Birch is one of the most popular wood types. Woodworkers love it because it’s hard, strong, and affordable. Birch is also fairly durable.
So, we thought it wise to dig a little deeper to help you better understand birchwood lumber. Our focus is on whether birch is softwood or hardwood.
However, we’ll also explain other characteristics of birchwood so you fully understand the wood species before you embark on your next project.
So, Is birch a softwood or hardwood? Let’s find out!
Is Birch a Softwood or Hardwood?
Birch is a hardwood that comes from the genus Betula. It’s one of the many hardwoods native to America. The most common birchwood species are yellow birch, white birch, and black birch, though yellow birch and white birch are the most common in woodworking.
What is Birchwood?
Birchwood is a native hardwood obtained from birch trees. Birch grows naturally in temperate or boreal climates across the northern part of North America.
The birch tree is a flowering deciduous tree with pointy egg-shaped leaves and a thin papery back that varies in color from white to silver, black, and yellow, depending on the birch species.
In the fall, birch trees typically turn a brilliant golden yellow, flaming red, or vivid orange.
Birchwood, sawn from birch trees, is yellow-white or reddish-white to light reddish-brown in color. The color varies slightly from one birch species to the next. However, the sapwood is generally white.
It has a straight to slightly wavy grain pattern with a fine to medium-pore texture and is a high-density wood that weighs 0.65 kg/cubic cm.
Is Birch a Hardwood or Softwood?
Birch is a hardwood from thin-leaved deciduous trees that grow in cold climates, especially north of the USA.
It’s rated 1260 on the Janka scale, making it a medium-hardness wood. However, some species, such as the sugar birch (1450 Janka), are rated a lot higher.
How hard is birch lumber?
Birch hardwood is very hard and strong. It has excellent compressive strength and enviable bending strength. Here’s a summary of birch lumber hardness ratings;
- Compressive strength: 8,170 PSI
- Bending strength: 16,600 PSI
- Stiffness: 2.01 PSI
- Hardness: 1260 Janka
- Density: 0.65 kg/cubic cm
Birchwood hardness vs selected wood types
You’re probably wondering how birch compares with other popular hardwoods and softwoods. The following is a summary of how the average birch compares against other common woods; (200)
- Maple wood: Birch is about as hard as maple. Both wood types range in hardness, from around 950 Janka on the lower side to 1450 Janka on the upper side. For instance, the hardest maple, i.e., sugar maple (or hard maple), is 1450 Janka, about as hard as the hardest birch, i.e., sweet birch that’s rated 1470 Janka.
- Ash: Ash Janka hardness is 1320 thus slightly harder than the average birch wood.
- Hickory: Hickory is significantly harder than the average birch wood species. The hardest hickory species score up to 1820 on the Janka scale.
- Beech: Beech is about as hard as birch wood. The American birch, the most common species, is rated 1300 Janka.
- Walnut: Walnut is slightly softer than birch wood. The black walnut, which is the most common walnut species, has a 1010 Janka rating.
- Oak: Generally, oaks are harder than birch wood species. The white oak, for instance, has a 1290 Janka rating, while the red oak is rated 1360 Janka.
- Cherry: Cherry wood is generally softer than birch, as most species, including the Black cherry, are rated between 940 Janka and 995 Janka. The only exception is the Brazilian cherry, which, at 2350 Janka, is almost twice as hard as birchwood.
Birchwood Species: Types of Birchwood
There are over a dozen species of birch wood. However, the species most commonly found in the US are as follows;
- Cherry birchwood: The cherry birch, also known as the sweet birch, is a large tree that grows from a single large trunk. It has a shiny, red-brown bark and yellow foliage, making it an attractive tree for lawns and naturalized areas.
- Silver birchwood: Silver birch trees have a distinctive white bark that peels away in papery strips. It’s also common as the European white birch or weeping birch and is native to Europe and Asia.
