Pine vs Oak Furniture – Which is right for you?

There’s no denying that pine and oak both look great in the home. But which one is the best for you? Both options have their pros and cons but ultimately your decision will come down to your situation and requirements. Deciding factors will include a mix of budget, the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve and what the furniture will be used for.

Contents

Oak Tree in Green Field

Image by Kevan Craft via Pixabay

Oak Trees – The Background

Comprising over 600 species, Oak trees are one of the oldest and most widely spread trees in the world. In Britain, there are five species of oak, two of which are native; Common oak, also known as English oak, and Sessile oak, with three other species, Holm oak, Red oak and Turkey oak, which are imported.

The oak tree has a significant association with the English countryside and is easily recognisable thanks to its distinctive shape and size. Oak trees can grow up to 148 feet tall and live up to 1,000 years, although the usual lifespan of an oak tree is about 200 years.

Young oaks have smooth, silvery brown bark but, as they age, the trunk grows rugged and is covered in finger-shaped platelets with deep grooves in between. The trunk can grow to a massive size; a girth circumference of up to 10 meters has been known in older trees.

Pine Trees – The Background

Comprising over 100 different species, Pine trees are the most common coniferous tree in the world. These trees are native to most countries in the Northern Hemisphere and tend to form large forests that are characterised by wide-open areas. In the UK, two of the most ubiquitous species of pine are Scots Pine and Austrian Pine.

Pine trees are easily identifiable due to their cone shape and needle-like leaves. The needles produced can vary from one to 11 inches long and range from blue to dark green. Another feature characteristic of the pine tree is its reddish-brown or grey bark. Similar to the oak tree, a pine tree’s bark will be smooth when the tree is young but will likely become flaky as it ages.

These trees are considered evergreen meaning they keep their needles for at least two years and, when old needles fall, new ones are ready to grow in their place.

The pine tree can reach a range of sizes in their maturity sizes depending on the species; some species have been known to reach up to 100 feet tall.

Pine Trees Forest

Image by jplenio via Pixabay

Soft vs Hardwood

When it comes to picking wood for your furniture, you may wonder what the difference is between softwood and hardwood. Surprisingly, hardwood isn’t necessarily harder than softwood, nor is softwood necessarily softer than hardwood.

The distinction between the two is actually to do with their plant reproduction. All trees reproduce by producing seeds, but the seed structure varies between hardwood trees and softwood trees. Hardwood trees, such as Oak, produce seeds that have an outer shell or “covering”; like an acorn. On the other hand, softwood trees, such as pine, let their seeds fall to the ground with no covering meaning their seed spread covers a much wider area.

In addition, softwood trees tend to be less structurally dense than hardwood trees and are, therefore, generally easier to cut and work with.

Oak vs Pine

Environmental Impact

Pine that is used to make furniture is usually grown in vast, but controlled plantations; when an older tree is being harvested, seedlings are put down to ensure there are always new trees growing.

Unlike pine trees, which are often grown in dense forests, oak trees require greater biodiversity and space. This means they can’t be grown as efficiently as pine and, coupled with their longer growing time, often means they aren’t as sustainable unless they’re carefully managed which of course impacts the cost.

To summarise – because Pine is easier to manage, replace and quicker to grow, it is generally considered the better option for those concerned about their environmental impact.

Grain and Appearance

Oakwood comes in a number of different hues, but it’s the grain pattern that makes it unique. Oak grains tend to be wavier with more knots and unique markings than pine, which, combined with its natural golden colour, creates a beautiful piece of furniture that is truly one of a kind.

Natural Oak Dining Table Close Up

Natural Oak Dining Table Close Up with Clear Matte Lacquer, Image by Grain and Frame

Pinewood varies in colour, from creamy white to yellow, although the specific shade can vary. This light colour makes pinewood really versatile as it can be stained to pretty much any colour you want to match your existing furnishings. Pine takes various stains and waxes well, so you’re guaranteed quality results no matter what finish option you choose. Pine also has a prominent grain with knots darker than the wood giving it an incredibly unique look which many people love.

