Differences Between Oak and Pine Furniture
You’re ready for new furniture, but what type of wood should you choose? Deciding between oak vs. pine furniture is a common dilemma for furniture shoppers. These two common options are vastly different in their characteristics, so it’s important to understand the difference between pine and oak wood before making a big investment in either type of furniture. Both options offer pros and cons. The decision often comes down to your priorities and preferences.
Oak Wood Basics
Oak is a popular furniture option for pieces throughout the home, including the living room, dining room and bedroom. Oak is a type of hardwood and is prominent in the U.S. In fact, it’s the most abundant hardwood grown in the United States. Oak trees grow slowly compared to pine trees. Because the trees need a longer growth period, oak wood tends to cost a lot more. That slow growth also produces dense wood, which creates a strong, durable construction that holds up well for many different applications.
Furniture made from oak is certainly not a new concept. The wood has been used in furniture making for centuries, making it one of the oldest material options. Oak was a popular option in England with the British Tudor monarchs, and it continues to appease consumers. You may see some style changes throughout the years, but oak has been a staple in the furniture world throughout history.
Oak is a very versatile wood when it comes to building furniture. It is often associated with traditional furniture styles, but it also fits into a modern aesthetic. The wood works for almost any style of furniture, from traditional to modern. It comes in a range of natural colors, from very light to dark. That color variation happens because oak comes in two different species: white oak and red oak.
White oak has the lightest color and is the more durable of the two types. It has a natural waterproofing quality that makes it durable for outdoor applications. Historically, white oak has been used for ships, barrels and other items kept outdoors and exposed to water.
Red oak has a darker color, which can range from cream to warm brown with reddish streaks. It is often used for cabinets, flooring and furniture. The grain looks similar for both varieties of oak with slightly longer, yellow rays and flecks noticeable in white oak and swirling patterns in red oak.
Pros and Cons of Oak Furniture
Oak is a popular furniture option, but it’s important to understand how it functions within the home. Looking at the pros and cons of the wood gives you a better idea of whether it’s the best option for your furniture needs.
Check out these pros of oak wood furniture:
- Hardwearing. Oak furniture is very hard, which means it is very resilient and long lasting. Pieces made from oak are less likely to show signs of wear or damage. This is a huge plus for active families, particularly for pieces that get used all the time, such as dining room sets.
- Versatile use. Oak wood works for almost any furniture application. While the hardness does make it a bit more difficult to work with than softer woods, oak has the strength to withstand use in seating, tables, beds and other furniture pieces. You can choose oak pieces for every room and purpose to create a coordinated look, all while knowing the wood is strong enough for all those different furniture pieces.
- Versatile look. Oak is used to make furniture in almost every style. The color and grain make it a versatile wood that works in almost any setting.
- Timeless design. Using oak in furniture is nothing new, and the trend isn’t going to change. That means choosing a piece of oak furniture is something that grows with you as your style changes. The timeless look you get from oak makes it a solid choice for any furniture application.
- Investment piece. Furniture made from oak has the potential to last decades. Many oak pieces are passed down through the generations because they are so strong and enduring.
- Distinct grain. Oak has a very distinctive wavy grain that gives it a unique look. Oak is considered a very beautiful wood for furniture. It looks great with a simple clear coat.
- Resistance to warping. Oak furniture resists warping over time, which adds to its longevity. The oak wood is cut to resist warping further.
- Low maintenance. Because of its resilient nature and durability, oak furniture is very low maintenance. It needs occasional cleaning and polishing, but it retains its good looks without a lot of care on your part.
- Readily available. You don’t have to look far to find oak furniture. Because of its popularity, furniture made of oak is easy to get for your home compared to more exotic or rare woods. That also means you can easily add to your oak furniture collection over the years while still getting that same signature oak look.
Be sure to look at the potential drawbacks of a particular type of wood to make sure you can live with them. Consider the following cons of oak furniture:
- Price. For some people, the cost of oak furniture is a negative. Oak wood does cost more than pine due to the longer growing time. However, a piece of oak furniture will last indefinitely with proper care. When you spread the cost out over the decades of use you get from the furniture, the cost is very reasonable.
- Weight. Oak is a heavy wood, which gives it a substantial, quality feel. That weight can be a problem when you want to move the furniture, though. Keep the weight in mind if you like to rearrange your furniture frequently or if you move a lot. Hiring movers to handle the lifting is well worth it if you have lots of oak furniture. If you don’t plan to move the furniture, the weight really isn’t an issue, and it can be a pro due to the increased stability and strength of the piece.
Is Oak Wood Good for Furniture?