- White birchwood: Also known as white birch or canoe birch, the white birch is native to Alaska, Canada, and the northern US and has lovely white bark and yellow fall color. It has a thin white bark that often peels from the trunk in paper-like layers.
- Yellow birchwood: The yellow birch is named after the color of its bark. It is a single-stemmed tree with a yellow-bronze bark that peels in narrow horizontal strips. The yellow birch is sometimes called the gold birch or curly birch.
- River birch: Also known as red birch, black birch, or water birch, the river birch is a fast-growing tree with a distinctive salmon-pink to reddish-brown bark that exfoliates to reveal lighter inner bark.
Birch Wood Uses
Birchwood has endless applications, ranging from woodworking to construction and making musical instruments. However, the main applications are;
- Plywood and veneers
- Boxes and crates
- Interior finishing
Is birch a good wood for furniture?
Yes, birch is extremely strong, making it an excellent wood for furniture making. Birch wood has a relatively high compressive strength and bending strength than most woods.
Owing to its great strength, birch is often used in furniture making, cabinetry, and flooring. It’s also used to make fine furniture.
Unfortunately, birch is only good for indoor furniture. Its tendency to rot under high-moisture conditions makes it a poor material for outdoor furniture.
Is birchwood good for cabinetmaking?
Yes, birch is a top choice for many people when it comes to furniture and cabinet making. Although it’s a medium-density hardwood, species such as yellow birch are known to be highly durable, strong, and resistant to dents and scratches.
You may also want to know that the yellow birch is one of the most valuable woods in the Adirondack forest (found in New York). That says something about the quality of yellow birch cabinets.
Is birchwood good for cutting boards?
Yes, as a member of the hardwood family, birch wood is durable and doesn’t score easily, making it an excellent choice for making cutting boards. Yellow birch, in particular, is an excellent material for cutting boards.
The only downside of birch cutting boards is that it’s not a very rot-resistant wood. It readily rots and decays when exposed to elements. For these reasons, many people prefer alternatives like sugar maple.
Other birchwood uses
Other common uses of the natural wood from birch include making turned objects, small specialty wood items, and musical instruments, such as guitar body materials. Some people also use it for firewood.
Read: Is mango wood durable?
Birch Solid Wood vs Birch Plywood
A time comes when you feel that you could accomplish a given task using either solid wood or plywood. The following is a summary of the key characteristics of birch plywood to help you make an informed decision.
What is birch plywood?
Birch wood plywood is a type of hardwood plywood known for its panel strength, grain texture, durability, and ease of finishing.
It doesn’t have an intricate grain pattern and is considered plain or even dull. This makes it applicable in many settings. Moreover, birch plywood has excellent workability and machinability.
A few advantages of birch plywood over other plywood types are;
- Few knots and jagged edges
- Resists splintering and cracking
- It’s affordable
- Birch trees are sustainable
Here’s how to stain birch.
Birch plywood uses
Birch plywood has many uses inside and outside the home. However, the most common applications of birch plywood are;
- Furniture production
- Pattern making
- Plywood underlayment
- Home improvement
What makes baltic birch plywood special?
Baltic birch plywood is famous for its easy machinability and screw holding strength. Its strength, uniform plies, and thicker face and backing veneer also make it a very attractive option when making dovetails or finger joints.
Common uses of baltic birch plywood include making the core of skateboards, and drum shells for custom trailers. Baltic birch is also one of the best speaker box wood.
Advantages of Baltic Birch Plywood
Although you’re free to use other forms of birch plywood, baltic birch plywood has several advantages over standard plywood, including;
- Cleaner joinery
- Superior screw holding
- Higher-strength and stability
- A, generally, nicer appearance
- It accepts paperback veneer for more decorative projects
What is birch wood used for?
Birchwood is mainly used for lumber which goes into making furniture, cabinets, wooden kitchenware, and others. However, the wood is often manufactured to make veneers, plywood, paper pulp, and toothpicks. Birch veneers and plywood are used in flooring, construction, etc.
