong

As you can see poplar wood is filled with lots of advantages that we can use in various woodworking projects.

This is why it has become so popular among woodworkers.

So, let’s find out the disadvantages of poplar wood and discuss them in detail.

Disadvantages Of Poplar Wood

1. Dent and Scratch Easily

This is the main disadvantage of poplar wood. Even though poplar wood is considered a hardwood, it is significantly softer than many other hardwoods.

Being so soft causes poplar wood to dent and scratch easily.

Janka hardness test is the standard method of testing the hardness of particular wood by considering its resistance to wear and tear.

For example, if a particular wood has high wear and tear resistance, it has a high Janka hardness rating.

When it comes to poplar wood, it has a Janka hardness rating of 540 lbf (2,402 N) which is significantly lower than most other hardwoods.

For example, yellow pine has a Janka hardness rating of 870 depsides of being a softwood.

So, as a hardwood, poplar wood is extremely soft. Because of having soft fibers, poplar wood scratch and dent easily.

Because of prone to dents and scratches, poplar wood needs to be well finished, sealed, or stained before use for any woodworking application.

When it comes to flooring, never use bare poplar wood since it cannot bear foot traffic, and dog scratches and you may end up having deep scratches on the floor.

Staining or finishing is a must for poplar wood.

Even though poplar is a paint-grade wood, it is so difficult to paint popular because it dents easily. This makes poplar bad for painting.

Poplar wood is not good for kitchen applications since it dents easily. It is too soft and cannot use in hard and harsh environments like the kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor environment.

Plus, you need to put extra focus on the finishing step. MDF is a better choice than poplar since it doesn’t dent easily.

Overall, poplar wood is too soft, and it dent, scratch and tear up easily. But with proper finishing, sealing, or staining, you can make it resistant to dents and scratches.

2. Need Regular Maintenance

Poplar wood needs regular maintenance and care to keep the food lasting long for many years.

Even though it belongs to the hardwood family, poplar is too soft, and it cannot tolerate extreme impacts without proper maintenance.

Poplar wood is too porous, soft hardwood. Water particles are able to penetrate inside of the wood through its porous structure and cause the wood to rot.

In order to prevent the wood from rotting and to keep it waterproof, you need to apply sealant or finisher often before the previous coat fades away.

Especially when it comes to outdoor applications, poplar cannot withstand harsh weather conditions, temperature variations, and high humidity without proper maintenance.

Clean poplar furniture and other woodwork frequently and make them dust and dirt-free and reapply to finish oil like tung oil, teak oil, or Danish oil to increase the lifetime of the wood.

Plus, poplar is susceptible to insect and bug attacks. Applying paint, polish, varnish or any other wood finisher helps to repel bugs and keep the wood protected.

With proper cleaning and maintenance, you can keep poplar wood furniture for even more than a decade.

3. Difficult To Stain

Poplar wood is too porous and soft. Therefore, it absorbs wood stains like a sponge.

This can be a waste of wood stain since poplar absorbs a lot of stain without letting stain sit on the surface to make a protective coating.

You’ll probably need to apply at least 5 coats of stain to make a top layer of stain, but it can make the surface looks blotchy since applying too many coats slow down the drying time.

To minimize this issue, you can apply a wood conditioner before staining poplar wood to slow down the stain absorption rate and to spread the stain evenly throughout the surface.

Wood conditioner controls the absorption rate of poplar wood fibers and lets stains sit on the surface making a protective shield to protect the wood against environmental elements like moisture, UV light, insect attacks, and much more.

Applying a primer or wood conditioner on poplar before staining or painting poplar, you can make a good stain finishing layer on poplar wood with only 2 – 3 coats of wood stain.

Applying stain on bare poplar wood is not recommended since it develops a blotchy and tacky surface with an unpleasant visual appeal.

You should always use proper staining methods to hard staining woods like poplar to make the finish as you want.

4. Poor Stability

Poplar wood has poor dimensional stability compared to other hardwoods. Poplar wood shrink, expand, warp, and twist with environmental changes which lose the stability of the furniture and lose their strength.

