Poplar and pine woods have been with us for centuries like many tree and flowering plants around us. Their significance traverses different applications and industries. The Pinus and Populus, as they’re scientifically called, are names of several species of pine trees and tulip trees. So, What differences do they have?
Here’s a quick answer to the question you’re looking for:
Is poplar better than pine?
Poplar is a hardwood while Pine is a softwood, Poplar is stronger than Pine in hardness, rigidity, compressive strength, bending resistance. Poplar wood boasts a Janka hardness level of 540 lbf, Pine has a hardness value range between 380-420lbf. Therefore, Poplar is more widely used in furniture, maneuverable, and expensive.
In this piece, you’ll learn details about the differences between Poplar and pine wood under the following headings:
- Definitions and properties of poplar and pine woods
- Applications of poplar and pine woods
- FAQs on Poplar and Pine
Let’s get right to it!
Here are a few things to know about the popular poplar wood:
1. What is Poplar Wood?
Poplar wood is a species of solid wood derived from a tulip tree. It is used mostly for making wooden toys, plywood, cabinets, and furniture. As many mostly think, Poplar is not derived from a poplar tree.
2. Hardwood or Softwood
Poplar is mostly considered hardwood but it is very easy to work with. It’s pretty soft on machine tools and poses no blunting effect on your tools. Technically, Poplar is a hardwood by name but softwood when used as pine boards.
3. Pros & Cons
- Highly workable
- Perfect for making a wide variety of commercial and domestic pieces, including furniture, cabinets, and more
- Close-grain patter makes it warp-resistant
- It requires a bit of sanding
- It can tear up easily when used for furniture
- It needs to be finished
- Wooden Toys
- Beds and bed frame
- Decorative pieces
These are important details about pine wood
1. What is Pine Wood?
Pine is a wood derived from shrubs or conifers. It belongs to the Pinus family of the genus Pinus and is mainly used for woodworking and furniture work, such as it is an excellent choice for window frames and panels.
2. Hardwood or Softwood
Pinewood belongs to the softwood family. However, it is stiff, strong, and durable softwood that features relatively high compressive strength (4800psi), density (0.35), and bending strength (8600psi). Its Janka hardness rating range is between 380 lbf and 420 lbf. This value is equals and exceeds what some hardwoods feature.
3. Pros & Cons
- Highly budget-friendly
- Stiff, lightweight softwood
- Aesthetic wood grain for an attractive appearance
- Strong and durable
- Weaker than hardwoods
- Not resistant to scratch and dent
- Susceptible to splitting and warping
- Window and window frames
Chart Comparison: Poplar vs. Pine
|Hardness||540 lbf||380-420 lbf|
|Compressive strength||5540 psi||4480 psi|
|Bending strength||10100 psi||14500 psi|
|Size||50-165 feet||147-206 feet|
|Color||White or creamy yellow||White or pale yellow|
|Workability||Highly workable||Not easy to work with|
|Staining||Hides stain||Can be stained|
|Environmental-friendly||Eco-friendly: reduces soil erosion||Highly sustainable|
|Application||Crafts, trim, papers, shelves, frames, etc.||Window, furniture, Trim, woodworking, park bench, etc.|
Hardness & Stiffness
1. Hardwood or Softwood?
Poplar is a hardwood with a lot of soft properties in it. Despite being strong and hard, Poplar works easily like many softwoods like pine wood. On the other hand, Pine is mostly classified as softwood, but it can also handle a lot of work hardwoods are being used for. Technically, both Poplar and Pine can belong to hardwood and softwood families given their softness and stiffness level respectively.
Poplar wood boasts a Janka hardness level of 540 lbf, making it exceptionally suitable for making furniture. Let’s put it this way: Poplar is softwood when wet but hardwood when dry. On the other hand, Pine has a hardness value range between 380-420lbf, despite being a softwood. This makes it perfect for making a lot of pieces that require hardwood. It is fair to say that Pine is hard when wet but soft when dry.
Poplar wood is an amazingly stiff wood, thanks to its great stiffness value of 1.58Mpsi. Pine also shows great stiffness whether in its yellow or white hue. Its stiffness value stands as white and yellow Pine are 1.24 Mpsi and 1.98 Mpsi respectively.
