What is the Difference Between Oak vs Pine?
15 Minute Read
Oak has been a popular option for furniture in the home for a long time, and it offers a gorgeous warm hue to furniture. But we’re often asked what the best type of wood is to use for new furniture, whether oak or pine is better, and if there are there alternatives to consider when you’re buying furniture for your home or office. The answer is definitely not as straightforward as it might seem at first, and so in this post, we’re taking a look at rustic oak wood, and comparing it with pine.
What is oak?
Oak trees are commonly recognised for their bearing acorns, and they have distinctive leaves. When an oak tree is felled, it yields a hard wood that is incredibly durable, and can create very attractive furniture that lasts well. The durable nature of oak means that it has been popular with carpenters and furniture designers for centuries.
What is oak furniture?
Oak furniture is items for the home that are made from oak wood. Furniture items made from oak can be found throughout the home, and include:
- Wooden Dressers
- Kitchen Cabinetry
- Dining Tables and Chairs
- Livingroom Cabinets
- Office Desks
- Coffee Tables
- Console Tables
- Bedside Tables
- Side Tables
- Hallway Chests
- Kitchen Benches
In addition to furniture, accessories such as shelving, mirrors, and other storage items can be made from oak, either to match bigger furniture items or as standalone feature items. Outside of the home, oak is often used for garden furniture, and in workplace offices, oak desks, shelving units, and filing cabinets are all highly sought after.
Why use oak for furniture?
There are some great reasons to buy oak furniture – and not just because it looks great.
Oak has a gorgeous colour and appearance
The warm golden hue that finished oak has is one of the main reasons that so many customers are drawn to rustic oak furniture – and oak has a classic, enduring appeal, making oak furniture a wise investment.
Oak is long-lasting and durable
Because oak is a hardwood, it is incredibly strong, making it a great option for furniture that is going to get a lot of wear and tear – which is why you see so many kitchen tables that are made from oak. In some situations it can be used for outdoor furniture. Oak tends to have a lot of movement during its drying period, but can continue to move even after it has been crafted into furniture products. This is dependant on a few factors. The quality of the wood, the age & the drying period.
This is why virtually all oak products (furniture, worktops, chopping boards etc.) are created using staves. These small pieces of wood are joined together using a combination of wood glue along with ‘biscuit’ & ‘finger' joints. This jointing process makes the wood very resilient to stresses and strains, along with limiting warping in the final product. This is a technique that is commonly used in the furniture industry.
The hardwearing nature of oak is the reason that so many furniture manufacturers use it, and why customers buy it – a quality piece of oak furniture will last far more than a single person’s lifetime, and when made well, an item can last for centuries.
Each oak tree has a high potential yield
With the maximum height of the average oak tree reaching over 12 metres, there is a lot of timber that can be created from a single tree.
Challenges of using oak for furniture
Despite the benefits of using oak for furniture, it isn’t always the best option, and there are a few drawbacks to consider when you’re buying furniture for your home.
Oak furniture can be expensive
Because oak grows much more slowly than softwoods, it takes a long time for each tree to be ready to be felled. But with that longer growing time comes a much higher price – as you’d expect.
Despite this, in certain circumstances, it may make sense to use oak, particularly where the piece of furniture is going to get a lot of wear and tear, and when the item is unlikely to need replacing for a long time.
Not as sustainable as other woods
Although there are sustainably managed oak forests, because of the slow-growing nature of the oak tree, it can be years before another tree is fully grown to replace those that are cut down for use today. While it may be appropriate to choose oak for heavily used furniture in the home, buying reclaimed oak, or using an alternative timber that is finished to look like oak may be better for the environment in some cases.
Oak can be tricky to work with
In addition to being expensive and tricky to replace, oak isn’t always easy to work with, since it is so incredibly dense. Woodworkers who don’t have the right equipment available in their workshop can find their tools being blunted easily, which may need to be considered in terms of the environmental impact and overall cost of the piece.
