Spruce vs Pine vs Fir Lumber: Which Wood is the Best?

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Planning for your wood project is essential, and knowing the different wood types and their characteristics is an advantage. The wood species spruce, pine, and fir are excellent raw materials for most projects. However, no wood species and types are created equal. 

Therefore, our woodworkers created this detailed spruce vs pine vs fir lumber comparison post to help you decide which wood to purchase. 

Pine, Spruce, and Fir Lumbers Comparison Chart

Spruce Pine Fir 
Pros Lighter weight and softer Generally lightweight More resistant to rot
Cons Rots and burns easily Extremely soft Expensive

Pine, Spruce, and Fir: Which is Which?

A character shared among these three wood types has something to do with the leaves. Their leaves look like scales or needles and produce cones with seeds.

Spruce and fir trees can easily be confused with each other since both trees have a needle-like appearance of leaves attached to the branches. One difference is that spruce evergreens have sharply pointed leaves that can easily be rolled between fingers. 

Spruce and fir can be confusing but the latter have soft and flattened needles. Furthermore, the leaves of fir trees have light to dark green colors and have a blunt and rounded leaf apex. 

milling lumber

Pines can be identified based on their needle-like leaves that are grouped in clusters. The red pine group has two clusters, the yellow pine group has three clusters, and the white pine group with five per cluster. 

Pines have yellow shades, striations, and dark knots. It also has a woody and firm exterior and produces pine cones. 

Are Pine, Spruce, and Fir Softwood or Hardwood?

Contrary to popular belief, spruce, pine, and fir are not hardwood trees but are rather considered softwoods and evergreen. 

All wood types are assigned a rating that refers to their hardiness called the Janka system. The higher the assigned Janka rating, the harder the wood is. If you wish to compare the three in terms of hardiness, they are all softwood. 

Spruce

These trees are lightweight, rot-resistant, and easy on budget. It is a highly versatile wood and a convenient building raw material. It has good stiffness and a straight ratio. It is a readily available wood and generally inexpensive compared to other wood types. 

Spruce wood is also used for making a musical instrument. In fact, it is a popular raw material for making guitars.  

spruce lumber

Spruce evergreens have different varieties available in the market. Different varieties of spruce have different assigned Janka ratings. Some common spruce wood, like the Black Spruce [1], has a Janka rating of 520, whereas the Norway spruce has a Janka rating of 380.

Pros and Cons

This wood type is known for its light and softer wood character. It also showcases a straight grain. 

Due to these qualities, spruce evergreens are utilized especially for a basic woodworking project. Spruce trees grown in the wild have acoustic properties making them suitable for musical instruments. 

Despite all these pros, there is a downside to using spruce timber. This wood rots, swells, and burns easily. Spruce trees also split easily when under stress. Thus, this wood type is not recommended outdoors. Lastly, it is susceptible to insect attacks.  

Pine

Pine trees have different varieties that are popular among woodworkers. Furthermore, they are the most ubiquitous species found in the northern hemisphere. 

pine lumbers

These pine varieties also have different assigned Janka ratings. Some pine lumber, like Eastern white pine, has a Janka rating of 380. Caribbean pine (1,110) and Douglas fir (620) have higher ratings.

The ponderosa pine is a popular timber among woodcarvers and hobbyists. It is highly versatile and easy to work with. It can be used for interior projects such as cabinet making, furniture, flooring, and framing.

Pros and Cons

Pine evergreens are generally light and affordable. It allows easy acceptance of nails, unlike other wood types.

Furthermore, it is generally easy to work with and can easily be cut, stained, and carved, greatly reducing the time required to complete woodworking projects.

Working with pine timber, you are assured of its aesthetic natural design. Aside from their beauty, pine trees can be conditioned to resist decay and rot. Furthermore, this type is highly durable in areas prone to high foot traffic.  

pine timber

There are several downsides to using pine evergreens, one of which is it is susceptible to dents, scratches, and damage. 

Fir

This type includes a variety of soft trees, most of which can be used for construction. Douglas fir has more uses compared to other softwoods due to its specialties. It can be sourced in large quantities from Europe, South America, and New Zealand. 

European fir is generally easy to work with. However, the timber does not have high durability and is susceptible to decay. On a lighter note, it can absorb stain and paint well. 

fir wood

True firs, also known as balsam fir, is one of the most symmetrical of the northeastern coniferous tree species. They are popular, especially during the holidays, since they are utilized as Christmas trees because the needles stay for a longer period of time. 

The wood is used for making furniture, plywood, and pulp. 

(Where to buy wood? Check this list of places where you can buy wood for making furniture and more)

Pros and Cons

These woods are robust and durable. They have straight grains, a product of long and straight tree trunks. The dense grain quality of the wood makes it ideal for construction. It holds well for the construction of flooring, trim, doors, and windows.  

One major disadvantage of this timber is it is expensive. Furthermore, it is not considered a hardwood tree and is susceptible to damage. Thus, maintenance is required to ensure that the wood lasts a long time. 

(Looking for another wood option? Know more about hickory lumber and see how well it suits your next woodworking project!)

Conclusion

Learning the differences between spruce vs pine vs fir lumber is definitely an advantage when it comes to choosing wood for your project. These wood species are considered softwoods but can help finish your project, even if it is as big as a house or small as a trinket. 

Basic construction projects require specific wood types or a mix of softwoods and hardwoods.  

 

(Also Read: Different Types of Black Wood)

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. 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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