What kind of wood is birch?
Birch is a hardwood tree that belongs to the Betulaceae family. It’s a close cousin of alder and hazels. The birch tree has a pale white to reddish-brown heartwood, though some species, such as the yellow birch, have a yellowish heartwood. Birch trees mainly grow in Europe and Asia, especially in China, Japan, and Russia.
Is birchwood expensive?
No, birchwood is one of the most affordable hardwoods, though you may consider it slightly expensive depending on what it’s up against. For instance, birch is less expensive than oak, a comparable hardwood, but more expensive than pine (one of the most popular softwoods). Birch is also less expensive than Maplewood.
Is birchwood good for outdoor use?
Unfortunately, it isn’t. Birch lacks some of the qualities that make the ideal lumber for outdoor applications. For instance, it is considered a perishable product that rots easily. Additionally, birch wood is susceptible to pests, such as the bronze birch borer. Thus, birchwood products are ill-suited for outdoor environments.
Is birchwood better than pine?
Generally, yes. Birch (910 Janka) is harder than pine (420 Janka). In fact, some birch species are rated 1,000+ on the Janka scale. Additionally, birchwood has fewer cavities and empty spaces. However, pine is one of the most popular woods in the woodworking industry because it’s strong, has an excellent grain pattern, finishes easily, and is very affordable.
Is birch harder than oak?
Yes, birch wood is slightly harder than oak. Interestingly, the softest oak species, such as the Northern red oak (1260 Janka), are harder than the softest birch species (like white birch at 910 Janka). However, the hardest birch species, notably the sugar birch (1470 Janka), are harder than the hardest oaks, such as the white oak (rated 1360 Janka).
Is white birch a hardwood?
Yes, white birch is a hardwood tree. However, it’s the softest birch species, rated 910 on the Janka scale. Harder birch species, such as Rever birch, are rated 1,300+ on the Janka scale. Common uses of the white birch (also known as the paper birch) include veer, lumber, plywood, pulpwood, and household items.
How hard is birch wood?
Birchwood species range from the upper-lower to upper-middle of the Janka hardness scale. At the lower end are species such as the white birch, rated 910 Janka, and silver birch, rated 1210 Janka. However, you can find multiple harder varieties on the other extreme, including the sugar birch, rated 1,460 on the Janka scale,
Is birch wood strong?
Yes, birchwood is extremely strong. It has a relatively high compressive strength and bending strength than most other woods. This is why birch makes an excellent choice for making furniture, kitchen cabinets, and high-grade plywood. Of course, birch is also an excellent wood flooring material.
What does birch wood look like?
Birchwood has white sapwood and light reddish-brown heartwood. Some people call it an “ashy” light brown color. However, the color changes to a less ashy and more yellowish hue over time. Birch grain pattern is generally straight, with a fine, uniform texture. But don’t be surprised to run into wavy or curly birch grain patterns.
Birch is a hardwood tree native to the northern USA and some parts of Europe and Asia. A 1260 Janka rating means it’s not among the hardest of hardwoods.
However, the medium hardness is also an advantage as it makes birch easy to work and machine. As a result, birch is widely used in furniture making, cabinetry, flooring, construction, and many other applications.
You should try it out if you’re looking for an affordable hardwood with excellent hardness and strength qualities.