Even though all the woods expand and contract upon environmental humidity levels, poplar wood shows too many movements upon humidity and temperature changes.

Poplar tree grows so fast, and it has less dense, wide annual rings which reduce the wood stability.

Because of having unstable wood structure poplar wood has less tolerance against temperature and humidity changes. That’s the main reason for its poor stability.

Poplar expands and contracts due to humidity changes. When the environmental humidity is less, water will evaporate from the poplar wood and the wood will start to shrink.

In high environmental humidity, the wood starts to expand.

Poplar wood expands and contracts upon temperature variations. It expands because of thermal expansions of wood fibers.

Because of the irregular movements of the poplar wood, it may warp, twist and crack.

In order to prevent poplar wood from warping, you need to apply a proper finisher or sealant to stop wood from absorbing or releasing moisture into the air.

Plus, you need to make sure to use the correct finishing and sealing methods when drying poplar wood slices since it cracks upon humidity variations of the atmosphere.

Wood finish or sealants work as a barrier to prevent poplar from releasing or absorbing moisture under humidity variations of the environment.

Therefore, wood movements will be minimized and able to improve the stability of poplar wood.

5. Poor Durability

Because of being a soft hardwood, poplar wood is not durable as regular dense hardwoods.

It is prone to environmental impacts like moisture, insect attacks, temperature variations, and harsh weather conditions.

Poplar woodworks and furniture are more fragile than furniture made with other hardwoods.

They tear up easily and cannot use for hard work. Wood may crack, or split when cutting, nailing, drilling, and other woodworking activities.  

Poplar wood is prone to insect and fungi attacks. They can damage the poplar wood surface quite easily and cause wood to decay.

Plus, the growth of mold and mildew may occur in moist environments.

You can repel insects, fungi, and bugs by applying a proper sealer or stain on the poplar wood surface using the correct methods to improve the wood’s stability and keep it much longer.

Overall, poplar is a non-durable wood species that rot and decay easily and is prone to insect attacks. Proper finishing is the key factor to improve its durability.

6. Require More Sanding

Poplar is a soft hardwood that is unable to sand with coarse grit sandpapers since they may damage and scratch the wood.

Therefore, fine grit sandpapers are required to sand and smooth the poplar wood surface.

With fine-grit sandpapers, you need to sand for too long to get the smooth surface you wish.

Plus, poplar wood tends to fuzz up during the sanding process. You’ll notice the fuzzed-up poplar wood surface sooner or later after sanding is done.

Poplar is labor intensive, and you need to sand it for so long since it is so soft and has tiny marks, and can be easily visible.

Sand along the direction of the poplar wood grain to get a smooth surface quickly and to keep fuzzing up in a minimum amount.

7. Irritant

Even though poplar wood is a non-toxic wood, it can be an irritant and cause allergies in the eyes and skin.

The sawdust and small saw particles can go into the eye and cause issues.

Therefore, always make sure to use goggles and rubber latex gloves when working with poplar wood.

It is softwood that chip easily and releases lots of sawdust that can be bad for the skin.

Always chose well-ventilated are to minimize issues. Wood dust can be a huge problem for asthma patients.

Hiding eyes and skin is important and using proper dust collection pipes to remove sawdust quickly before them spreads all over the area.

8. Darken Over Time

Poplar wood gets darkened and yellow over age because of the sunlight and chemicals. Poplar is a lightwood that is able to absorb chemicals like mineral spirits from the ground which can cause wood to get darkened with age.

The green streaks of poplar wood get deep brown color with age. Direct sunlight darkens the poplar wood color.

Some people think getting darker colors on poplar is a benefit but if you have taken poplar considering its light color to match the theme, it is a nightmare to see how your poplar furniture and woodwork getting darker and darker over time.

You can minimize the darkening of poplar by staining the poplar back to its original color or placing poplar wood furniture away from direct sunlight and chemicals.

Green in poplar fades to the brown color within a few months.

But this can be slowed down by sealing the wood properly.

Color changing of poplar happens due to the oxidation with atmospheric oxygen.

