Whitewood vs Pine: Which is Better?

Ever found yourself at a crossroads deciding between Whitewood and Pine for your project? Let’s delve deep to discover the best choice for you!

Whitewood vs Pine

Have you ever been confused about choosing a wood type for your project? Whitewood or pine? Are they both the same? And what are their differences?

I felt the same way at the beginning of my woodworking journey. 

In this article, I will share the knowledge I have gained as a well-experienced woodworker with you, focusing on the distinctions between whitewood and pine.

Here are the differences between Whitewood and Pine,

  1. Type: Whitewood is often a term for various light-colored woods (including spruce, pine, and fir) but true whitewood refers to the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), a hardwood; Pine is a softwood.
  2. Durability: Pine is generally more durable than whitewood.
  3. Cost: Whitewood is usually less expensive than pine.
  4. Color: Whitewood has a creamier hue, while pine tends to have a more yellowish or reddish tint.
  5. Knot Frequency: Whitewood often has more knots compared to pine.
  6. Density: Pine is slightly denser than whitewood.
  7. Outdoor Suitability: Pine is more suitable for outdoor projects compared to whitewood.
  8. Staining Response: Whitewood requires pre-treatment more often than pine to avoid a blotchy stain finish.
  9. Grain Pattern: Pine typically has a more pronounced grain pattern compared to whitewood.

But there’s a lot more to learn about each!

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    So, in this article, I’ll explore white wood and pine separately and then discuss key differences between them in detail.

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

    Let’s jump in!

    Differences between Whitewood and Pine
    Differences between Whitewood and Pine

    Did you confuse ”SYP Whitewood” with pine?

    In some regions, pine is considered as the whitewood, which comes as SYP Whitewood. The long-term name of SYP is Southern Yellow Pine. 

    You may have seen this pine type sold under the whitewood category. Because both are very similar in appearance, they can’t be differentiated unless you have a well-trained eye.

    Next, I’ll bring you the characteristic features, properties, different types, and uses of the above two wood types.

    What is Whitewood?

    The tulip tree, scientifically known as Liriodendron tulipifera is naturally grown throughout North America, Connecticut, Ontario, Northern Ohio, and southern New York and is popular for its fast-growing ability and absorption and storage of lots of carbon every year.

    Whitewood is considered a hardwood because it comes from an angiosperm tree.

    You may have met the name whitewoods used by some big home improvement stores and lumber yards which are from timbers obtained from spruce, pine, or fir. 

    According to them, these plants may change because of price and the availability of the wood species.

    Did you know fact about Whitewood
    Did you know fact about Whitewood

    But real whitewood is considered a specific species of tree, commonly known as the tulip tree, American tulip tree, tulip poplar, or fiddle tree.

    As the name implies the lumber obtained from these whitewoods has a beautiful creamy white color to light yellow color and the branches are a little brittle.

    So whitewood trees don’t grow near the buildings because they can easily fall off.

    Tulip trees are easily distinguished by their leaf shape and flowers, they have simple, pinnately veined leaves and spread evenly from the stem in a semi-circular pattern. 

    Whitewood trees are grown up to 160 feet or more within 10-15 years and give the finest quality lumbers.

    The woods have a soft texture and a straight grain. Because of its soft nature, it is easy to shape and therefore, easy to work with.

    Characteristics of Whitewood

    Due to the fast-growing ability of the tulip trees, it has a short harvesting time, making it a good choice for woodworkers.

    Whitewood produces long straight trunks which can give a lot of timber from a single tree.

    Due to its soft nature lumbers can shape the way you want, without much effort.

    Whitewoods are termite-resistant as well as fire-resistant, which is an important and beneficial feature for making durable furniture.

    The color of the lumbers is creamy white which can easily differentiate from other light color timbers.

    The main issue with whitewood is its capacity to absorb water and moisture quickly. Therefore it tends to rot quickly.

    Characteristics of Whitewood
    Characteristics of Whitewood

    Types of Whitewood

    Tulip trees are categorized into two depending on their origin.

    • American Tulip trees: These grow up to 90 to 120 feet and produce column-like trunks that may reach 4 to 6 feet in diameter and are commonly known as Canoe wood or white wood.
    • Chinese Tulip trees: Comparatively these are less tall than the American type, 50-70 feet, and with much bigger leaves. Almost all other characters are the same as in the American tulip tree.

    It’s time to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of whitewood when used in the woodworking industry.

    Benefits of Whitewoods

    Here are some of the key advantages I got by working with Whitewood for a long time.

    Durability and strength

    Even with minimal maintenance, they can last for several years. Whitewood is a durable material that can withstand a lot of wear.

    Aesthetically Good

    Due to the attractive white color, whitewood furniture stands for elegance and sophistication that will help you to impress your guests.

    Due to the light color and surface softness, it can be easily absorbed by paints, and can apply bright colors as you wish.

    Not only that, but whitewood’s natural grain will add a distinctive touch to your furniture.

    Affordable price

    Comparatively, whitewoods are less expensive than other wood types.

    Ease of Maintenance

    Just you have to wipe out all the dirt and dust using a cloth regularly.