Is birch a softwood or hardwood? ›
Other Common Names: Gray Birch, Silver Birch and Swamp Birch Birch is one of the most popular hardwoods for veneer and interior work. It tends to be a light reddish brown, with nearly white sapwood. Occasionally figured pieces are available with a wide, shallow curl similar to the curl found in Cherry.Is birch strong enough? ›
Furnishing Tips explains that birch wood is strong and durable, which makes it a decent hardwood to use in furniture. Its color can be reddish-brown (birch heartwood) or almost white (birch sapwood), and it is frequently finished without any stain to preserve its natural beauty and color.Is birch a strong hardwood? ›
But is birch wood strong? Yes, birch is a heavy wood, hard and very strong. It has very good benign properties, with good crushing strength and shock resistance. 1,260 pounds of pressure is required to mar yellow birch, so it's very durable.Is white birch a hardwood or softwood? ›
White birch is a hardwood, in the same group as maple, elm, ash, and oak. When kiln dried, these hardwoods burn very clean, hot and efficient. As stated in a previous blog, birch firewood produces 20.2 million BTUs per cord, giving it one of the highest energy contents in wood.Is birch a type of hardwood? ›
Characteristics: The 60 species of Birch are classified as a stiff, close-grained hardwood. Grown in northern climates, it is known for its characteristic light colour and attractive patterns.Are all birch trees hardwood? ›
Birch is a native hardwood that comes from the genus Betula. There are over a dozen species of birch trees native to North America, but the most common are white birch, yellow birch, and black birch. Yellow birch and white birch are the two most commonly found in woodworking.Is birch as strong as oak? ›
Put simply, birch and oak are very respectable woods when it comes to strength and hardness, with oak performing slightly better. Now, if you're careful around your cabinets, this difference in strength will be negligible to you as a user. Birch is still a strong and durable hardwood choice for kitchen cabinets.What wood is stronger than birch? ›
The hardness of a species of wood is measured with the Janka hardness test which determines the amount of force required to embed a small steel ball halfway into a plank of wood. Oak species are slightly harder than Birch – White Oak has a Janka rating of 1360 and Red Oak of 1290, while Birch has a rating of 1260.Is birch as strong as maple? ›
Of the two, maple is a stronger and denser wood product than birch.Is pine or birch stronger? ›
Compared to pine, you will not feel any specific smell from birch wood and as it is more stronger and stable, birch is better suitable for smaller size constructions. However, it is more expensive material than pine.
Is birch or poplar stronger? ›
This means that the denser (stronger) Birch wood used to make Birch Plywood (laserply) makes it ideal for many construction tasks where its increased strength is a benefit. The lower density of Poplar means it can be laser cut at lower power settings than Birch.Is birch or plywood stronger? ›
Grades of plywood -
Unlike regular plywood, birch plywood is known for having multiple lamination layers and almost no spaces or voids. So if you're looking for something structurally tighter than the aesthetics, birch plywood is a much sturdier and lighter option.
Birch is also a popular hardwood. It is used to make different types of furniture items such as doors, cabinets and panels among others. A wide variety of birch wood is used for creating furniture pieces.Is birch wood used for anything? ›
Common uses and applications
Paper birch is widely used for lumber, veneer, plywood and pulpwood. Furniture, cabinets, flooring and other millwork are made from high-value birch lumber and veneers. The species is a favourite of the wood turning industry for everything from broom handles and dowels to toys and crafts.
The blaze-patterned curly birch is an excellent material for knife handles, because it's durable and beautiful.Is birch an expensive wood? ›
Birch wood is one of the least expensive woods on the market. It can easily warp as it is drying, but once it has been completely treated, it is extremely strong and durable. Birch wood is a very easy hardwood to stain and finish. It is often used as a substitute for maple because it has a similar grain pattern.Is birch a harder wood than pine? ›
Birch is harder than pine. Hard pressure while writing with a pen will dent pine. Pine will not stand up to constant use in a school environment, and joints will loosen more easily under pressure than would birch.Is birch a hard floor? ›
The hardness of birch makes it suitable to work with and it can withstand medium to heavy foot traffic. Yellow birch which is the most widely used species for flooring is harder than hard maple but slightly softer compared to red oak.Is maple or birch hardwood better? ›
Is Birch stronger than Maple? With a 1450 rating on the Janka hardness scale, Maple floorboards are harder than Birch, which has a rating of 1260. Consequently, Maple floorboards will resist scratches and dents more easily and are ideal for high-traffic areas. However, Birch can also make very durable floors.Does birch trees make good lumber? ›
Birch lumber is an especially popular building material because of its excellent qualities. It is hard, strong, has good crushing strength, and is shock resistant, meaning it can stand up against forces of nature such as thunderstorms and high winds.