This is a natural process that happens in most other woods as well. Staining is the best option to color the wood as you want without losing its beautiful grain texture.

9. Expensive than Softwoods

Even though poplar wood is considered a soft hardwood, it is more expensive than many other softwoods. It is only cheaper than hardwoods. For example, poplar is more expensive than Pine.

Poplar has become expensive not because of its features, but for its less availability.

Because of having so many alternatives like MDF which provide exactly the same features as Poplar wood with extra benefits, growing poplar has become less than early days.

This has caused the wood to cost more than most softwoods.

But if you are looking for hardwood for a cheap price, poplar is the best option you should go with.

Even though it is expensive compared to other softwoods, it is a lot cheaper than hardwoods.

That’s it, folks! Now you know the poplar wood disadvantages in-detail. As you can see most of the above disadvantages of poplar can be easily fixed with proper finishing and sealing of the wood.

So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions as well.

Does Poplar Wood Crack Easily?

Yes, poplar wood cracks easily especially when they dry. poplar is too soft, and it has poor density. Therefore, it tends to crack and split easily by exterior impacts.

You can prevent the cracking of poplar wood when drying by sealing the wood before drying.

Always make sure to keep the moisture amount in the wood to an appropriate level since moisture increases the flexibility of the wood fibers and lets them stretch under pressure without making cracks.

On the other hand, because of the ability to crack and split easily, poplar wood is easy to work with woodworking hand tools.

It has good workability and even a beginner in woodworking can handle poplar pretty easily.

Is Poplar a High-Quality Wood?

Yes, Poplar wood is a high-quality wood since it has high compressive strength, bending strength, high workability, environmental friendliness, and attractive texture with lots of other hardwood characteristics.

 Compared to most other hardwoods, poplar wood is cheaper and easy to work with. Therefore, poplar is excellent for carving.

With proper finishing and sealing, you can use poplar for any indoor and outdoor woodworking projects and with regular maintenance, they will last over decades.

Is Poplar Wood Rot Resistant?

Poplar wood has no rot resistance since it sucks up moisture like a sponge. Moisture penetrates inside of the poplar wood fibers and causes wood to rot.

You can prevent the wood from rotting by applying a protective sealer or stain before using poplar wood furniture and woodwork.

Once the wood gets started to rot there is no point in applying sealer to cover the outside area of the wood.

You should remove the rotted poplar wood and restore poplar wood using a quality product like FlexSeal.

But the restoration process is not an easy thing.

Therefore, better to seal your poplar wood furniture before moisture goes inside and damages the wood.

Does Poplar Wood Warp?

Yes, poplar wood warps due to irregular wood movements. When the wood is exposed to different humid levels, it gets to expand and contract because of the absorption and evaporation of the moisture.

When the moisture gets absorbed into poplar wood due to high environmental humid conditions, poplar wood gets expanded. Under low humid levels of the environment, poplar wood gets shrunk.

When the wood expansion and shrinkage happen unevenly all over the wood, it tends to get twisted and warped.

Wood warping loses the stability of the poplar wood and loses its strength.

Proper finishing is required to make the barrier between the poplar wood surface and the air and prevent moisture from going into and going out of the wood. Sealing and finishing the wood will prevent wood warping.

Is Poplar Wood Weather Resistant?

Poplar wood is not weather resistant since it cannot tolerate temperature variations, humidity changes, moisture, and climate changes. The wood will rot and decay quickly under harsh weather conditions.

With proper finishing and regular maintenance, you can make poplar weather-resistant and keep it for so long with ease.

But that takes a lot of time and money.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Poplar Wood Disadvantages

In this article, I’ve deeply discussed most of the common poplar wood disadvantages and how to fix them with simple methods.

The main disadvantages of poplar wood are being too soft, dents and scratches easily, hard to stain, poor stability, poor durability, darkening over time, and being irritant to eyes and skin.

Most of the disadvantages of poplar can be fixed by finishing and sealing the wood properly before use.

Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions as well.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about poplar wood disadvantages.

Use things you have learned about the other side of poplar wood to get the maximum out of the wood. Happy woodworking with Poplar!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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