Oak vs Pine Furniture (The Pros And Cons)
Oak and pine are the two most common woods used in furniture. However, they have very little in common with each other. Both have their own sets of pros and cons, so will bring different benefits to your home. Read our guide on oak vs pine so you can choose the right wood furniture for your requirements and preferences.
Is oak better than pine?
There’s a common conception that oak is better than pine. However, this isn’t true. Oak and pine have their own benefits such as wood hardness, colour and durability. It depends on what you need as to which is better for you. Oak is longer-lasting, while pine is friendlier on your wallet while still being sturdy and attractive.
Oak and Pine
Oak trees are native to the UK, although there are actually over 600 different species of oak! You’ll easily be able to recognise this tree when you’re on a walk in the woodlands by the acorns it produces. Oak trees tend to grow wide with lots of thick branches.
They take a long time to grow. It is said that an oak tree takes 300 years to grow, 300 years to live and 300 years to die. While this is not exact, it does express the long lifespan of oak, which makes it more dense and therefore an extremely durable material for furniture.
Pine trees are also native to the UK. They grow very tall and, while oak trees need to live in areas of high biodiversity (lots of different species in one place), some forests will be exclusively pine. These trees are easily recognised by the pine cones they produce and the needles which are prickly if you get too close! They are also much taller and narrower than oak trees.
Pine trees require a much shorter period to grow than oak, although they can still live for a long time - anywhere between 100 and 1000 years old depending on the species. One of the oldest trees in the world is a pine tree, thought to be 4600 years old. While oak trees take about 20 years to reach maturity (to start producing acorns), pine trees only take 1.5 to 3 years.
The faster growth rate means that pine is often a cheaper option than oak as it’s easier to grow new trees quickly.
It’s worth noting that you might come across the phrase ‘old growth wood’ in relation to wood furniture. This could apply to either oak or pine. It refers to the idea that the wood has been allowed a longer period of growth, making the grain tighter, the wood stronger and the furniture it produces more durable. Old growth wood is rarer and is usually found in reclaimed furniture, rather than brand new pieces.
The way that pine and oak grow affects the properties of the furniture they produce, as well as the cost.
Soft and Hardwood
The primary difference when discussing oak vs pine is that oak is a hardwood while pine is a softwood. Softwood isn’t actually soft. To the average person, pine will feel just as hard as oak!
The actual difference between soft and hardwood is in the structure of the wood. Evergreen trees (which produce softwood) have different systems to carry water up the trunk compared to angiosperms (which produce hardwood). This creates a different structure in the wood, which gives it its different properties.
While softwood is still very strong, hardwood is more durable. This means that oak furniture has a longer lifespan than pine, which is one of the most popular reasons people might choose oak over pine.
Softwood and hardwood, however, have different environmental impacts, particularly when talking specifically about oak vs pine.
As already mentioned, oak takes longer to grow than pine. This tends to mean it’s less environmentally friendly than fast-growing pine.
Pine for furniture is usually grown in plantations. Pine trees will constantly be being harvested and replaced with new seedlings in an area specifically designed for this purpose. It means that there are always new trees growing while older trees are being harvested.
Oak, however, is different. It is very rarely grown in plantations firstly because it takes such a long time. Huge areas would have to be used and left for many years. Secondly, while pine can grow in great forests of the same species, oak needs biodiversity in order to thrive. This means it has to be grown with lots of other species of plants and trees. It therefore can’t easily be grown in a plantation in a way that is efficient and doesn’t waste money.
Oak is instead commonly sourced from old growth forests. This means older oak trees are cut down. It has a greater impact on the environment than plantations which have constant turnover of harvest and new growth.
That’s not to say that oak furniture is terrible for the environment; it’s more that pine furniture has the edge over oak when it comes to environmental impact.
If you’re really environmentally conscious, the best decision is to choose reclaimed furniture. It doesn’t matter whether this is pine or oak; it has a much smaller environmental footprint as its production involves recycling old wood rather than harvesting new.
There are loads of things to consider when it comes to oak vs pine and choosing the right furniture for your home.
