Douglas fir and pine are two of the most popular softwoods, especially among woodworkers. They are prominent members of the spruce-pine-fir family and regularly provide cheap lumber for the industry.
Unfortunately, the numerous similarities can make it difficult to pick between Douglas fir and pine. So we’ve designed this guide to help you compare douglas fir vs pine to make an informed choice as you prepare for your next project.
Douglas Fir vs Pine Wood; Which is Better for Woodworking Projects?
Douglas fir has a slight edge over pine lumber as it’s more versatile and easier to work with. Indeed, it’s also slightly pricier than pine. However, pine isn’t a pushover. On the contrary, it’s strong, durable, and highly weather resistant. The main downside is that pinewood is knotty and, therefore, difficult to work with.
Pine vs Douglas Fir: The Basics
Let’s begin with the basic characteristics of each wood type to set the stage for a proper comparison.
Douglas fir from the genus Pseudotsuga is a family of at least six evergreen tree species of the conifer family Pinaceae. These trees are native to North America and Eastern Asia. Evergreen trees are called so because they keep their leaves throughout the year.
The trees have long, flat, spirally-arranged needle-like leaves that grow straight from the branch, completely surrounding the branch, and hanging oblong cones with three-pointed bracts.
Remember that there are many other fir species, including hem fir, balsam fir, Himalayan fir, and Fraser fir.
Types douglas fir
Many people only consider coastal and interior Douglas fir classifications. However, another way to classify Douglas fir species is by origin. In this regard, the three main types of Douglas fir are;
- Big-cone Douglas fir
- Mexican Douglas fir
- Chinese Douglas fir
- Name: Douglas fir/Doug fir (Pseudotsuga)
- Description: Douglas firs are tall trees (up to 85 meters) with dark, reddish-brown, thickly grooved barks. They can grow to 1,500 years.
- Color: Yellowing to reddish-brown or light brown heartwood and light sapwood.
- Grain lines: Generally straight-grained, sometimes with wavy or curly lines.
- Physical properties: It’s a soft softwood, rated 660 on the Janka scale. It’s also moderately strong and of medium density (450kg/m3).
Uses of douglas fir
Common uses of the Doug fir include manufacturing or making sashes, doors and windows, general millwork, flooring, furniture, cabinets, and veneers. It can also be used as a construction lumber.
Pinewood, genus Pinus, is a coniferous wood species that grows naturally in many locations in the northern hemisphere. It’s very common in northern, eastern, and central Europe and North America.
Pine trees grow to around 260 feet (approximately 80 meters) and can live for 1,000 years. The back of the tree is usually quite thick and dense, though certain pine varieties have thinner, flakier barks.
Types of pinewood
There are close to two dozen species of pinewood found in America. The most common species include;
- Eastern white pine
- Southern yellow pine
- Sugar pine
- Ponderosa pine
- Red pine tree
- Name: Pinewood (Pinus)
- Description: Tall trees that grow to around 79 meters and up to 1,000 years
- Color: Pinewood is characterized by creamy white sapwood and brown heartwood, but you can also stain it to look like oak.
- Grain: Pinewood is straight-grained and ring-porous, showing its growth rings as dark bands throughout the wood
- Physical properties: It is strong but lightweight with a low density and typically has more knots than Douglas fir. (white or pale yellow heartwood/creamy white sapwood/more knots)
Uses of pine wood
Pinewood primarily has its application in making doors, windows, wall cladding, interior trim, partitions, decks, railings, and paneling. You can also use pine to make cutting boards.
Douglas Fir vs Pine: Head to Head Comparison
Let’s now compare Douglas Fir vs. Pine side-by-side. This comparison works for nearly all fir types. However, we focus mostly on the southern yellow pine.
Both Douglas fir and pine are native to North America. However, Douglas fir trees also grow naturally in eastern Asia, while Pine trees can be found in Europe and a few Asian countries.
The two wood species are softwoods. Also, both are evergreen conifers with needle-shaped leaves. They grow to about the same height (80 meters), and both can last 1,000+ years. 2.
Douglas fir generally features an orangish to a reddish hue, while pine has a white to golden color. The southern yellow pine, in particular, has a yellowish-orange to dark reddish or yellowish-brown heartwood.
The wood grain patterns also vary significantly. For example, Douglas fir has a more appealing smooth, tight grain pattern that rarely warps or twists.
The grain pattern is also even and has few knots. Contrastingly, southern yellow pine has loose grain lines that can shrink or swell if not handled properly.