What is the hardness rating of birch? ›
Birch species range from the upper-lower to the upper-middle end of the Janka hardness scale. Paper birch is 910 (nine percent softer than teak). Yellow birch is 1260, comparable to white oak (seven percent softer). Sweet birch is ranked at 1470, which is just one percent harder than hard maple.What is the strongest tree wood? ›
1. Australian Buloke – 5,060 IBF. An ironwood tree that is native to Australia, this wood comes from a species of tree occurring across most of Eastern and Southern Australia. Known as the hardest wood in the world, this particular type has a Janka hardness of 5,060 lbf.Is birch wood harder than hickory? ›
It earns a Janka hardness rating in excess of 2500 pounds-force. Hickory comes in second, scoring just under 2000 lbf. Very Hard – Next in order comes a cluster of six hardwood stalwarts: Maple, White Oak, Ash, Beech, Birch and Red Oak. All achieve Janka scores between 1200 to 1500 lbf.What tree is stronger than oak? ›
As you can see in the accompanying graph, rock maple is the hardest of these four hardwoods - about 15% harder than red oak, which ranks second. Black walnut ranks third in hardness - about 20% below red oak.What is the strongest wood in North America? ›
What is the hardest wood in North America? Of locally available woods, Black Ironwood is typically the strongest type of wood you can find in America. It's found in Florida and has a 3,660 lbf (16,280 N) Janka rating. Other strong North American woods include species of hickory, maples, oaks, walnuts, and beeches.What tree is mistaken for birch? ›
Quaking Aspens are often confused with birch trees. Although aspen are somewhat similar in appearance to some species of birch, birch trees belong to an entirely different family of trees.What wood is closest to birch? ›
Maple and Birch
They both have large swirls of darker wood, and often are used together on furniture or cabinets. These two species are so closely matched that even for professionals, it can be hard to tell them apart at times.
BIRCH. Birch is a hardwood that is extremely strong and durable, making it a great choice for solid hardwood furniture. Birch wood has a beautiful appearance, with a fine grain and pale coloring which gives it an elegant look for clean line furniture designs.Does birch make good cutting boards? ›
As a member of the hardwood family, Birch wood is durable and won't score easily making it a great candidate for a cutting serving board in your kitchen.What is the hardiest birch tree? ›
Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch)
Exceptionally hardy, paper birch performs best in cool northern climates where root zones are often covered with snow in the winter and does poorly in heat and humid areas.
What tree makes the best lumber? ›
Quality wood starts with quality trees. These are healthy, vigorous, straight, and sound, and of species that are valued in the marketplace. These include red oak, sugar maple, yellow birch, white ash, red maple, and white birch. Softwoods include white pine and red spruce.Is firewood oak or birch better? ›
Oak produces a flame initially and then reduces down to a small flame/glow. This firewood will burn for longer than ash, birch and alder and for those who know how to use it properly, is a very popular and sought-after firewood.Does birch burn faster than oak? ›
Birch. Birch gives off a beautiful flame, but unlike oak or maple, it burns quickly, so you'll need to have more on hand than either oak or maple. Because hardwoods burn more slowly and completely, you'll have less to clean up once the fire is out and less chance of buildup in your chimney.What is the most popular birch? ›
One of the most common birch types, silver birch trees are known by many names. While they are classified as Betula pendula, silver birches are also known as the European white birch, weeping birch, or warty birch for their distinctly textured trunks.Is Aspen stronger than pine? ›
Is this list complete? That's where you come in.
