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. 

So, I’ve created this detailed spruce vs pine vs fir lumber comparison 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. Comparing the three in terms of hardiness, they are all softwood. 

Spruce

When it comes to wood, spruce trees have always been a personal favorite of mine. They’ve got a lot going for them – lightweight, resistant to rot, and easy on the wallet. 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. 

But here’s a fun tidbit – spruce isn’t just for construction; it’s also a go-to choice for crafting musical instruments, especially guitars. Its versatility, availability, and favorable properties have established spruce wood as an important and widely used material in various industries.

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. So, if you’re thinking about using spruce wood outdoors, you might want to reconsider. And last but not least, it’s worth noting that spruce wood can be prone to insect attacks, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any unwanted visitors. 

See Also: Basswood vs Balsa Wood 

Pine

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

Pine lumber

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, including myself. It is highly versatile and easy to work with. I often see it used for interior projects such as cabinet making, furniture, flooring, and framing.

Pros and Cons

Pine evergreens are generally light and affordable. One thing that’s always made my woodworking life easier with pine is how readily it accepts nails – it’s a breeze compared to some other woods out there.

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. 

In my own work, I’ve found that European fir is typically easy to manage. 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. Furthermore, this 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

When it comes to these woods, I’ve got to say, they really pack a punch in terms of strength and durability. 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. 

But remember, the type of project you’re tackling can dictate the wood you need. Sometimes, it’s all about finding that perfect balance between softwoods and hardwoods to get the job done right.

(Also Read: Different Types of Black Wood)

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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.

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