Pine wood plays a key role in society, and pine trees are one of the most commercially significant wood species in the history of forestry. Pine trees are coniferous trees that make excellent hedge trees, and they fall into the genus pinus in the pinaceae botanical family. This genus currently has over 120 pine species.
Pine lumber is extremely flexible, and it’s very durable. It comes in a large range of colors, and it gets used in all aspects of both finer woodworking projects and raw construction. Pine is a softwood species that grows in dense stands at a very quick rate, and this makes them great species of trees for the timber industry.
Pine trees are some of the most common evergreen trees found in the northern hemisphere. The United States once laid claim to having over 100 million acres of these trees, and the number has dwindled due to logging. However, they are still one of the most abundant trees in the United States.
Pine wood has a huge range of uses, and they have a very high value when it comes to carpentry, including using them in door and window framing, furniture, pine wood flooring, paneling, and roofing. If you’d like to know more about the popular types of pine wood you can use in your next project, read on.
Pine Wood History
People have been benefiting from using pine wood for centuries. Pine trees were first used to make log cabins, and the earliest record of pine logging started from the 18th century. Pine trees were chopped down at this time and transported to mills using the rushing torrents in rivers or by horse. Once they reached the mills, they got cut into blocks and boards to create flooring and furniture.
Characteristics of Pine Trees
You should be able to identify a tree by the wood, but it’s equally as important to be able to identify the same tree by the bark, leaves, and growth habit. Pine trees are evergreen conifers, and this means that they have needles that hang on all year long and stay green. They also produce cones instead of flowers for the reproductive trait.
The bark on your pine tree will vary from species to species. There are some trees that will grow very scaly textured and thick bark that has a dark brown coloring. Other pine trees will grow very flaky and thin bark with a light gray coloring.
Pine trees will also vary in height, depending on the growing location and the species. They can be anywhere from 10 feet tall up to over 250 feet tall. The trees tend to average out between 50 to 150 feet. The smallest pine species is currently the Siberian pine and the largest is the Ponderosa pine. Pines are also very long lived, as long as they can exist in their growing conditions. Some can be upwards of 100 years old while others can get upwards of 1,000 years old. The oldest known living specimen is the bristlecone pine that is 4,600 years old.
Pine trees have needle-like leaves that emerge in clusters that are called fascicles. Each fascicle has between one and seven individual needles on it. The needles are pointed, long, and will vary in shades of green to blue-green. They have a spiral growth habit to them along the shoots of the tree. The spring sheets are better known as candles because they stand erect.
Three Pine Wood Characterizations
You can divide pine trees into three main categories, including hard pine trees, intermediate pine trees, and soft pine trees. It’s important to know the distinction when you’re picking out pine wood because each category has specific qualities.
Hard Pine Trees
Southern pine trees are almost the perfect pine tree. Unlike soft pines, these ones come with a much higher density to give you a harder wood. You’ll also get an abrupt earlywood to latewood transition and an uneven grain. The average weight for dried pine wood in this category ranges from 28 to 42 pounds per cubic foot.
Southern pine lumber is very hard with a dried weight that fluctuates between 36 and 42 pounds per cubic foot. The heartwood is a reddish brown color with a yellowish white sapwood. The four major species include the longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, and the slash pine. There are also several minor species like the spruce pine, sand pine, pitch pine, table mountain pine, pond pine, and the Virginia pine.
Hard pine wood is very valuable because of the heart pine. Heart pine is the heartwood of your pine tree, and this is the center of the tree trunk. Old growth heart pine is especially valuable because it’s very beautiful and sturdy while being easy to work with. You can use this portion of the wood to create heart pine flooring or antique heart pine furniture.
Intermediate Hardness Pine Trees
The wood in this group isn’t quite as hard as any Southern yellow pine wood, but it’s not as soft as white pine wood. They offer a very abrupt earlywood to latewood transition, but they have a lighter weight at 28 to 29 pounds per cubic foot of dried wood. They also offer even more grain. The lodgepole pine and the ponderosa pine are the two main species in this category, and they’re so similar that they get marketed interchangeably.
