When it comes to building something out of wood, the type of material will dramatically alter your result. However, there are so many types of materials that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choices. Oak is immortal, but there’s cherry, spruce, and tons of other woods too. Pine, in particular, is a popular choice for everything from home construction to furniture, but is it a good building material?
Pine is a good building material for a wide variety of items, from home furniture to entire houses. Despite being considered a softwood, pine is stiff, durable, and shock-resistant. This means it can compete with hardwood like oak for a large niche in the wood market.
This article will go more in-depth about pine as a building material, as well as other alternatives for different types of building projects.
Visual Aesthetic of Pine
Pinewood is very popular due to its natural light color. Depending on the tree’s exact species, pine can range from pure white to yellow or even light brown. Pine is well known for knots, so if one is buying pine furniture, it’s best to make sure no knots are deforming the item. On the other hand, knots may be desirable to specific craftsmen or for particular styles.
Due to its mild color, pine can be stained virtually any color for a wide variety of styles in household furniture. Because pine isn’t water-resistant, it’s recommended to seal the wood before staining or painting. Many people opt for merely clear coating the pinewood. This results in a rustic, country-style look that is nearly synonymous with the word ‘pine.’
On the negative side, pine’s color tends to fade in direct sunlight, especially without chemical treatment.
Uses of Pine
Pine is one of the most popular woods in the world, and for good reason: the fast-growing softwood can be used for making paper products in addition to other uses. Its abundance makes pine ubiquitous when considering woods as fuel. Furniture made of pine is marketed as a cheaper alternative to heavier woods such as oak or spruce.
A few common examples are:
- Door frames
- Window frames
Pros and Cons of Using Pine
When considering pine as a project material, there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider.
- Strong enough for residential home construction
- Pine is a softwood, making it easier to work with vs. other wood
- Durable and shock-resistant for residential construction
- Easily colored
- Resists shrinking and swelling
- Pine is a more renewable and eco-friendly option than many alternatives
- Can be scratched or dented easier than hardwood
- Light weight makes damage more likely
- Doesn’t typically last as long as hardwood
Pine Is Eco-Friendly
In recent years, environmentally friendly options for nearly every industry have become prevalent as consumer demand grows. Deforestation, in particular, is a growing problem for many areas of the world. How can one meet the ever-shifting push for sustainable products? Try pine.
Because pine is a softwood tree, it grows much faster than hardwood alternatives and can keep up with demand while not endangering sensitive wildlife ecosystems. There are many sustainable pine plantations throughout the northern hemisphere, including North America and Europe. Asia also uses pine widely as a building material. Australia, too, has even begun growing pine plantations for commercial use.
When you choose pine as a material, you’re lessening the strain on old-growth forests composed mainly of hardwood like oak. While pine may not be as durable as oak, it’s a significant tradeoff if you’re conscious about the environment.
Pine Is Cheap
Due to a myriad of factors, pine is a much cheaper wood than many others.
Pine is locally produced in many countries worldwide, which means that transport is usually only over short distances. This, in combination with its lightweight, makes shipping costs relatively low.
A far more crucial factor than those is that pine grows very fast. If trees didn’t grow fast enough to keep up with demand, it wouldn’t matter if pine grows everywhere and is light.
Is Pine for Inside or Outside Use?
Pine is often used in furniture making, and that’s because pine has no decay-resisting or insect-resisting properties once it’s processed as lumber. Therefore, untreated pine rots quickly and attracts insects when it gets wet.
Pine is perfectly capable of being used outdoors if properly treated with the right chemical treatments. It isn’t widespread, but pine can even be used to build homes, mainly cabins.
Other Uses of Pine
Many people traditionally use pine cones and boughs as holiday ornaments, and pine trees are often grown and marketed as Christmas trees for indoor use. Pine needles have been used in some Asian countries to make a tea high in vitamins A and C, and the inner bark of pine trees is edible. Pine resin, too, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Alternatives to Pine Wood
Depending on your specific needs, there are many other materials you can use in place of pine. Pine may be easier to find than other types of wood but does not fit the criteria for your project. Always be sure to thoroughly research specific types of timber choices before embarking on a project.
- Spruce is a popular choice, being roughly the same weight and price as pine. Just like pine, spruce looks great if clear coated. However, spruce may not be universally available like pine is.
- Cedar is another softwood that is easy to work, just like pine. Cedar is better to use than pine for outdoor projects because it is naturally water-resistant and resists decay.
- Cherry is a great hardwood option and a very popular choice for furniture. Cherry stains and finishes well with only oil necessary. Cherry forests are prevalent and very sustainable options for the environmentally-conscious buyer. Cherry may be harder to find than other woods, so keep in mind it may have a higher price point.
- Mahogany is another great alternative for furniture that also only needs a coat of oil to stay beautiful. The drawback is that mahogany isn’t grown in sustainable forests, so it may be hard to find.
- Oak is considered to be a gold standard when it comes to furniture and home construction alike. Oak generally isn’t a sustainable tree, so that may impact your decision to use it or not. Oak is a very strong type of wood that can last decades – indeed, many pieces of oak furniture become family heirlooms. If longevity is what you’re after, consider oak for your project.
A Note About Hardwood
Hardwood trees grow more slowly than their softwood counterparts, which means that it is easy to cut down more trees than can be regrown. This endangers some hardwood tree species.
Why Use Pine Over Other Wood?
By now, you have a basic idea of the virtues and drawbacks of pine as well as other types of wood, but what makes pine such a great option?
If these work for your project, pine is the wood for you:
- You want something easy to work with
- You want cheap wood
- You plan on moving the furniture frequently and need something lightweight
- You’re planning on painting or clear coating your project
- You don’t need something that will last decades like oak
Pine is an excellent wood that can last a long time if your piece is constructed properly. It does need to be treated if used outdoors, but it is as weather-resistant as any other wood. Pine is a beautiful wood to work with whether you’re painting it or just clear-coating it. Unless you have very specific needs, pine will most likely serve you well.
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