    Can easily modify

    You can do staining, painting, and sanding to gain a fresh appearance to the furniture.

    Easy to use

    The softness of the whitewoods makes it easy to shape and due to the light weight, it is easier for you to use.


    Frequent Rot Attacks

    Since whitewoods absorb more water and moisture quickly, they can rot easily and they can end up bowed or warped. 

    Therefore needs to be sealed or painted to ensure longevity.

    Read to know how to keep wood from warping!

    Tip for working with Whitewood
    Tip for working with Whitewood

    Uses of Whitewood

    Since whitewood is a hardwood, they are can be used basically for any woodworking project.

    Here are some of the key uses of whitewood.

    Indoor Furniture

    Whitewoods are commonly used for indoor furniture such as kitchens, coffee tables, cabinets, and cupboards. 

    Whitewood’s termite resistance will prevent the chemical spraying on the surfaces and eventually make them long-lasting.

    Floor Finishing

    If you apply whitewood on the floor, due to its light color it will seem bigger and airier.

    This is beneficial if you have a small space. And also it will give a nice look to your floor.

    Apart from the above uses, you can use whitewood for the following applications as well,

    1. Paneling
    2. Molding
    Uses of Whitewood
    Uses of Whitewood

    Now, I will bring you to the next section, which is all about pine wood.

    What is Pine?

    The scientific name of pine is Pinus. These trees are evergreen, conifers that have needle-leaved trees and can be found throughout the world. 

    Pinewood originated primarily from the northern hemisphere and grew in both temperate and tropical regions.

    They are gymnosperms that belong to softwoods

    Did you know fact about Pine
    Did you know fact about Pine

    Characteristics of Pinewood

    Pine has tall and straight trunks with short and long branches at the bottom and top respectively.

    The rate of growth of pine trees is one to two feet per year. So it takes 20-30 years to grow.

    Pine produces brown-colored heartwood and creamy, yellow-colored sapwood. Because of the resin that exists within the grain, the heartwood is darker, often reddish. 

    The bark is a rough, reddish-brown.

    They have straight grain and medium texture but some may have knots and uneven texture.

    The knots are frequently black, striking out against the pale sapwood which makes these sharp contrasts; pine has been an excellent choice for rustic decor.

    Characteristics of Pine
    Characteristics of Pine

    Types of pine

    There are about 170 species of pine worldwide. The most common pine species in the US are,

    • Caribbean pine
    • Red pine
    • Scotch pine
    • Sugar pine
    • Southern yellow pine
    • Eastern white pine

    Benefits of Pine

    Pine wood is filled with lots of valuable characteristics. Here are the key ones that are important to us as regular users.

    Durable and Long-Lasting

    Although pine is softwood, it is hard lumber. Therefore, in a highly humid environment, it is less prone to shrinking or swelling.

    Furthermore, it is not prone to warping or cracking.

    Easy to Use

    Due to its lightweight, it is easier for you to work with. And it is highly workable.


    Pine has a unique grain pattern and a natural warm, rustic look which will give your wood furniture a great appearance.

    And also it can be painted to match any decor style.

    Drawbacks of Pine

    Insect and Fungal Damage

    If your fine wood is exposed to a highly humid environment, it may easily be damaged by insects like termites, mold, and mildew and eventually may rot.

    Less Tear and Wear Resistivity

    Due to the softness of the pine, they may be highly prone to scratches and other damages in high-traffic areas.

    High Maintenance

    Maintenance must be performed regularly. Sealing or protective coating may be required, as well as frequent refinishing.

    Tip for working with Pine
    Tip for working with Pine

    Uses of Pinewood

    • Flooring
    • Pine cabinets
    • Knotty Pine Paneling
    • Indoor furniture
    • Shelves
    • Ceiling beams
    • Sheathing
    • Interior trim
    • Strongboxes
    Uses of Pine
    Uses of Pine

    Differences Between Whitewood and Pine

    As I explained so far both whitewood and pine are very similar in appearance. But there are some key differences you can identify if carefully studied.

    You may ask what the main difference between whitewood and pine is. The answer would be the number of knots.

    So, I’ll explain further this and other main differences between these two types. Just keep reading.

    1. Number of knots

    Typically more dark knots can be seen in whitewoods than pine woods. If there are fewer knots on your wood it means you can easily cut and have fewer workarounds.

    So, you can choose pine wood rather than whitewood as the easier option since it has less number of knots.

    Tip for working with Whitewoods
    Tip for working with Whitewoods

    2. The color

    Both whitewood and pine have a creamy light color and straight grain appearance that makes it difficult to differentiate each other easily. 

    However, whitewood has a creamy paleness in the sapwood and straight grain while yellow pine has little dark color appearance.

    3. Hardwoods and Softwoods

    This is one of the main differences between the above wood types. As you know so far, whitewood is a hardwood while pine is a softwood.

    Hardwoods have broader leaves than softwoods and lose their leaves annually. Therefore, hardwoods grow more slowly than softwoods.