Soft Pine Trees
This category is made up of pine trees that have a fine texture, low density, even grains, and small resin canals. The trees in this group are mostly white soft wood pines, and the heartwood is usually a lighter brown with a pink tint. The sapwood is almost white to a pale yellow, and the wood is very durable. It can resist splitting, swelling, or warping. The four prominent species are the western white pine, sugar pine, limber pine, or the eastern white pine.
Many people don’t realize that there are different types of pine trees out there, and there are different categories of wood that make it better suited for some applications over the other. White Pine by Andy Arthur / CC BY 2.0
17 Types of Pine Wood
Now that you know a little about pine wood and pine trees in general, we’re going to break down 17 popular types of pine wood for you to consider before you start your next project. Knowing what they are can help ensure that you get the look you want without sacrificing durability.
1. Eastern White Pine Tree (Pinus Strobus)
The first type of pine wood on the list is the eastern white pine tree, and it grows throughout the Eastern United States. The tree generally stands from 65 to 100 feet tall, and the trunk is between two and four feet. You’ll get a much finer texture with this pine wood with smaller resins. It’s very commonly used in timber construction in the northeast portion of the United States.
It’s popular for construction lumber, millwork, boat making, and carving. In fact, the white wood was once so prized for ship making that the king of England would earmark the best and biggest trees for his navy. This brought about the Pine Tree Riot of 1772, and this was a contributing factor in the Revolutionary War.
2. Limber Pine Tree (Pinus Flexilis)
This pine tree grows in the mountains of Canada, Mexico, and in the Western United States. It averages between 40 and 50 feet tall with a two to three foot trunk diameter. This tree can live for a very long time, and the oldest known specimens are over 2,000 and 1,400 years old. It thrives in the rocky mountains in the Pacific Northwest for the best planting zones.
This pine wood has a very limited commercial value because it doesn’t get used for timber. Instead, it gets mostly used for rough construction or fuelwood. However, this pine wood is a very important member of your local forests because it’s a vital food source and habitat for any insect and animal species.
3. Loblolly Pine Tree (Pinus Taeda)
Growing in the southeastern portion of the United States, this tree averages between 100 and 115 feet tall at full maturity with a trunk diameter of 1.5 to 5 feet. This makes it a slightly skinnier variety to grow. Another strange thing about this type of pine wood is that it doesn’t have the characteristic scent of pine. It gets used in a host of heavy construction work like roof beams, trusses, joists, stringers, and piles. However, it’s also popular in furniture making, composite boards, wood floor boards, plywood, boxes, and pallets.
4. Lodgepole Pine Tree (Pinus Contorta)
The lodgepole pine tree grows in western North America, and it can easily top 100 feet tall at full maturity. The trunk will only get one to two feet in diameter, but the size will vary widely based on the subspecies. It got the name because the Native Americans used to use them to make lodges and tipis. This pine type also has three subspecies that vary from slender and tall trees to stubby and short trees.
The heartwood of this tree is a yellowish-red color and the sapwood has a yellowish white coloring. The heartwood color won’t be delineated from the sapwood color, and when you flat saw it, this pine wood has pronounced dimples. You’ll find this pine wood used for veneer, plywood, sheathing, subflooring, interior trim, cabinetry, construction lumber, and poles.
5. Longleaf Pine Tree (Pinus Palustris)
The Longleaf pine grows in the southeastern part of the United States, and the tree can between 100 and 115 feet tall with a two to three foot trunk diameter. It grows very well throughout the United States, and is well-known as being the cultural symbol of the United States. It’s also the official state tree of Alabama, and it’s a slow-growing species that can easily live up to 500 years.
This type of pine wood is prized because it has a very straight and clear look to it, and you won’t find a lot of defects. It’s very popular to use for ship building, and it’s also popular for exterior and interior construction projects, poles, stringers, joists, roof trusses, sheathing, and subflooring.
6. Pitch Pine Tree (Pinus Rigida)
Pitch Pine grows in the eastern portion of North America, and it can get up to 100 feet tall at full maturity under the correct growing conditions. It’s a very valuable tree species because it is capable of growing in very hostile environments that have low nutrient content where other trees and plants can’t thrive. It’s a pioneer species, and this means that it’s the first specimen to vegetate a location after a disaster strikes.