Strength & Stable
In terms of stability, Poplar wood is more stable than pine wood. When you compare the strength levels, you’ll conclude that the stability of wood depends on its compressive strength.
1. Compressive strength
The compressive strength of poplar wood is 5540 psi. This is not low but when compared to Pine, its yellow pine wood of 8470 psi, poplar wood has a lower strength. However, white pine wood has a lower compressive strength of 4800 psi.
2. Bending Strength & Warping
Poplar is a strong wood with a high bending strength of 10100 psi that won’t warp so much. On the other hand, Pine has a higher bending strength of 14500 psi that can make it crack, warp, and bend under harsh conditions.
Poplar wood stands between the highest and lowest susceptibility to shrinkage. You can prevent your poplar wood from shrinking by conditioning it to the moisture level it might face over time. Pinewood has lower susceptibility to shrinkage, regardless of the direction of the shrinkage.
Density & Weight
Poplar has a relatively lower density of 0.42 compared to yellow Pine of 0.59 but higher than white pine wood of 0.35. Poplar wood is weightier than the white Pine and less weighty than the Pine’s white counterpart.
Generally, untreated poplar wood used for outdoor pieces is less durable than treated Pinewood. However, poplar wood boasts more durability than Pinewood when it comes to interior and exterior furniture. It also shows more strength on these pieces than pine wood.
While Pine easily accepts stain and paint, Poplar doesn’t take in this abuse easily. What it means is that you won’t have to bother yourself putting any finish on your Pinewood. Yellow Pine has almost the same amount of durability as Poplar. However, yellow Pine is denser and has more strength between yellow and white Pine.
In terms of size, tulip trees –the trees that produce poplar wood -are typically taller than pine trees. They have between 20 and 50 meters while pine trees have a size range of 15 to 50 meters.
Regular poplar wood comes in a white to light cream color. It can also be pale yellow to yellowish-brown, or brown to gray. The colors with the streaks run through the wood’s grain. In terms of yellow Poplar, it contains an interior color of light cream to yellowish-brown. The exterior (sapwood) section is white to yellow. Poplar also contains a straight grain with a medium uniform texture.
As for regular pine wood, it comes in pure white to reddish-brown. However, Eastern white pine wood contains light brown heartwood and pale yellow to nearly white sapwood. Meanwhile, as the wood ages, the color tends to change t dark. Its modules are straight with a medium texture.
Both poplar and pine woods are easy to work with. Poplar woods are pretty workable whether you use your machine tools or hands. They accept nails and screws without bending them. Because the wood is softer than most hardwood (due to moderate Janka hardness rating), it accepts manipulation with a router, saw well, and lather.
Pinewood is durable, lightweight and has high workability. The dimensional stability of the wood is excellent. This makes the wood a perfect pick for furniture makers. because the wood is also workable, it supports saw bell, lather, and router manipulation.
When it comes to staining, Pinewood accepts staining and painting pretty easily. You won’t need to bother about how stains and paint look on your Pinewood because good finishes will shine and provide great aesthetics on your pine-wooded furniture. Pinewood is a better consistent stain absorber.
Poplar wood, however, shows inconsistent absorption for stains. This means that your project could look mottled. You’ll get the best look for your poplar-wooded pieces with oil-based stains. Oil-based stains usually highlight the figure of your poplar wood.
Naturally, untreated poplar wood has very poor resistance to water and moisture. Because poplar wood may not always stay dry or moisture-free, it’s not always the right guy for outdoor pieces. However, if properly treated, poplar wood will be significantly water-resistant.
Pine is not water-resistant. It is susceptible to humidity and becomes distorted from drying. If the pine is used for outdoor applications, it must be painted, and the paint must be well maintained. This is especially important for any exposed end textures.
Even if you paint it, moisture can get into the wood if the paint breaks somewhere. This will cause the wood to swell and break the paint, allowing more moisture to penetrate the wood. Freezing is even worse.
Because both pinewood and poplar woods are solid real woods, they are generally environmentally friendly. Solid woods are typically popular because they contain no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and formaldehyde. Their little or no emission of these chemicals endears them to many users and woodworkers. They are also very sustainable because they are both easy to work with.