Industrial Pine Dining Table Close Up

Industrial Pine Dining Table Close Up, Image by Grain and Frame

Durability

Oak takes over a hundred years to grow which is why the wood is so strong naturally. Nonetheless, when a suitable finish is applied to oak, it makes the wood even more durable and generally tougher than most types of other wood (including pine).

Pine is a very stiff type of wood which still makes it a durable furniture option. An added advantage to using pine, being a softwood, is that hardwood will often warp in humid environments whereas pine will have minimal shrinking or swelling issues.

Nonetheless, in the context of most households, oak is much harder-wearing than pine which is more prone to wear and tear over time.

Weight

When the weights of pine and oak are compared, it’s probably not surprising that oak wood is heavier due to its density.

If you’re someone who moves home regularly or shifts certain types of furniture around (like a coffee table), you may wish to consider pine which is a lot lighter and easier to move.

Conversely, if your new wood furniture is going to be something that isn’t moved around often, such as a dining table, then the weight is likely not an issue.

Cost

Due to the time it takes to grow, the comparative difficulties in working with it and the impact its greater weight has on logistics and transportation, oak is often the more expensive option.

If budget is a sticking point, pine is often considered a great alternative to oak, especially for those furniture pieces that you don’t expect to last 50+ years.

Summary

Hardwood (Oak) Softwood (Pine)
Environmental Impact Takes longer to grow than pine which means it’s less environmentally friendly than fast-growing pine Pine trees will constantly be harvested and replaced with new seedlings which mean new trees are always growing while older trees are being harvested
Cost More expensive (ideal for furniture you want to last for many years) Very affordable (ideal for children’s furniture which can be replaced as they grow)
Durability Naturally longer-lasting and less likely to dent, stain or wear over time Still very sturdy with good shock resistance but more prone to damage
Grain Tends to be wavier with more knots and unique markings which adds to its natural beauty Tends to have straighter grains that are lighter

Common Uses

Oak

Due to its strength, resistance and beauty oak is a widely used material, especially in the home, for projects that are intended to last for many years.

Some of the most common uses for oak include;

  • Well used or staple piece furniture such as dining tables, coffee tables and chairs
  • Decking
  • Cladding
  • Internal doors
  • Skirting and architrave
  • Flooring
  • Garage structures
  • Pergolas
  • Porches
  • Bookshelves

Pine

While pine is more prone to damage, it’s still widely used in the home, especially where buyers are on a bit more of a budget, but they still want the beauty that is captured in the natural wood. Some of the most popular uses for pine include:

  • Children’s furniture such as bunk beds (that may need replacing after a few years)
  • Furniture that isn’t used often or is painted, such as desk, wardrobes or drawers

Oak vs Pine: Which one is for me?

There is no clear winner when comparing pine and oak furniture; both are beautiful, stylish and relatively hard-wearing.

Pine is a strong, shock-resistant material and maybe a better choice of furniture if you’re on more of a budget, concerned about the environment or want to personalise the wood with a stain or paint.

Oak, on the other hand, should be considered if you’d like the furniture to last a lifetime and consider it an investment. You may also choose oak simply due to the greater variety and quirkiness of its grain.

Other FAQs

Is pinewood easy to stain?

As pinewood is so light, it’s easy to stain to pretty much any colour.

Can you stain pine wood to look like oak?

You can stain pine to look like oak. Pinewood soaks up stains really well which means you can alter the colour to pretty much any colour.

How can you tell the difference between oak and pine?

Oak generally has a dark, reddish colour whilst pine wood is much lighter and varies in colour from creamy white to yellow, Oak is also much heavier.

Is Oak Wood expensive?

Oak wood is generally more expensive than other woods due to the time and difficulties involved in growing and working with it. However, it also tends to last much longer than other woods so you should bear that in mind.

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