Is Birch a Softwood or Hardwood? + Janka Hardness Rating

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When it comes to selecting wood for your project, the details make all the difference. Birch, with its notable grain and inherent beauty, is a popular choice, but its classification can make or break your project’s success.

To ensure you’re making the most informed decision for your next wood project, I’m here to answer whether birch is a softwood or hardwood. Let’s dive in!

About Birch Wood and Trees

Birch trees are a source of natural hardwood birchwood. Birch is a native tree to the northern regions of North America, where it thrives in more relaxed, more boreal temperatures.

Depending on the variety of birch, its white, silver, black, or yellow papery bark protects sharp egg-shaped leaves that bloom in the fall.

Birch trees

The leaves of birch trees generally change to a dazzling shade of orange, red, or yellow in the autumn. More of birch wood here! 

Key Properties of Birchwood

The wood from birch trees ranges from yellowish white to reddish white to a light reddish brown when it has been sawn. Several species of birch trees have slightly different coloring. White coloration usually characterizes the sapwood, though.

It is a high-density lumber weighing 0.65 kg/cubic centimeter and has a fine to medium-pore texture with a straight and wavy grain pattern.

Is it a Hardwood or a Softwood?

Hardwoods are sourced from deciduous trees that bloom and bear fruit/nuts, whereas softwoods are from evergreen coniferous trees that produce cones and needles. 

Maple, oak, alder, and walnut are just some of the more typical hardwoods you’ll find in most craftsmen’s shops. Softwoods include trees like cedar, pine, fir, and spruce.

milling Birch wood

Hardwood birch is a thin-leaved deciduous tree native to colder regions, such as the northern United States.

The Hardness of Birchwood Lumber

Birch hardwood is a deciduous tree with slender leaves that is indigenous to colder regions, including the northern parts of the United States.

In addition, it rates 1,260 on the Janka hardness scale, making it a moderately hard wood. The sugar birch, on the other hand, has a rating of 1,450 Janka, which is significantly higher than the average.

Different Types and Species of Birchwood

Cherry Birchwood

Cherry birch is a huge tree that develops from a single trunk. Also called sweet birch, it is a beautiful tree for yards and landscaped areas due to its lustrous, red-brown bark and bright yellow foliage.

White Birchwood

A cherry birch tree can grow very tall from just one trunk. Often used as an ornamental tree, the sweet birch (Betula pendula) is prized for its glossy reddish-brown bark and vivid yellow leaves.

White Birch

Yellow Birchwood

The bark of the yellow birch gives the tree its name. It’s a monopodial tree that peels its yellow-bronze bark in short, horizontal strips. Other names for the yellow birch are gold birch and curly birch.

River Birch

The river birch is a quick-growing tree with peeling, pink to red-brown skin that gives way to whiter inner bark and other familiar names, including water birch, black birch, and red birch.

Comparing the Hardness of Birchwood to Other Wood Types


Hickory is substantially more rigid than the usual birch wood variety. On the Janka hardness scale, the toughest hickory species can reach around 1820.


The abrasion resistance of birch is comparable to that of maple. The hardness scale for both types of wood begins at roughly 950 Janka and goes up to about 1450 Janka.

Hard Maple

The hardest birch, sweet birch, is classified at 1470 Janka, while the toughest maple, hard maple or sugar maple, is at 1450 Janka. 


With a Janka hardness of 1320, ash is only a little softer than maple.


When compared to birch, walnut is a little softer. In fact, black walnut, which is the most common species of walnut, has a rating of 1,010 on the Janka scale.


Beech wood is around the same hardness as birch. In comparison, the most common tree species, the American birch, has a Janka rating of only 1300.

Is Birch a Good Wood for Furniture-Making?

Birch is an excellent wood for manufacturing durable furniture because of its high strength-to-weight ratio. Compared to other wood types, birch has a higher binding and bending strength. 

furniture made out of Baltic Birch plywood

Birch’s durability makes it popular for various construction projects, including furniture, cabinets, and floors. Fine furniture is another common application for it.

However, there’s a catch with birch – it’s not cut out for outdoor use. Birch tends to decay swiftly in moist conditions, so when it comes to patio furniture, use other topions that are more weather-resistant.

See Also: Is Birch Really a Strong Wood

How About Cutting Boards?

Birch wood is an excellent option for manufacturing cutting boards because it is sturdy and does not score readily. 

For example, cutting boards made of yellow birch are top-notch. The only real drawback to birch chopping boards is that birch isn’t particularly rot-resistant. 

cutting vegetables on chopping board

When exposed to the weather, it quickly deteriorates. Because of these drawbacks, many individuals opt for sugar maple [1] as an alternative.

Comparing Real Birch Wood and Birch Plywood: Where to Use Them

The panels in birch wood plywood are solid, and its durability, grain texture, and straightforwardness make it a popular choice for many interior and exterior finishes.

It lacks visual interest due to a lack of detailed grain patterns and might seem dull. Due to this, you can use it in various projects. More so, birch plywood is very malleable and easily machined.

The versatility of birch plywood extends far beyond the domestic sphere. Furniture making, formwork, plywood underlayment, millwork, home remodeling, and pattern creation are some of the most common uses for birch plywood.

Why is Baltic Birch Plywood Special?

Baltic birch plywood is well-known for its superior screw-holding strength and ease of machining. 

Baltic birch plywood thickness and layersB

With a thicker face and backing veneer, consistent plies, and high strength, I highly recommend this is an excellent choice for dovetails and finger joints.

Plywood made from baltic birch is frequently used for the heart of skateboards and the drum shells of custom trailers. Similarly to mahogany, Baltic birch is a premium choice for speaker boxes.


Does birchwood cost a lot?

While it may seem pricey compared to other hardwoods, birchwood is reasonably priced. Birch is more affordable than pine but more expensive than oak; compared to Maplewood, the cost of birch is also lower.

Which is better, birch or pine?

When comparing birch with pine, birch is the more rigid wood at 910 Janka. Some species of birch have Janka ratings of 1,000 or above. As a bonus, birchwood is typically far denser and tight-grained than other woods. 


So, is birch softwood or hardwood? Birch is considered a hardwood, making it a fantastic option for making plywood, whether it’s the top ply or one of three layers. It is tough, long-lasting, and sturdy, with a beautiful grain that accepts stains beautifully!

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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