Poplar, though hard, is as soft as many softwoods. This makes it a lot more eco-friendlier. Pine is naturally softwood and this confers environmental sustainability on it. The woods are classified as environmentally certified woods.
Generally, Pine is often considered the cheapest wood to use in furniture, and it’s even cheaper than poplar. The more demanding the project, the harder and more expensive the wood you will need.
Both Poplar and Pine can be used to make a wide range of pieces. This is due to the relatively low density and bending strength, compressive strength, and a blend of softness and hardness. Poplar can be used to make furniture, trim, park bench, shelves, and frames. They are great for bookshelves, beds, and other woodworking pieces.
On the other hand, Pinewood is suitable for stairs, bed frames, because it’s easy to finish, work with, and sand. The wood is also versatile, sturdy, and affordable. Pinewood is easy to paint and features great moisture resistance when used on many pieces. The wood’s low density makes it an ideal pick for those who love to make furniture.
Normally, poplar and pine woods aren’t the perfect choices for outdoor use. Poplar wood may not always stay dry or moisture-free; Pine has low resistance to the elements. However, when treated, Pine and Poplar will be great options for outdoor use. For instance, pressure-treated pine and poplar woods will have higher resilience and lasts longer.
- Park bench
Par bench works better when made with poplar wood. Usually, benches made with poplar wood are common in parks, hotels, kitchens, gardens, and kitchens. Don’t forget, these places are high-touch and high-traffic areas that people often visit.
Poplar wood, whether treated or untreated will make a perfect choice for outdoor residential pieces such as decks, fences, and porches. But the proviso is that the wood shouldn’t have any contact with the ground. However, treated pine wood will be another vintage pick for fences. But it can warp, shrink or crack under harsh weather conditions. Stay with your poplar wood.
Both Poplar and Pine are great options for making furniture. While pine wood brings shock resistance, poplar wood shows its strength and more durability. Depending on what your purpose is, Poplar has better bending capacity, compressive strength, and high density. It can withstand harsh weather conditions and last longer than pine-made furniture.
Pine is softwood and dents more easily than hardwoods. Poplar is hardwood but blends well to consider it as softwood. Pine has an edge because it can be stained and features knots that make your cabinets wear the country or traditional look.
- Table, Bookcase
When it comes to bookcases, ensure you use high-density woods like Poplar. As the general rule of thumb, avoid the use of medium density fireboard or particleboard like Pine to make bookshelves. Pinewood works perfectly for rustic pieces like tables because of its lightweight, brown knots, and affordability.
Generally, both Poplar and Pine are great for making furniture, depending on your purpose and preference. Pine makes a great choice for chairs when it comes to durability and longevity. |If you’re looking at strength, Poplar is the better of the two. If your preference is aesthetics, you won’t make any mistake if you go for either Pine or Poplar.
- Drawer boxes
Go for Poplar if you’re looking at constructing a drawer box. While pine wood may offer some value, poplar wood features all-around benefits. You’ll get the best quality of this wood on your drawer boxes only if you dovetail it. The dovetailing will prevent the boxes from cupping over time.
Poplar features great compression capacity, high density, and higher Janka hardness value. These are the properties wood must spot to be suitable for making a dresser. This doesn’t mean you can’t use Pine but as a secondary consideration.
Neither Poplar nor Pine is ideal for making a crib. As a matter of fact, it is better to stay away from these two wood types when thinking of making cribs. They still won’t be the best pick even if you want to paint the crib. Walnut, Cherry, or maple will be the best wood for a quality look.
3. Shelves, Framing
Poplar and Pine will work fine if you’re considering built-up molding profiles. They’re also perfect for intricate profiles like frames and shelves. However, because poplar wood offers more strength, you should consider it ahead of pine wood.
Apart from being hardwood, Poplar can get hidden or veneered, unlike Pine. Despite this, avoid the use of medium density board or particleboard like pine wood to make shelves. Pine doesn’t offer long-term longevity. Pine has a higher chance of sagging when pressured under a lot of weight. Besides, Pinewood scratches easily and is also easily susceptible to dent.
