I know that deciding between two different kinds of wood for building furniture, flooring, and cabinets can be difficult. Especially between two that are so similar, in many ways, things can get complicated.
That’s why I looked into it to see which is better: Birch vs Walnut wood. The American Walnut tree is one of the sevoeral species of Walnut trees; however, it is the one mostly used for woodworking projects.
My goal is to help you understand the main differences between these two wood types, including the best use cases and the most ideal for your woodworking projects.
Birch vs Walnut Overview
Birch and walnut are hardwood species, which means they are derived from deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the autumn. They are popular for furniture, flooring, and other woodworking projects because of their durability, beauty, and workability.
Birch wood is derived from the birch tree, a member of the Betulaceae family. It’s usually light in color. It is distinguished by its fine, even texture and grain pattern, which is straight. Because of its ease of machining and finishing, it is widely used in furniture making, cabinetry, and other woodworking applications.
Walnut wood, on the other hand, is derived from the Juglans genus of walnut trees. Walnut wood is known for its rich, dark brown to chocolate color, especially in the tree’s heartwood. It has a grain pattern of a straight nature with occasional swirls and waves, giving it a distinct and appealing appearance.
|Color||Creamy white to pale yellow||Rich dark brown to chocolate brown|
|Grain||Straight and fine||Straight with occasional swirls/waves|
|Workability||Easy to work with||More difficult to work with|
|Common Uses||Furniture, cabinetry, doors, flooring, plywood||Fine furniture, interior paneling, architectural details|
|Cost||Relatively inexpensive||More expensive|
Birch is perfect for people looking for a fair amount of flexibility to hardness. Birchwood is the cost-effective option, whereas Walnut is higher class. Walnut is a dark-colored wood with an attractive grain pattern. Walnut is said to be a dense and strong wood that is used for expensive furniture and carpentry.
Though these two types of wood are very similar, they have slight differences that will make either more pleasing. So it will come down to what aesthetic you’re after more than the physical properties of these woods.
Birch vs Walnut: Durability
Birch and Walnut wood are hardwoods like oak, meaning they are strong and durable, wood that will last you a long time. It makes them great for cabinets, flooring, and especially furniture.
Between Birch vs Walnut in terms of hardness and strength, Birch is stronger than Walnut wood, having a Janka scale of 1260, whereas Walnut has a rating of 1010, making Walnut the softer wood. Walnut is more durable than wood like poplar, though, so it’s still a good choice if you want a solid wood.
Birch vs Walnut: Appearance
The appearance of the wood in its natural state or natural color is just as important as the color that will come out of it when it is stained or varnished. Builders or carpenters need to choose a wood color that suits the setting, so it is important to know how the wood would be impacted by staining.
It makes Walnut a better choice as it has a variety of colors to pick from, such as light brown to dark chocolate brown. On top of choosing from different tones of Walnut wood, this wood is great when it comes with staining as it absorbs the stain well, and the result will be a smooth, uniform finish.
On the other hand, Birch wood has lighter shades with a naturally light shade of brown, unlike Walnut with chocolate brown; however, there is a slight variation between the different types of Birchwood. For example, the white Birch wood is a light shade with a little bit of brown towards the center, yellow Birch is light golden brown, and red Birch is light brown with a reddish shade.
What Birch Is Best For
Here are areas where birch truly shines:
- Furniture: Birch’s light hue and smooth, even grain patterns make it a preferred option for crafting furniture, such as a pallet bed. It is one of the popular woods used for woodworking projects like dressers, tables, and chairs.
- Cabinetry: Birch’s tight grain patterns and ability to take stain and finishes well make it a popular choice for kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
- Doors: Birch’s sturdiness and fine grain make it suitable for crafting interior and exterior doors, ensuring both durability and aesthetic appeal.
- Toys and Crafts: Birch’s lightweight and workability make it a preferred choice for crafting toys, puzzles, and various DIY projects.
- Flooring: While not as common as some other hardwood, birch can be used for flooring. Its hardness provides good durability, especially in low-traffic areas.
What Walnut Wood Is Best For
Here’s what walnut wood is best for:
- Fine Furniture: Walnut’s rich, dark brown color and distinctive grain pattern make it well-suited for crafting beautiful furniture, such as dining tables, dressers, coffee tables, and high-end cabinets. I don’t recommend using walnut for outdoor furniture – go with cedar instead.
- Interior Paneling: Walnut wood panels add warmth and character to interior spaces. They’re often used for interior paneling (mainly walls), wainscoting, and ceilings, creating a luxurious and inviting ambiance.
- Architectural Details: Walnut is suitable for crafting architectural details like moldings, staircases, handrails, and doors. Its natural beauty enhances the overall aesthetic of homes and buildings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Birch or Walnut Wood Good for Cabinetry?
Both birch and walnut wood are excellent choices for cabinetry, although they are different woods. Birch is a cost-effective, durable option, and its even grain and light color make it ideal for kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Walnut, with its dark brown color and straight grain, is more expensive but has a natural beauty and durability that make it great for high-end projects.
Is It Better to Use Walnut or Birch Wood for Furniture?
The choice between Walnut and Birch wood for furniture depends on your preferences and the desired look of the piece. Walnut is a popular, durable wood that ages beautifully and has a rich color that makes it favored for high-class furniture.
Birch, with lighter shades, offers more affordability and versatility, making it an excellent choice for woodworking projects.
Is Walnut More Durable Than Birch Wood?
Walnut and Birch are hardwoods, meaning they are highly durable. When it comes to strength, however, when considering the two, birch takes the lead, with a Janka rating of 1260, which is considerably higher than the 1010 rating of walnut.
While birch is more durable against wear and tear than walnut, it is susceptible to insects, which could reduce its quality over time.
Both Birch wood and Walnut wood is great hardwoods for furniture, cabinets, and flooring. Ultimately, Birch wins, but only because it’s cheaper, more widely available, and still gives you greater strength quality. However, they still have the same downsides, with Birch having a lesser lifespan if not properly cared for.