How Strong Is Pine Lumber?

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Pine trees make sturdy lumber for a variety of building applications.
Pine trees make sturdy lumber for a variety of building applications. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

For builders and woodworkers alike, the sheer number of choices regarding which type of wood to work with for your latest project can be overwhelming. Pine is a softwood, meaning that it grows faster and its texture is not as firm as hardwoods, which leads many to consider it weaker than hardwoods such as cherry and maple. However, the close grain of the wood makes it extremely strong, with resilience comparable to its hardwood cousins that makes it a consistent choice for many builders and woodworkers.

Physical Strength

The primary characteristic of pine lumber that contributes to its strength is the tightly-packed design of its grain. The close-tucked grain system of pine enables it to withstand snapping and breaking, since the impact is distributed quickly through the grain system, evening out pressure. The top surface of pine scratches easily, but these scratches are removed with light sanding.

Moisture Resistance

The closely connected grain structured also makes pine extremely resilient when it comes to moisture damage. All wood absorbs and loses moisture as temperature and humidity changes in the surrounding area, and in severe cases of absorption or loss, the wood will warp, twist and bend as the moisture moves in and out. However, pine loses and absorbs moisture very slowly, resulting in fewer moisture damage problems. This regular moisture retention also cuts back on the risk of mold, mildew and decay, common problems with wood used for outdoor applications.

Uses

The strength and resilience of pine opens it up for use in nearly any wood application, from fences and decks to shelves and supports. When you see pine, the grain appears small and doesn't stand out from the surface, so it is easy to stain or paint without streaking or uneven coverage. This makes it an ideal choice for furniture, trim, shelving and other such applications within the home, since it can so easily be customized to match the décor of the home. Its moisture resistance means that it will withstand outdoor temperature and humidity changes, especially if sealed properly.

Working with Pine

Whenever you have to sand pine lumber, do so slowly and with a sanding block. As you sand, you will be working through both old and new wood, and the newer, softer wood will wear down faster than the older, harder wood. This can create divots or dips in the surface if you are not careful. When cutting pine, use a saw blade that has been carefully sharpened. While pine does not crack or shatter easily, a dull saw can cause breaks and cracks in the surface by tearing instead of slicing, resulting in damaged or marred wood.

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