Because trim requires a vintage painted finish, Poplar will be better than the two wood options. The premium durability of Poplar makes it even more suitable than pine wood. Don’t forget, trim, like your dining room and chair rail, is susceptible to a lot of abuse and a high level of traffic. As a result, such applications require a type of wood that will stand firm and withstand the touches and abuses without collapsing under pressure. Remember, Pinewood can easily damage, even under a relatively hard fall. This doesn’t rule out Poplar from being used for trim. It comes with crisp profiles and well-defined edges.
5. Interior Doors
When it comes to interior doors and internal frames, both pine and poplar woods come first to mind. Maple is another wood that joins Poplar and Pine for interior frames. The tulip and conifer trees that form the Poplar and pine woods blend some features of hardwood with softwood. The tulip’s hardness and poplar wood’s workability make Poplar a better pick. However, Poplar is not as dense as pine wood. Meanwhile, Poplar is also relatively cheaper than pine wood for low-budget woodworkers. In all, both Pine and Poplar offer quality aesthetics on your interior doors and door frames.
6. Window Sill
Using pine wood over Poplar for the window sill is a no-brainer. This is because poplar wood is relatively not stable and you need wood with incredible stability to be used for the window sill. Pine comes to a type of wood that boasts the needed stability that will work perfectly for making a window sill.
The second idea is that pine spots have high resistance to rot. Poplar is infamous to be susceptible to rot and termites. The base part of a window, or the ledge, as it’s commonly called is vulnerable to insects and rot and the wood holding it has to be rot-resistant.
7. Guitar Body
Poplar comes as the right pick if you’re searching for the best wood for guitar. And like Poplar, Pinewood is also suitable for making a guitar, but Poplar works better to make an electric guitar. Poplar wood will do a better job given that Pine is a softer tonewood and can easily damage after a hard fall. Nonetheless, Pine has been popular for its amazing suitability for making both electric and acoustic guitars.
Special Kind of Poplar and Pine Wood Comparison
1. Poplar vs. southern yellow Pine
When compared to Southern Yellow pine, Poplar is weaker and has a lower Janka hardness rating. With a 690 lbf of hardness rating for Southern Yellow pine (SYP) and 540 lbf for Poplar, you won’t need any convincing that the SYP will make a better option in terms of strength.
2. Treated Poplar vs. Treated Pine
Either treated Poplar or treated Pine will make a great choice for any kind of woodworking project. No doubt, untreated Pine will have a slight edge over untreated Poplar when it comes to durability. They will be more durable, moisture resistant, and longer-lasting when both are treated. They can also be used for outdoor purposes.
3. American Poplar Wood vs. New Zealand Pine
American Poplar is popular for its straight grain and is moderately lightweight. American poplar wood and New Zealand pine typically feature a consistent, even texture. Thanks to its high resistance to splitting and warping, it doesn’t split easily. While it’s workable with hands and machine tools, New Zealand pine also accepts nails hitch-free.
Pine vs. Poplar Woodworking
Poplar will always come ahead of Pine without batting an eyelash when it comes to woodworking. The reason is pretty simple. Strength is a huge factor when choosing wood for your woodwork. Poplar is stronger and harder than Pine, thanks to its higher Janka hardness value of 540 lbf as against Pine with 380 or 420 lbf max.
But there’s something you’ll have to be on the lookout for. Pine comes in a wide range of types. Some of its variants are stronger than Poplar and with higher hardness values. You might want to go for those.
Final words: Which is better, Pine or Poplar wood?
Both types of wood are excellent and excellent for their different specific purposes. In addition, each also has its unique strengths and weaknesses. While poplar woods are incredibly longer-lasting and more durable, pine woods are easier to work with. Would you rather prefer durability over workability or vice versa? It’s up to you and your preference.
But what is certain is that some other important properties and features make Poplar woods a lot better and more popular than their pine counterpart. Poplar wood is a more robust choice than Pine. The 540 lbf of polar to 420 or 380 lbf of Pine makes a world of difference when it comes to performance.
My name is Mark, and I am a software engineer and the founder of OnWoodWorkingArt.
I grew up with a passion for woodworking and now have my woodworking studio with a group of like-minded friends who love to create woodworking. My dream is to have a more extensive workshop and be able to make woodworking my main business.