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Oak & Pine Compared: Differences, Uses & Benefits

When it comes to the home, oak and pine are two of the most popular and commonly-used types of timber.

However, they are actually quite different types of wood. Let’s explore the key differences between oak and pine: their properties, uses and benefits. Which might be best for your needs?

Oak vs Pine: Appearance

Oak

A number of different species of oak fall under the ‘oak’ umbrella — over 600, in fact! Two you ought to be familiar with include European Oak (Quercus robur) and American White Oak (Quercus alba).

These are some of the oldest, most popularly-used timber species — and for very good reason. They have a timeless, stunning appeal and are considered a classy, stylish and versatile timber for the home.

Oak has a gorgeous light-to-tan-brown colour through to golden-medium brown. Species of oak are usually characterised by a straight grain with a medium-coarse texture.

Close up of European Oak.
European Oak.
Close up of American White Oak.
American White Oak.

Pine

Did you know that there are at least 126 species of pine throughout the world?

With so many different types, there are as many different shades and colours. That said, pine tree timber does tend to be on the lighter side. This can make it more accepting of finishes, allowing it to be made to fit a certain style or colour scheme.

Pine species are usually characterised by a yellow-white sapwood, with a reddish-yellow heartwood. Over time, this can darken to a reddish-brown. Pine commonly has a striped or wavy grain, with texture varying by species from fairly rough to fine.

As a coniferous tree, pine is a softwood. A common example of a pine species is Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), a tree native to central, eastern and northern Europe. Both oak and pine are native to the UK.

Close up of Scots Pine.
Scots Pine. Image credit: By Beentree - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5077501

Oak vs Pine: Qualities & Properties

Hardwoods and softwoods differ in the way they reproduce and grow. Hardwood trees have a covering and a different system for taking up water compared to softwood trees; this gives their wood a different structure.

As a general rule — although not always — hardwoods have greater strength, hardness and durability than softwood counterparts. Crucially, oak species are hardwoods, whereas pine is a softwood.

Because oak trees can take well over one hundred years to grow and live for more than 300 years, their timbers are much stronger, heavier and denser than those of pine trees. Oak is much less prone to scratching or denting.

Pine, on the other hand, is a softwood that is typically lightweight as a result of its faster growing time — is softer with less robustness overall. This isn’t to say it’s flimsy by any means, however!

A designer oak table.

Oak vs Pine: Cost

Bearing in mind the strength and durability advantages that oak holds over pine — including the slower growth rate — it should come as no surprise to learn that oak commands a higher price than pine. A standard oak furniture project for the home can come in at over twice the cost of a pine equivalent.

Oak table in a kitchen.

Oak vs Pine: Common uses

Because of its beauty and strength, oak lends itself well to projects that are intended to last for many years with a lot of use, including designer projects. Some common uses for oak include:

  • Furniture (desks, tables, chairs, dressers, beds, end tables, coffee tables and more)
  • Flooring
  • Decking
  • Cladding
  • Doors
  • Skirting and architrave
  • Oak-framed outbuilding structures (garages, pergolas, porches)

Pine, as we’ve established, is more prone to damage, but can be still appropriate for many projects — perhaps those with a shorter lifespan, such as a child’s bedroom furniture, or a piece of furniture that you don’t mind showing plenty of use. Some of the most popular uses for pine include:

  • Children’s furniture
  • Furniture (especially for shorter-term use or painting): desks, tables, beds, chairs and more.
Oak furniture.

Oak vs Pine: Which one is for me?

Your choice of oak or pine may be a question of budget. If you’re after a less expensive option or you are going to paint your furniture opt for pine.

For centerpiece projects, or for furniture you want to last for many years, oak is your best choice. Its natural beauty and durability makes it a perennial favourite for any home furniture project. It has the winning combination of style and substance — undeniable good looks and second-to-none strength.

Got an interior furniture or home improvement project in mind?

When it comes to wood, we know our stuff at Duffield Timber. For more knowledge and interesting tidbits to help with your next project, check out our guides —

If you’re after some bespoke advice, our friendly team of timber experts is only a phone call or email away.

Why not also pay us a visit, if you’re nearby? We’re located just off the A1 near Ripon. Our Joinery & Woodworking Centre is a treasure trove of timber, and has even been described as a wood lover’s paradise!

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