Oak is heavy
As it is an incredibly dense hardwood, oak furniture is really heavy. That’s great for furniture like tables, bookcases, wardrobes, and dressers, but it may not be ideal for some items – especially pieces that need to be moved, or have to be fixed to a wall, such as mirror frames and shelves.
Is pine wood good for furniture?
There are some great advantages of using pine for furniture – and especially when comparing it with oak furniture.
Pine is faster growing than oak
This means that there is much more pine readily available, and when a tree has been felled for use in furniture making, it is faster to grow a replacement. This means that it is much less expensive to buy too.
Pine has an attractive colour
The light hue that pine has looks great, and suits many interior design styles such as the Scandinavian, and Japanese looks that have been popular recently. However, because it is such a light shade, it is easy to finish pine furniture with different shades. That means if you have a pine shelf or mirror and want to match them to your other oak furniture, there is always the option of using a wax or stain to get the look without the weight.
Pine is strong and durable, yet lightweight
While it is a softwood, it is incredibly strong, making it suitable for many types of furniture – and because it is lighter, it is suitable for use where oak would simply be too heavy, such as for wall-mounted shelves.
Is pine more sustainable?
Because of the fast-growing nature of pine, it is deemed to be much more sustainable than Oak – new trees can be grown to replace cut ones relatively quickly, and there are far more sustainably managed pine forests than there are oak.
We are living in a time where cheap particulate board covered in hardwood veneers are becoming staple pieces in a lot of homes. Buying quality solid wooden items that you love and that will last a lifetime will be better for the environment than buying cheap oak veneered replacements every few years – so, it is well worth doing your research before you buy.
Buying one rustic wooden dining table is likely to be a better choice than buying multiple options every 3/4 years following the latest fad – especially if you are in your ‘forever home’, and even more so if you choose a second hand, or vintage piece that doesn’t require new wood to have been cut.
Challenges of working with pine
Pine has a distinctive look.
This may not be an issue if it suits your style, particularly if you are a fan of natural features such as knots, strong grains. But for a minimalist or modern look it might not be the right choice.
Pine will show wear easier than oak does
Pine is pretty strong, but it isn’t always the best option for some furniture. Scratches and dents tend to show up on Oak & Pine, but as pine is softer its more easily damaged.
Can pine be used to replace oak?
Absolutely!!! – in some circumstances. As we’ve already suggested, there are some circumstances where pine is better than oak, so it will always pay to do your research before you buy. With that in mind, when you’re choosing between oak and pine, be sure to consider these questions before you make your decision.
How big is your budget?
Solid Oak furniture normally demands a higher price than solid pine furniture - twice the price in most circumstances. When comparing furniture in similar price ranges to pine, cheap veneered furniture options are a plenty but with obvious drawbacks. Quality of materials, longevity, overall strength & sustainability to name just a few.
How often do you like to decorate your home?
Oak is heavy, so if you enjoy redecorating your home or moving furniture around on a regular basis, then oak furniture will make the task much more challenging.
How long do you intend to have the item?
Both woods are great options for longevity as long as they are solid wood. This is one of the most important factors when choosing a piece of furniture. Choosing a piece of furniture that is solid gives you 3 massive advantages. Longevity, strength & sustainability. It also gives you a good re-sale value if you do sell. As well as options to repurpose in the future (change legs or paint).
How much use will the item get?
All wood will get scuffed and damaged at some point, unfortunately it's only a matter of time something gets dinged. The finish that has been used on the furniture will give you the best indication of how to use & care for it. Finishes such as lacquers and heavy polishes are renowned for being tricky to care for, so having a finish that can easily fixed such as beeswax or Oil is normally a good place to start.
We hope this article has helped to explain the subtle differences between these two common woods. It has never been so hard to make decisions with so much choice in the world, especially when it comes to furniture! We will leave you with two key factors which should always be considered when choosing furniture - even more so these days!
Make sure its always SOLID & SUSTAINABLE wood!
Feeling inspired to give your home a makeover? Don’t forget to tag us in your photos on Instagram – we’re @bensimpsonfurniture.
Follow our Instagram
Tag @bensimpsonfurniture & join our community!