Both pine and oak have beautiful grains. Oak grains tend to be more wavy with more knots and unique markings. It is more defined and noticeable than the grain on pine because, like most hardwoods, it has deeper pores. Pine tends to have straighter grains that are lighter.
This is one of the properties of pine vs oak that is discussed most often: durability.
Due to the time it takes for the wood to grow, and the difference between softwood and hardwood, oak is a naturally longer-lasting material for furniture compared to pine.
This isn’t to say that pine is a flimsy choice. Pine is extremely sturdy, but oak is less likely to dent, stain or wear over a long period of time compared to pine.
However, this doesn’t mean that oak is necessarily the right decision. If you’re looking for furniture that will last half a century or more, then choose oak. If, however, you want furniture for your childrens’ bedrooms, then pine could be the better choice. You can replace it as your child gets older and you redecorate, or get rid of it completely when your child moves out and their bedroom functions as a different space. Therefore, you might not need your furniture to be as durable.
With the difference in durability, there’s also a difference in price so consider carefully whether the extra lifespan is something that is helpful to you. If it is, then oak is well worth the investment as it will last a very long time.
As mentioned, there’s a difference in cost between pine and oak. This is because oak takes much longer to grow than pine.
If cost is an important factor for you, then you might want to opt for pine furniture. It is still sturdy and looks attractive, but is a little less durable in the long-run and therefore is less expensive.
If cost isn’t a primary factor, then you could look at other properties of oak vs pine to decide which is going to be best for you.
When the wood is unfinished or has a natural finish, pine will usually be lighter in colour than oak, although there are occasions where particular oak trees or species will have very pale wood.
However, the natural colour of oak and pine will rarely actually impact your choice of which material to choose for your furniture; both pine and oak can be finished differently to alter the appearance. Different finishes can make furniture lighter or darker so you can get the look you want.
Why not check out our blog on What Colours Go With Oak Furniture to really get a handle on the colouring of oak and how it might fit into your home.
Can Oak And Pine Be Painted?
Both oak and pine furniture can be painted. While painted oak furniture is not uncommon, pine actually lends itself better to painting. This can be another great reason to choose pine for children’s furniture — it can be redecorated years down the line if it begins to look tired, or if your child wants a new design in their room!
We have an extensive range of painted pine furniture for you to explore!
Pine is usually a lot lighter than oak due to the density of the wood. Oak, as a hardwood, takes longer to grow and is much denser. This means that it’s also much heavier, which impacts the durability and hardness.
Which is Better?
When it comes down to it, is oak or pine the better choice? There’s not one correct answer. If you’re looking for a highly durable and long-lasting piece of furniture, and cost isn’t the biggest factor, then oak will be the better choice.
If you’re looking for less expensive furniture that will last a good number of years, but you don’t mind eventually replacing it, then pine is perfect. If you’re decorating a child’s bedroom, for example, or are looking for a less expensive option for your living room (that still looks great!), pine might be the best option for you.
Other Wood Furniture Options
Pine and oak aren’t the only two options available when it comes to real wood furniture. There are other woods that have a number of benefits and can add a different, more unique look.
Reclaimed wood comes in a lot of different varieties, including both oak and pine. While the furniture itself is new, the wood has been used before in another form. This could be anything from boat timber to old factory beams.
Reclaimed wood is a great choice for those who are more environmentally conscious and it often has more character and charm than items made from brand new wood.
Elm is a beautiful and elegant choice of wood for furniture. It is very similar to oak, ranging from light to dark brown, but often includes some red streaks.
Dutch Elm Disease killed a huge proportion of elm trees in Europe, which means that elm is a highly sought after wood that therefore can be more expensive than oak.
View our range of elm furniture from House of Oak.
Mango wood is a good choice for furniture. It’s technically a hardwood, like oak, so can be used to make heavy tables and other items. However, it isn’t quite as dense as oak. This means it doesn’t require manufacturers to use special tools to cut and shape the wood, keeping the price lower.
It’s highly durable, looks great and isn’t quite as expensive as oak.
Check out this beautiful example of reclaimed mango wood furniture:
Whatever you choose, oak or pine, you can find high quality furniture with House of Oak. Explore our website!