This pine wood will come with a crooked trunk, and they grow at a very slow rate. Because they can grow in hostile environments, you can use it for commercial purposes in areas that may not easily get shipments of wood. Historically, this pine wood was used for timber mines, ship building, railroad ties, and radio towers. Today, you’d use this option for rough construction projects, fuelwood with fireplaces, and pulpwood.
7. Pond Pine Tree (Pinus Serotina)
Growing in the southeastern part of the US, this pine wood tree can get up to 100 feet tall at full maturity. It’s very similar to the pitch pine tree in the fact that it has a slightly odd growth habit. However, due to the faster growth, very tall tree trunks, and the long life these trees have, they have value in the commercial distribution sector. It is a southern yellow pine, and this allows you to use it for heavy construction purposes. It’s popular for bridge building, beams, railroad ties, poles, veneers, plywood, and pulpwood.
8. Ponderosa Pine Tree (Pinus Ponderosa)
The Ponderosa pine tree grows in the western portion of the United States and Canada, and it can easily reach between 100 and 165 feet tall with a two to four foot trunk diameter. The heartwood of this tree is a very light yellowish-red color with a brown tint, and the sapwood is a yellowish whtie. Unlike the lodgepole pine, they are demarcated. They also have similar dimpling to the lodgepole pine, but they’re much less prominent.
The clear pine wood this tree offers is excellent for building sashes, doors, blinds, sheathing, moldings, subfloors, and cabinetry. It’s also popular for making boxes and crates. Knotty Ponderosa pine is popular for interior woodwork applications.
9. Red Pine Tree (Pinus Resinosa/Pinus Sylvestris)
The Red Pine tree can grow all over North America, and the tree has a trunk diameter that can reach three feet with a height of 65 to 100 feet tall. It’s better known as Norway Pine, and this can be misleading as this species isn’t native to Norway. Many people think that the name came from early European settlers who mixed up this tree with the Norway spruce.
Red pine has a very light reddish-brown heartwood and a nearly white to pale yellow sapwood. The grain is very straight and even, and this pine wood has a medium texture that isn’t too coarse or too fine. It has a slightly oily feel. The timber of this tree is used for railway ties, cabin logs, poles, pulpwood, lumber, construction and fuel lumber.
10. Sand Pine Tree (Pinus Clausa)
Growing throughout the southeastern portion of the US, this pine wood tree is shorter at 15 to 30 feet tall at full maturity. This is a very shrubby tree that grows in specific areas of the southern United States. It will only grow across peninsular Florida, and you can also find it along the Alabama coast. It’s a fire adaptive tree that is very critical to the Florida scrub. It has a very thin trunk and branches that make it unsuitable for most woodworking projects, but it’s very popular for use as wood pulp in the native growing zones.
11. Shortleaf Pine Tree (Pinus Echinata)
The Shortleaf pine tree grows in the Eastern United States, and it can get up to 100 feet tall and three feet in diameter at full maturity. It’s a very important species in the forestry industry because it’s a very fast-growing tree that gives a thriving habitat for a host of animal and insect species. It can have a crooked trunk, but it’s still important to the lumber industry too.
You’ll find this pine wood used a lot in lumber construction. It’s a very beautiful wood that is also very affordable. The timber is used as a viable source of wood pulp, lumber for heavy construction projects, plywood veneer, railroad tracks, bridges, and beams.
12. Slash Pine Tree (Pinus Elliottii)
The Slash Pine tree grows in the United States in the southeastern portion of the country, and it can get between 60 and 100 feet tall with a two to three foot trunk diameter. The best known characteristic of this tree is that it thrives in swampy habitats. It also has a very high strength to it, and it’s one of the hardest hardwoods on the market. You can compare this pine wood to ironwood.
The timber you get from this tree is very popular for use in heavy construction projects like poles, beams, railroad ties, decks, roofs, and bridges. It’s also a popular source of plywood, veneers, and wood pulp. More importantly, it’s a very popular pioneer habitat that works to repopulate areas that have experienced severe distress.