The answer to this question is resounding yes. It has a few potential drawbacks, but, overall, oak is a very good choice for furniture. Oak is strong, durable and resists everyday wear and tear while offering natural beauty that fits into almost any home style. Its timeless design means you can keep your oak furniture pieces in your décor as long as you want them.
Pine Wood Basics
Pine trees are considered a softwood tree, which means the wood is softer than hardwood varieties. Pine trees grow around the world, not just in the U.S. Pine has a great deal of stiffness and resistance to shock, which makes it a solid choice for many furniture pieces. Pine tends to be easier to work with during the furniture building stage due to its softer nature.
Like oak, pine furniture has been around for some time. Traditionally, pine was used for Colonial, rustic and craftsman style pieces. That is changing, with pine working for a variety of furniture styles, including contemporary pieces.
Pine is light in color, usually with a creamy white look, although the specific shade can vary somewhat. Some varieties produce a very white color. Others lean toward a yellowish look. The light color makes pine easy to stain to achieve nearly any color you want, or you can simply use a clear coat to protect the wood while letting the natural light color take center stage. Pine also has a prominent grain with knots darker than the wood itself, which gives it a distinct look.
Pros and Cons of Pine Furniture
Pine furniture comes with its own set of pros and cons, depending on your needs. Consider the following pros of pine wood furniture:
- Price. Pine furniture is often much cheaper than oak versions of the same pieces. The fast growth of pine trees is the main reason for this price difference. Pine trees take less care and have a shorter time to market, which enables growers to sell the wood at a lower price. If you’re focused primarily on price, pine is an attractive option.
- Color. Because of its light color, pine furniture fits in well with other furnishings in your home. It has a versatile look that also pairs well with various wall colors, patterns and other details in your décor.
- Options to change the color. Pine is an easy wood to stain to achieve your desired color. This gives you a wide variety of finish options, including stain and paint. You can also stick with the natural color by opting for a clear coat. Pine takes various finishes well, so you get quality results no matter what finish option you choose.
- Stiffness. Pine is a very stiff wood. This makes it durable and strong when used in furniture. It’s not quite as strong as oak, but it does still offer durability.
- Lighter in weight. While furniture made from pine is still moderately heavy and sturdy, it is lighter than oak. That lighter weight is a pro when it comes to moving furniture pieces. Rearranging your furniture is easier with the lower weight, so consider pine if you like to change up the look of your room.
- Shock resistance. Pine is resistant to shock, which helps minimize the damage of impact.
- Distinctive look. Pine has a very distinct look with its dark knots and light wood color. If this style fits your preferences, that distinct look is a benefit worth considering.
- Less environmental impact. Because pine trees grow so quickly, the trees that are cut down are soon replaced with new growth. Pine trees grow well on plantations or farms with little impact on natural habitats, whereas oak used in furniture typically comes from old growth forests.
- Resistant to shrinking and swelling. While any wood can shrink and swell due to differences in humidity and temperature, pine is resistant to the damage. By minimizing that shrinking and swelling, pine retains its original shape.
There are also some cons to consider with pine furniture. Some of those potential negatives include:
- Less style versatility. While pine can work for most styles, it does tend to lean more toward a country or rustic look. If you prefer a more modern style, you may find pine doesn’t fit your tastes.
- Increased signs of wear. Pine does have a stiff quality about it, but the wood doesn’t offer as much strength and resistance to wear as oak wood does. Pine can dent and scratch easily. If you’re planning to keep the piece indefinitely, oak is likely a better choice.
- More maintenance. Because of its tendency to scratch, get damaged and gain a patina over time, pine often requires more maintenance than oak. If you don’t mind the aged look, you can get by with less maintenance. However, if you want to retain the pine furniture’s original condition, you may need to refinish the piece and repair the damage that occurs.
- Potential for excessive knots. When choosing pine furniture, watch for knots, particularly if they form a hole into the furniture. Excessive knotting can cause weakness in the furniture. Choose a reputable manufacturer to ensure you purchase a piece with quality construction.
Is Pine Wood Good for Furniture?
While pine is very different than oak, it is also a good choice for furniture, depending on your purpose. It may not last quite as long as oak, but pine is still a strong, shock-resistant material suitable for furniture, particularly if you like the rustic or country styles. Over time, pine gains a patina that gives it an antique-like quality, which is an appealing look to some people. The dents and dings that are bound to show up in the wood just add to that aged look.