Durability and weather resistance
Weather resistance is a major factor for outdoor woodworking projects. A weather-resistant wood makes a better choice for outdoor furniture because it can better withstand UV, rain, and moisture.
Fortunately, both wood types are highly durable and resistant to weather elements. Douglas fir is not affected by weather or moisture. It doesn’t dry in hot weather or warp in rainy weather.
Similarly, pine is highly weather-resistant, though slightly less than Douglas fir. So, you need to treat pine for outdoor use.
Most softwoods are highly workable, and the two species on this list aren’t exceptions. The timber machine easily and take stains well. It also paints exceptionally.
Douglas fir is very easy to work, with excellent machining qualities. It turns, planes, and shapes easily and takes sanding very well for a smooth wood finish. Similarly, pine is also one of the best wood to turn or carve.
The only downside is that pine often has many knots that may be difficult to hide.
Neither the Douglas fir nor southern yellow pine is very strong, which is understandable as they’re softwoods. However, they’re hard enough for most woodworking applications.
Douglas fir scores 660 points on the Janka scale, while the southern yellow pine is slightly harder at 870 Janka. Note that other pine varieties are even softer. For instance, the white pine scores 420 Janka while the eastern white pine is rated 380 Janka.
Pest and insect resistance
Unfortunately, Douglas fir and southern yellow pine are prone to pests and insects. So, you need to be extra cautious when making outdoor furniture.
Douglas fir is susceptible to destructive beetles that often eat the barks but can also attack exposed heartwood. Meanwhile, pine is even susceptible to pests like pinewood nematodes, which causes pine wilt disease (PWD).
Strength and density
Douglas fir has a compressive strength of 7,230 psi, which is about as much as the western hemlock. Meanwhile, the southern yellow pine has a compressive strength of 4,800 psi. This makes Douglas fir about one and a half times as strong as pine.
Regarding density, douglas fir is heavier. It weighs 0.53 kg/m3 whereas pine weighs 0.35 kg/m3. So, again, douglas fir is about one-and-a-half times heavier than pine wood.
The applications of Douglas fir and pine typically overlap. Both are used in construction, building, framed structures, wooden boatbuilding, and flooring. They are also commonly used in rafters, cabinets, decking, furniture, and construction.
Both Douglas fir and southern yellow pine are readily available softwoods, thus very affordable. However, douglas fir is slightly more expensive (per board foot) than yellow pine because it’s harder and more durable.
Related Post: Douglas Fir Vs Cedar
Which is better yellow pine or Douglas fir?
Generally, more woodworkers prefer the Douglas fir over yellow pine because it’s stronger and more durable. Fir is also much less prone to warping and twisting, making it better for outdoor applications. However, pine is almost as good and comes at a lower price.
Is Douglas fir wood the same as pine?
No, Douglas fir isn’t the same as pine wood. It’s often compared to pine because the two are coniferous softwoods with several similarities. However, the two wood types come from different genera. Douglas fir is from the Pseudotsuga genus, while pine is from the Pinus genus.
Is Douglas fir a strong wood?
Douglas fir is moderately hard and moderately strong. Though it’s harder than many softwoods, including the sugar pine (340 Janka), it’s only rated 660 Janka, making it softer than most hardwoods and several softwoods. However, it’s strong enough for many woodworking projects and construction projects.
What is the difference between douglas fir and pine?
The main difference between Douglas fir and pine is that fir has tight, close grain lines while pine has broad grain lines that wander, making it weaker. Of course, the colors also differ. Douglas fir generally features an orangish to a reddish hue, while pine has a white to golden color.
What is Southern yellow pine strength?
The southern yellow pine is rated 12,800 psi when dry, with a stiffness of 1.8 million psi. The high strength and stiffness mean that yellow pine performs excellently in furniture and construction applications. However, you may need to predrill fasteners.
Is southern yellow pine good for outdoor furniture?
Yes, the southern yellow pine is one of the best wood types for outdoor furniture. Indeed, yellow treated pine is one of the most commonly used woods for outdoor furniture because it withstands weather conditions exceptionally. However, remember that yellow pine doesn’t hold up to outdoor weather without treatment.
Douglas fir and pine are similar in many ways. For instance, both are softwoods belonging to the class of evergreen conifers. However, the two wood types are also different in many ways.
- When to Use Douglas Fir: We recommend Douglas fir for standard outdoor furniture applications and construction projects as it withstands weather elements very well.
- When to Use Pine lumber: Pine lumber makes a better choice for indoor furniture and cabinetry projects as it’s durable and very affordable.