|Aspen (Big Tooth)||420|
The straight grain of beech adds strength to chairs, tables and stools. Birch, however, is more likely to sheer off or crack along knots or twisted grain lines. Beech is not free from defects, either, but beech lumber is graded more stringently than birch, resulting in only the best lumber making it to market.What is the hardest wood for plywood? ›
The answer is marine plywood. It is the strongest and toughest of all plywood on the market. High-quality glues hold the plies in marine plywood together. That makes them structurally sound and resistant to moisture.What wood is stronger than plywood? ›
Osb is stronger than plywood in shear. Shear values, through its thickness, are about 2 times greater than plywood. This is one of the reasons osb is used for webs of wooden I-joists.What is the strongest plywood available? ›
The strongest plywood is marine plywood, of which the layers are glued together with excellent quality adhesives.What is harder birch or oak? ›
Put simply, birch and oak are very respectable woods when it comes to strength and hardness, with oak performing slightly better. Now, if you're careful around your cabinets, this difference in strength will be negligible to you as a user.
Is birch wood softer than oak? ›
The hardness of a species of wood is measured with the Janka hardness test which determines the amount of force required to embed a small steel ball halfway into a plank of wood. Oak species are slightly harder than Birch – White Oak has a Janka rating of 1360 and Red Oak of 1290, while Birch has a rating of 1260.What is birch wood good for? ›
Common uses and applications. Paper birch is widely used for lumber, veneer, plywood and pulpwood. Furniture, cabinets, flooring and other millwork are made from high-value birch lumber and veneers. The species is a favourite of the wood turning industry for everything from broom handles and dowels to toys and crafts.Is birch a harder wood than maple? ›
To give you some numbers, on the Janka scale of hardness, hard maple ranges from 1400-1500 and birch lands around 1200-1300. Now, if you're careful around your cabinets, this difference in strength may be negligible to you as a user.What wood is harder than birch? ›
Very Hard – Next in order comes a cluster of six hardwood stalwarts: Maple, White Oak, Ash, Beech, Birch and Red Oak. All achieve Janka scores between 1200 to 1500 lbf. Hard – Tier three includes Walnut, American Cherry and Mahogany, each registering about 1000 lbf.Which is harder birch or hickory? ›
Durability and Fingers
If you like solid cabinets that impart a deep thump when shutting doors, hickory is the one to choose. Birch cabinets have a much lighter feel when opening or closing the doors. Birch cabinets scratch, dent or gouge more easily than hickory.
Birch is a hardwood that is extremely strong and durable, making it a great choice for solid hardwood furniture. Birch wood has a beautiful appearance, with a fine grain and pale coloring which gives it an elegant look for clean line furniture designs.What wood is most similar to birch? ›
Alder, Rustic Alder, Select Alder
A fine-grained hardwood similar to cherry, birch, and maple. Pale yellow (tan) to reddish brown in color.
This tree is a greedy consumer of water. Birch trees are susceptible to aphids that drip honeydew, making a mess. The birch borer attacks certain species of birches, leaving holes in the trunk and branches and causing leaves and branches to wilt and ooze.Which is the hardest wood in the world? ›
1. Australian Buloke – 5,060 IBF. An ironwood tree that is native to Australia, this wood comes from a species of tree occurring across most of Eastern and Southern Australia. Known as the hardest wood in the world, this particular type has a Janka hardness of 5,060 lbf.How strong is birch compared to Oak? ›
It is rot resistant and is thus commonly used for cabinetry. Since oak wood furniture is fungus and corrosion resistant it is ideal for outdoor furniture. Birch, on the other hand, is shock-resistant which makes it a good option for flooring and veneer. It is harder than oak.
What wood is better maple or birch? ›
Is Birch stronger than Maple? With a 1450 rating on the Janka hardness scale, Maple floorboards are harder than Birch, which has a rating of 1260. Consequently, Maple floorboards will resist scratches and dents more easily and are ideal for high-traffic areas.Are Aspen and birch the same? ›
Although aspen are somewhat similar in appearance to some species of birch, birch trees belong to an entirely different family of trees. Birch are famous for having bark that peels back like paper; aspen bark does not peel.