Similarities Between Pine and Oak
These two wood types are very different in many ways, starting with the softwood vs. hardwood nature. Each has certain pros and cons that can sway your decision. However, they do share some similarities. Both oak and pine are durable. While oak has an advantage in the strength department, pine does offer strength and stiffness that makes it a solid choice.
Both types of wood are susceptible to damage from extensive exposure to moisture, heat and UV rays. Positioning either type in front of window may cause damage to the wood, as can placing the pieces near heat vents. While pine does resist warping and bowing, excessive moisture can damage any type of wood.
Oak and pine both have distinctive, beautiful looks. They may look very different from one another, but both feature detailing in the wood grain patterning that gives your furniture a distinct style. You can also stain either type of wood furniture to change the look or enhance the grain.
Wood for Outdoor Furniture
Selecting a wood type for outdoor furniture is a little more complicated. Outdoor furniture requires more durability to hold up to the outdoor elements, including UV rays, moisture, dirt and weather. Oak wood is good for outdoor furniture because it tends to resist water damage. White oak, in particular, is ideal for outdoor applications due to its tight grain and lack of open pores.
Red oak is more likely to rot and show wear, so it’s best left to indoor furniture applications. If you choose white oak outdoor furniture, a proper outdoor finish is still essential to preserve the wood. While the wood won’t weaken, it will darken in color over time, sometimes reaching a dark brown to black color without proper preservation.
Deciding if pine wood is good for outdoor furniture depends on the location. Pine furniture used in a protected outdoor area can hold up for a while, but using it for furniture exposed to the weather elements is a recipe for rot and damage. Pressure-treated pine wood that is sometimes used for decks and other outdoor structures doesn’t typically work well for furniture.
Deciding Between Oak Furniture and Pine Furniture
Oak and pine are both popular options in furniture currently. Oak has always been a strong contender in all areas of furniture making, and it continues to appeal to a wide range of consumers. Pine is expanding beyond its rustic origins with greater versatility in styles. Exploring the difference between pine and oak furniture helps you narrow down the selection.
If you’re still not sure which wood option is best for you, consider the following factors:
- Your budget. The amount you have to spend is a factor in buying furniture. If you have a small budget with no wiggle room, pine can be an affordable option. Oak furniture costs more than pine, but that doesn’t always mean it’s outside of your price range, even if your budget is limited.
You may be surprised at what you can find in oak in your target price range. Also, consider that oak is more of an investment purchase because it lasts so long. You pay more upfront for the furniture pieces, but you get your money’s worth because of the piece’s long life.
- Expected life of the furniture. How long do you plan to keep the furniture pieces? If you want a piece to keep indefinitely, oak is a good choice. In fact, with proper care, you can pass the oak furniture on to your children. Pine still offers years of use and creates strong, stiff furniture that is an affordable, quality option for pieces that don’t need to last forever.
For example, pine may be fine for kids’ furniture that may be replaced as your child gets older.
- Amount of furniture use. Oak is more resistant to wear, scratching and dents than pine, so it works well for furniture that will get heavy daily use. This is especially true for pieces such as desks or tables where you come into direct contact with the wood during the course of your activities.
- Location of furniture. Both pine and oak wood furniture pieces hold up well indoors under ideal conditions. Choose a wood type that fits well with our other furniture pieces. If you’re looking for outdoor wooden furniture, stick with white oak for the best results.
- Maintenance. If you want a low-maintenance option, oak tends to require less work to maintain the original appearance. Pine sometimes takes more work to prevent or repair the damage that sometimes occurs due to its soft nature.
- Your decorating habits. For larger pieces, how often you plan to rearrange is a consideration. Large oak pieces are very heavy, making them difficult to move if you want to reposition them. Pine is still a hefty wood, but it is lighter in weight to make moving easier. If you like to keep your furniture in one spot, the weight won’t be an issue for either wood.
- Type of furniture. While you can find almost any type of furniture in both oak and pine, some furniture pieces are better suited for a particular type of wood. Oak is a suitable option for dining tables that get lots of use. The heavy weight of oak is ideal for dining chairs to keep them stable and prevent tipping. Pine is often suitable for bedroom furniture, especially in children’s rooms.
After evaluating these factors, you may decide both pine and oak work for your lifestyle in various areas. For example, you might outfit your kids’ bedrooms with pine furniture and use oak in the dining room. You’ll find a wide range of styles and prices in both types. When choosing furniture, look for a reputable company that uses quality materials and reliable construction methods. This ensures your piece lasts longer no matter what type of wood you choose.
Whether you choose pine or oak furniture, you are making an investment in your home. Consider AmishOutletStore.com for your next solid wood purchase to ensure you get quality construction and premium materials. Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our furniture.