13. Spruce Pine Tree (Pinus Glabra)
Growing in the Southern United States in the Coastal Plains, this pine wood tree can easily reach 80 feet high. Unlike other species of pine that tend to grow in very crowded and dense stands of pure pine, this one can be found growing quite happily scattered amongst other hardwood forests as long as it has a moist forest habitat. This pine wood type is commonly used in heavy construction projects, and you can find it in railroad and bridge building, poles, beams, plywood, and fences. Additionally, it’s popular for wood veneer and pulp.
14. Sugar Pine Tree (Pinus Lambertiana)
The Sugar pine grows from Oregon through California to Baja in the Mountains, and this is a larger species that can reach up to 200 feet high with a three to five foot trunk diameter. It’s the largest species of pine currently, and botanists have called it the most majestic pine species in the world. When you saw this tree, the pine wood had streaks of brown from the resin canals in the trunk.
It also has the largest resin canals with the coarsest texture, and it’s a valuable wood that gets used in fine millwork, including interior and exterior trim, moldings around ceiling lights, frames, sashes, and for making musical instruments like piano keys.
15. Table Mountain Pine Tree (Pinus Pungens)
Growing in the United States in the Appalachian Mountains, this tree is shorter at 20 to 40 feet. Because this type of pine wood tends to grow in scattered patches instead of pure, large forests, it’s slightly more difficult to harvest. Pure table mountain wood is rarely sold by itself, but it tends to get sold in batches along with more consistent species of pine. This is a very resilient, fast-growing hardwood that gets used for a range of household projects ranging from furniture to flooring.
16. Virginia Pine Tree (Pinus Virginiana)
This is another pine wood species that grows in the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, and it can get between 20 and 60 feet tall with a 20-inch trunk diameter. It’s a very versatile tree species that is very fast growing, long lived, and it offers very sturdy wood. It was traditionally used as mine timbers, to make railroad ties, and as fuelwood. Today, it’s a very solid pick for reforestation, and it’s very important to local ecosystems. This is a very common Christmas tree farming pick, and they’re valuable to the wood pulp and timber industry.
17. Western White Pine Tree (Pinus Monticola)
The final type of pine wood on the list is one that grows in the Coast Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and in the northern Rocky Mountains. The tree gets between 100 and 150 feet tall at full maturity, and the trunk diameter is between three and five feet. Also called the Silver pine, this pine wood offers an even grain with a coarse to medium texture. It’s popular for use in making veneer, plywood, wooden matches, boxes, construction projects, and for interior millwork.
Because it has an even grain to it, the wood is ideal for carving. This makes it a prized option for making fine furniture pieces. Unfortunately, this tree species has been gravely endangered due to white pine blister rust. This is a fungus that can infect pine stands very quickly. Over 90% of this population has been taken out by this infection.
Uses of Pine Trees
There are arguably dozens of uses for pine wood, and you can use it both indoors and out with the proper preparation. The most popular uses for this type of wood include but are not limited to:
Pressure-treated pine wood is one of the most affordable materials you can get for deck or deck railing building. If you treat it each year with a water-repellant, your pine wood deck can survive up to 15 years. Some buildings use this pine for all types of framing because it has a moisture-resistant quality and they use the composites for deck boards. Pine that isn’t pressure-treated shouldn’t get used for building decks at your home.
Because pine wood has gorgeous colors that range from reddish brown to almost pure white, it’s a very popular choice for flooring. The timber is relatively soft, and it won’t have that brittle, hard feel that you get with other hardwoods.
Pine flooring comes in tongue-and-groove planks. The planks have virtually no defects and they are very smooth. However, some people believe that pine wood planks with color variations, knots, and swirls look better because they add character, even if they are characteristics of lower-grade flooring. These planks fit tightly together and won’t move or shift when you hit them with a block or mallet.
Pine trees can have a lifespan of 100 years up to hundreds of thousands of years. One Great Basin bristlecone pine tree is 5,068 years old. The original number of pines in the States have now dwindled to a fraction of what they originally were to due deforestation. However, measures are now being taken to replace these lost trees. Fortunately, these trees grow very quickly, and some fast-growing options can grow up to two feet every year. If you’re considering using pine wood in your next project, check out the options we outlined above. We’re positive that you’ll find the best fit for your home.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.