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What is Whitewood and How Does It Compare to Pine?

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Have you ever been to the hardware store and wondered What is Whitewood? Yeah most of us ask that question at least once. Today I am going to answer it for you and compare it to its close relative pine.

The wood aisle at the hardware store can be overwhelming for most beginning woodworkers or DIYers. There are tons of different types of wood in so many different lengths and widths.

I remember the first couple of times that I went and I felt like I had no idea what to do. I remember standing reading every tag and looking at tons of different types of wood not knowing which one to pick!

It takes research and experience to know all the ins and outs of types of wood and even more on what to use for which project.

Let’s break down one common question from the lumber aisle, what is whitewood, and take the mystery out of at least one of the many questions that might be plaguing you.

A view down the aisle of whitewood at Home Depot.

*This post contains affiliate links. For more details see my full disclosure.

What is Whitewood?

Whitewood is actually lumber from a tulip tree. The Tulip Tree, often called Tulip Poplar, is a fast-growing tree that gets its name from the shape of the flowers.

This tree can grow from 60-160 feet tall growing 25 inches a year at first then slowing down to between 13 and 24 inches per year. The crown of the leaves can spread an impressive 50 feet wide.

The tree doesn’t bloom until it is about 15-20 years old! It also lives to about 300 years old!

Because this tree grows so quickly it’s a wonderful type of wood to harvest. It’s a sustainable resource when compared to other types of wood.

What is considered white wood?

Just like not all sparkling wine is champagne not all white wood is whitewood. Many lumber yards tend to classify cheap wood as whitewood.

A piece of whitewood that isn't the best quality, chewed up on the edge.
As you can see here some wood can be chewed up on the edges or have other imperfections.

Often they contain a marking of either SPF (White Pine, Douglas Fir, or Spruce), SYF (Pine & Fir), or SYP (Southern Yellow Pine).

The different types of whitewood you see at the hardware store depends mostly on where you are located.

What is it at Lowes?

The Lowes website says that their whitewoods are a mixture of spruce, pine, and fir.

What is it Home Depot?

The Home Depot website says that their whitewoods are a mixture of spruce, pine, and fir.

Home Depot also has a tendency to call whitewoods common boards. Unfortunately, these boards are typically in worse shape than other wood they carry.

Whitewood vs Pine

There are a ton of similarities between whitewood and pine but there are also a ton of differences.

When you put the two boards side by side the first thing you will notice is that whitewood has more knots in it.

Whitewood with lots of knots.
This is whitewood. Notice all the knots!
A view of pine that doesn't have lots of knots.
This is pine. Notice there are few to no knots!

Both whitewood and pine are considered hardwoods but whitewood is pretty soft for a hardwood. It’s definitely softer than pine. It can crack or split easily which you might notice when picking boards at the hardware store.

Whitewoodwhite/light yellowcheaperlightersoftersmall projects
Pinewhite/light yellowmore expensiveheavierharderlarger projects

As you can see from the table, both whitewood and pine are similar in color. But whitewood is lighter, softer, cheaper, and best used in smaller projects.

Pine is harder, heavier, a little more expensive, and better than whitewood for larger projects.

A view down the length of whitewood showing it is warped.

You will notice here that whitewood can be warped. This is because it is softer and therefore easily bent during storage or transport. If you use it make sure you do this, look down the board and make sure it’s straight.

What is whitewood used for? What is pine used for?

Whitewood is mainly used for indoor purposes. It’s great for making furniture such as tables, chairs, etc.

Because it is so light but strong it is often used for:

  • pallets
  • crates
  • plywood
  • doors
  • paper
  • furniture frames

Pine is great for indoor projects as well but if you are doing something outside pine is a better choice. It is more weather-resistant and won’t warp as easily as whitewood does.

Because pine is stronger than whitewood it is more commonly used in bigger projects. While it does cost more you will use less wood in the project because of its durability. Therefore in the long run the project will cost less.

Here are some common uses for pine:

  • flooring
  • shelves
  • cabinets
  • beams
  • interior trim
  • veneer

Because whitewood is softer it will show dents and dings a lot more than pine would. That’s another reason why pine is more commonly used for furniture than whitewood. It has a higher-end look.

Finishing This Type of Wood

If you want to paint whitewood you can definitely do that. Just keep in mind that it has more knots and they will show through as texture. This isn’t always aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t mind that then by all means, get your paint on!

If you want to stain whitewood I highly encourage you to use a wood conditioner. Whitewood can sometimes look splotchy when stained. The wood conditioner will help prevent that.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use whitewood outside?

Yes you can but it must be treated with weather protector and it must have a finish on it to keep it from absorbing water and rotting.

Be careful when putting whitewood on concrete as concrete is porous and will allow moisture to seep into the wood. Make sure the wood is sealed before putting it on concrete.

Also, keep in mind that whitewood will require more maintenance than pine would. You will need to reapply the sealant over time to keep the moisture out.

Is whitewood easy to cut?

That depends on what type of tool you are using to cut your whitewood.

The best tool to use would be an electric saw. Using a hand saw works but it’s going to be hard to get a straight line because of all the knots in the wood.

Make sure you have the right tool for the job.

Is whitewood hard or soft?

It’s considered a soft hardwood. Clear as mud right?! It is a hardwood but it’s one of the softer hardwoods you can find.

Is whitewood stronger than pine?

Absolutely not. It doesn’t matter what kind of whitewood you get Pine is always stronger than whitewood.

Is whitewood good for furniture?

Whitewood is good for certain types of furniture. On large build projects where wood needs to span a longer distance, whitewood can sag because it’s softer than pine.

In cases like this, it is advisable to use a harder wood such as pine, or else you will have to brace the wood more often.

Is pine a whitewood?

That is a tricky question. There are certain types of pine that are used to manufacture whitewood but generally, they are two separate types of wood.

DIY wood projects you might be interested in:

A view of whitewood with text overlay.
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As a licensed Real Estate Agent and an avid home decorator, I strive to give my clients the very best I can when it comes to staging, selling, and decorating their homes. I have lots of experience with paint color choices and love to DIY my home so I can have everything just the way I want it. I share my ideas and projects with the world in the hopes that I can help others have their homes just the way they want as well.

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