Is Pine a Hardwood or a Softwood? (All You Need to Know)

pine wood lumber

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Pine is abundant, inexpensive, and one of the go-to options of seasoned woodworkers, but what kind of wood is it? Understanding hardwood and softwood literally is an oversimplification and can be detrimental to your project’s construction. 

So, to help you make an informed decision, this article will thoroughly discuss if pine is a hardwood or a softwood and more.

Hardwood and Softwood Comparison: Key Considerations

It is careless to say that you can tell hardwood and softwood apart solely because of their texture. 

different pine wood texture

Not all hardwoods are hard, and not all softwoods are soft. Yew, for example, is a softwood known for its hard exterior, while hardwood balsa is the opposite. Below are some of the ways to differentiate the two:

stacks of pine wood
chair made out of pine wood

After reading the key comparisons above, you might have the answer on whether pine is a hardwood or a softwood. 

Simply put, pine is a softwood because it produces needles and cones, it is an evergreen, it does not have leaves, and its wood component has tracheids and no visible pores under a microscope.

Wood Hardness Explained

The Janka scale [1] is a simple test to determine the wood hardness. It is done by pushing a hydraulic press and a half-inch steel ball against the tested wood. The force reinforced in this test is the wood’s hardness measurement.

pine wood texture

To give you a glimpse of the common wood’s rating against the Janka scale, Balsa ranks at the bottom at 100 lbs, although it is a hardwood. Meanwhile, the lignum vitae, a tropical wood, is at the top with a Janka score of 4500 lbs, making it non-buoyant.

Pines usually have a Janka score between 300 and 1000 lbs. The most common eastern white pine scores 380 lbs, sugar pine at 380 lbs, and western white pine at 420 lbs. Other variants like Ponderosa pine stands at 460lbs, while the Jackpine measures at 570 lbs.

Why Pine Still Remains a Top Choice

Veteran woodworkers still go for pine when it comes to interior moldings, baseboards, decking boards, floorboards, and other furniture. This is because pine is:

pine wood slabs

Easily Available

Pine has many variants and is readily available in most regions. It easily thrives in most elevations and climates and is more common in the Eastern part of North America. It has a fast harvest rate which makes it inexpensive.

Easy to Utilize

Pine is easy to work with. Because it is not hardwood, expert woodworkers can efficiently cut and work with it. It is then chemically treated to increase its durability, so it does not easily succumb to rot, warping, and insects. Because of these factors, pine is an excellent wood for raised garden boxes.

Pleasant Appearance

If you wish to achieve the rustic-vibe wood furniture has to offer, pine will not fail you. It has an open grain and various colors, from ivory white to burnt sienna. It is also easy to stain well when chemically treated.

pine wood table

Pine Lumber Buying Guide

Appearance

You can easily tell top-grade pine boards due to their flawless surface—meaning they are knot and blemish-free. 

The absence of knots and blemishes on the board makes it more stable and unlikely to shrink or warp over time. Top-grade pine has an overall uniform color.

Common Grade

Common grade pine boards range from those with slight to frequent knots and blemishes. This is less expensive and ideal for installing knotty pine paneling or lightweight utility furniture.

milling pine wood

Construction

Construction grade pine boards are the cheapest as they have a lot of flaws. They may have knots, sap veins, and other blemishes and do not meet the appearance requirements of common-grade pine. 

These boards are structurally sound and will be pressure-treated when manufactured to improve their quality.

Conclusion

Is pine a hardwood or a softwood? To sum things up, pine is not a hardwood. Pine is a softwood from a coniferous tree that has cones and needles instead of fruits and leaves, is evergreen, and shows tracheids under a microscope. 

Even though pine is not a hardwood, it remains a staple material in furniture-making because of its accessibility, affordability, and overall aesthetic.

(See also: Is Poplar a Hardwood?)

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

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