    Furthermore, whitewood as an angiosperm produces flowers and seeds within its fruits, and pine as a gymnosperm doesn’t have flowers and produces naked seeds on the leaves.

    4. Density

    Because both woods have a high density, people prefer to use them as building materials that will be used for many years.

    There is a very slight density difference between these two; pine is slightly more dense than whitewood.

    This makes pine the superior choice for anyone looking for a sturdy design.

    Tip for working with Pinewood
    Tip for working with Pinewood

    5. Durability

    Although whitewood and pine wood have 15 years or more of long-lasting ability, there is a slight difference that can affect durability.

    Since whitewood is softwood, it tends to absorb water, attack by mold and mildew, and eventually rot and warp quicker than pine wood.

    6. Hardness

    According to the Janka scale of measurement on hardness, more than 80% of pinewood species are harder than whitewood, which is rated as 540 Janka.

    Normally, for pine wood, it is 690 lbf on the Janka scale. Depending on the pine wood species this may vary.

    Janka’s hardness scale shows the amount of force required to embed a small metal ball halfway into a piece of wood. 

    A higher Janka grade indicates that the wood is denser and more resistant to denting and general wear and tear.

    Although whitewood is hardwood, pine is harder than whitewood. Remember that hardness isn’t always associated with the hardwoods.

    7. Application

    Many woodworkers use whitewood and pine are interchangeable.

    However, whitewoods are used more for small projects such as ornamental items, handles, cabinet accessories, doors, and so on.

    Due to the high density and lack of knots, pine woods are used for more load-bearing work like cabinets, tables, flooring, etc.

    Whitewood kitchen cabinet
    Whitewood kitchen cabinet

    8. Price

    Although whitewood and pine lumber are more affordable, pine is slightly more expensive than whitewood.

    This is due to it being one of the toughest softwoods and its extreme versatility.

    9. Finishing and Maintenance

    Although both types are relatively easy to finish and maintain.

    Since whitewoods are extremely smooth when applied to finish the paint doesn’t adhere adequately to the surfaces.

    As explained earlier whitewood tends to attract more moisture likewise it may absorb more paint resulting in a blotchy finish. 

    Therefore, before applying the whole surface, test a small area.

    On the other hand, finishing pine wood items is comparatively easy.

    If you want to gain a rustic, knotty appearance to your furniture or floor, apply wood stain because it will shine the natural wood grain to improve the wood’s nature.

    Plus, you can use shellac to stop knots bleeding through the paint on pine wood.

    10. Weight

    Pine woods are slightly heavier than whitewood.

    11. Sustainability

    Both wood types are sustainable enough. However, pine is considered more sustainable. 

    Because it is a softwood that grows more quickly than hardwoods and effectively captures carbon and stores it.

    This makes pine woods more environmentally friendly than whitewood.

    Congrats folks! Now you have a clear idea about whitewood vs pine in detail with their properties, benefits drawbacks, and key differences.

    Pine wood dining table
    Pine wood dining table

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


    Is Whitewood the same as Pine?

    No, whitewood and pine are not the same; though whitewood can sometimes refer generically to woods including pine, the true whitewood is a distinct species (Liriodendron tulipifera), different from pine, and is technically a hardwood, whereas pine is a softwood.

    Which wood is more durable, Whitewood or Pine?

    Pine tends to be more durable compared to whitewood, making it a preferable choice for home building and flooring projects. It is often more expensive than whitewood due to its durability.

    Can Whitewood be used for outdoor projects?

    While it is possible to use whitewood for outdoor projects, it is not the best choice due to its lower durability compared to other woods like cedar and redwood. If used outdoors, whitewood requires sealing to prevent rapid deterioration.

    How to distinguish between Whitewood and Pine?

    Though both have similar density and color, you can differentiate them based on subtle differences in hue, knot frequency, and density. Whitewood generally has a creamier hue and more knots compared to pine, which is slightly denser.

    What are the costs associated with Whitewood and Pine?

    Whitewood is generally less expensive than pine, costing between 50% and 80% of the pine’s price depending on the quality and grade. Pine’s greater density, fewer knots, and richer color account for its higher cost.

    How can you verify if you are purchasing Whitewood or Pine?

    You can identify the type of wood you are buying by checking the labels on the lumber which will have indications such as SPF (spruce, pine, or fir) or SYP (southern yellow pine), or by consulting with the lumber yard attendant.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about Whitewood vs Pine

    In this article, I’ve deeply discussed whitewood vs pine by taking each of the key differences of them and I’ve discussed them in detail from an experienced woodworker’s perspective.

    Whitewood, often a term for light-colored woods including spruce, pine, or fir, technically refers to the tulip tree, a hardwood with a creamy hue. Pine, a softwood, is denser with a distinct grain pattern, offering more durability compared to whitewood. The two are differentiated by durability, cost, and grain characteristics.

    Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions.

    Hope you learned everything you wanted to know about, whitewood vs pine with their key facts.

    Now it’s time to select the one that suits you the most between whitewood and pine and work with it to see how they behave in practical scenarios. Good luck with your work!

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    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, Facebook and Linkedin.

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