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Plywood is often a building material of choice for so many different purposes. Plywood comes in many varieties, each of which is suitable for specific tasks. Therefore, knowing the differences between different types of plywood is quite important.
Today, we are here to compare two specific types differing in the wood species used, pine plywood and birch plywood. Let’s figure out which is best for specific uses.
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of pine plywood and birch plywood to determine what the differences between them are.
One of the primary differences here is a fundamental one, the type of wood that both are. Pine trees are softwood trees, whereas birch trees are hardwood trees. This is a massive difference no doubt, and realistically, it leads to more or less all of the other differences that we are about to talk about here.
There are some huge differences between plywood made of softwood and those made of hardwood. For more detail, read my article about softwood vs. hardwood.
Considering the softwood vs. hardwood issue discussed above, in terms of overall hardness and durability, birch is the harder of the two. There are many different types of pine out there, although the vast majority of them are not nearly as hard as birch. If you examine the Janka hardness scale for wood, some types of pine come in at under 500, whereas birch wood is at around 1260.
For instance, if you make a desk out of pine, writing and putting a lot of pressure on it with a pen will scratch and dent the pine. This is not something you would have to worry about with a desk made of birch.
Birch is the harder and denser of the two kinds of wood. Due to this reason, there are fewer cavities and empty spaces than within pine. There is less air or space between wood fibers in birch. Because of this, because it has a harder exterior, bugs, fungi, and moisture have a much harder time penetrating it.
Although neither pine nor birch plywood is not ideal for exterior use, birch is the more resilient of the two as far as the elements are concerned. Over time, however, either type of plywood will start to rot.
Another difference between birch and pine plywood is that pine plywood is the more flexible of the two. It’s softer and not quite as dense as birch plywood, and therefore has more flexibility.
It is therefore the better choice when any kind of plywood bending is called for, such as for a skateboard ramp for instance. Although there are some types of flexible birch plywood, it’s much less common.
The cost of these types of plywood is another major difference, with high-quality birch plywood being the far more expensive of the two.
Depending on the retailer, a 1/4-inch thick sheet of pine plywood will cost anywhere from 12 to 18 dollars. In terms of birch plywood, you can expect to spend about twice that amount, if not more. For high-quality Baltic birch plywood, this cost can be even higher.
Because birch plywood is made of dense hardwood, it does tend to be a good deal heavier than pine plywood. Yes, this extra weight and durability are great for a number of purposes, albeit not for making lightweight wooden constructions. If you are going for a lightweight type of plywood, it’s pine plywood that you want to go with.
One defining feature of pinewood is the fact that it tends to have a lot of knots in it. These dark knots often create a very rustic appearance that works well for décor purposes.
Pine plywood tends to have those aesthetically pleasing darkened knots in them. That said, some people prefer the slightly more consistent appearance of birch. If we are talking about plywood, pine plywood tends to look more like real and solid lumber than birch plywood does.
What is interesting to note is that birch plywood is not heavier and more durable than pine plywood just because of the differences between hardwood and softwood, but also due to the number of plies used.
Of course, plywood can have differing amounts of layers. Generally speaking (although not always), pine plywood will have three layers. On the other hand, with birch plywood, it’s more common for it to have anywhere from five to seven layers.
Something else worth noting here is that birch and birch plywood is far more fire-resistant than pine and pine plywood. In general, hardwood is more resistant to catching fire than softwood.
Pine is the most common type of tree in North America, and this means that it is very readily available. This means that using pine for plywood is not only sustainable but also cost-effective.
Pine plywood is ideal for use for roof and wall sheathing, as well as for subflooring. Pine plywood is also a material of choice for furniture, shelving, cabinets, lining, framing, for making glue laminate beams, and more. Pine plywood, due to its flexibility, is also ideal for making things like skateboard ramps.
If you need something fairly strong yet lightweight, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable, then pine plywood is a good choice.
Birch plywood is a material of choice for furniture making and cabinetry, particularly for desks and chairs. Due to its durability, it’s also used for special constructions such as trailer shells, speaker boxes, and skateboard cores. Due to its strength and hardness, it also serves well for structural purposes.
If you need something strong and resistant and don’t mind paying a bit extra, then birch plywood is a good choice.
Below is a brief overview of the alternatives to these materials:
Knowing the differences between various types of plywood such as pine and birch plywood is very important in terms of the end result of your projects. Now that you know the main differences between them, making a choice should be straightforward.