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Pine vs Poplar Wood (For Furniture, Flooring, and Cabinets)

Let's take a closer look at pine and poplar wood. We set out their differences including workability, durability, and hardness to help you pick the right wood for your next project.

Pine wood dresser against a white wall.

Different types of construction projects call for different kinds of timber. The choice between Poplar and Pine appears to be a no-brainer when it comes to constructing furniture. Pine is generally inexpensive, so it must be better, right?

No, it’s not so. Various things must be taken into account before making the right decision about wood for flooring, furniture, and cabinets. Let us explain!

Pine beats out poplar every time if you wish to make outdoor furniture and flooring, thanks to its long-lasting durability. However, poplar wood is the obvious choice for cabinets and tiny handcrafted objects. It is because it is easier to work with and machine than pine.

Still, having said all of that, one needs to consider many factors, including durability and workability, when picking between these well-liked timbers. Continue reading to learn what distinguishes poplar wood from pine and which material is better for your next woodworking project.

Related: Pine vs. Maple | Pine vs. Walnut | Pine vs. Beech | Pine vs. Cedar | Pine vs. Cherry | Oak vs. Pine | Types of Pine Wood | Poplar vs. Walnut Wood | Polar vs. Maple | Cherry vs. Poplar | Poplar vs. Birch

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: General Comparison

Pine (Pinus) is the name of a group of several species and is categorized as softwood. On the other hand, Poplar (Populus) is a common name of a specific species tree. Though it has been classified as a hardwood, it is light and soft.

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Throw a glance at the table below to get an overall idea about the pine and poplar wood.  After general comparison, some critical factors should be considered about wood before deciding on its usage.

FeaturesPoplar WoodPine Wood
Scientific NamePopulusPinus
Tree Size25-50 meters15-50 meters.
Appearance(Yellow Poplar ) Pale yellow to yellowish-brown(Eastern White Pine) Pale yellow to light brown
Janka Hardness540 lbf (2,400 N) (Yellow Poplar )380 lbf (1,690 N) (Eastern white pine)
WorkabilityGreat WorkabilityGreat Workability
ApplicationsCabinets, matchboxes, and packaging boxes.Interior furnishing, furniture, building, construction

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: Workability

Close-up of carpenter hands shaving a poplar wood.

The workability of wood is an important factor to consider. Let’s have a look at both of them.

Workability of Pine Wood

Pinewood is easy to work with, whether with machinery or by hand. It is good in gluing, nailing, screwing, and finishing.

Workability of Poplar Wood

As a result of its low density, working with tools and machines is simple. If you want to avoid fuzzy surfaces, you’ll need sharp cutters. Screw and nail application does not demand prior drilling. It binds and finishes nicely.

There’s enough moisture in it. So,  carving and trimming it is a much easy task. After drying, it begins to shrink. It is recommended to use it after it has completely dried for optimal outcomes.

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: Durability

Close-up of pine cabinet with three drawers and three doors.

The durability of wood makes it an excellent option to go for. See the comparison of pine and poplar wood durability below.

Durability of Pine Wood

When it comes to durability, pine beats poplar wood in some scenarios. Remember that, as already stated, there are various varieties of pine. It is not as sturdy as an oak, but it is still a long-lasting material.

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Durability of Poplar Wood

It does not have a high durability rating. Scratches, damage, and even denting are all possible. As a result, it is usually advised to be used in interior construction.

Pine needs to be treated with a copper azole, chromate copper arsenate, or any appropriate chemical preservative for exterior use.

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: Hardness

Close-up of poplar trunks in light hue.

Janka’s hardness or hardness tells us how well the wood will stand up to denting, dancing, and wear. It also indicates how challenging it will be to apply, sand, nail, or screw a particular wood species. The hardness of both pine and poplar wood has been described below.

Hardness of Pine

Longleaf Pine has a hardness of 870 lbf (4,120 N), making it ideal for indoor furniture. Although Eastern White Pine has a hardness of 380 lbf (1,690 N), it is pretty soft. Radiata pine has a hardness of 710 lbf (3,150 N), while Scots pine has a hardness of 540 lbf (3,150 N) (2,420 N).

Hardness of Poplar

Yellow poplar has a Janka hardness of 540 lbf (2,400 N). On the other hand, white poplar has 410 lbf (1,820 N), which is slightly less.  The hardness of the balsam poplar is 300 lbf (1,330 N). It has a softer texture than yellow and white poplar.

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: Which is Better for Furniture?

Pine picnic set sitting on grass.

Pinewood is an excellent material for furniture designs. Even being a softwood, it is noted for its stiffness and stress resistance. Hardness, color, stress resistance, and grain are all essential characteristics of good furniture.

Pinewood has all these characteristics. Some pine species, however, are not appropriate for furniture. Meanwhile, pines are the most popular choice.

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Both poplar and pine aren’t naturally decay-resistant. Both of these wood varieties, however, can be utilized to make furniture when pressure treated. And why is that?

Because pressure-treated wood is loaded with wood preservatives that make it more resistant to termites and wood rot.

Treated pine wood holds up better to moisture than treated poplar. However, it still fails to hold up when constantly soaked in water. But it is still a fairly decent choice for outdoor furniture.

The cost of pine makes it an attractive option for cheaper pieces of furniture, and if adequately finished with a protective layer, it should last for many years. So, based on furniture, pine is your best choice between these two types of lumber.

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: Which is Better for Flooring?

Laying out poplar wood planks in a white room.

The majority of individuals favor hardwood flooring. However, pressure-treated pine wood can be a cost-effective alternative. Its lifespan can be as long as 15 years or longer if properly cared for.

Many advantages of pressure-treated pine include increased moisture resistance, fungal resistance, insect resistance, fire resistance, and durability. However, it costs slightly more than regular pine, but it is less expensive than other hardwoods.

On the other hand, poplar would be a floor that can be readily dented, scratched, and worn. It has half, or even less, the hardness of domestic woods commonly used for flooring, such as heart pine.

Pine vs. Poplar Wood: Which is Better for Cabinets?

Pine cabinet with uninstalled parts on top.

Cabinet making takes more skill than simply putting up shelves. You’ll need a wood type that’s easy to deal with and machines easily if you want to get those cabinet joints just perfect.

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So, deciding between Poplar and Pine for your cabinets is a simple task. Poplar is easier to work with, plane down to form, and paint, and it takes a coat of paint better than pine.

Plus, unlike Pine, Poplar does not contain knots. Another factor is weight; though it is hardwood, it weighs less than pine. It makes poplar a better choice for cabinets, shelving and, anything else you want to mount on the wall.

Conclusion

To sum up, despite being classed as a hardwood, poplar is, in fact, easier to work with and machine compared to pine. However, Pine softwood types such as Yellow Pine and Radiata are much more durable and long-lasting than Poplar lumber.

References:

Real Simple: The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Wood for Furniture