Every wood has its own unique characteristics and its own specialties. Birch wood has been an especially popular pick for decades in North America, thanks to its durability, affordability, and versatility. But, what is birch lumber wood? In this article, we will briefly define the types of birchwood, common uses of birch wood, its sustainability, as well as the best place to purchase birch lumber.
What Is Birch Wood?
Birchwood comes from birch trees, which are native to North America. Birch trees are from the genus Betula with the Betulaceae family, which also contains alder, hazelnut, and hornbeam trees.
There are several species of birch trees, with the most common being yellow, white, and black birch.
This domestic tree is easy to cut which makes it ideal to harvest and use for woodworking projects like flooring and cabinetry.
When harvested for wood flooring, birchwood can also be classified as hardwood. This simply means that the tree from which the wood is sourced is deciduous—meaning the tree loses its leaves seasonally and produces seeds with a coating. ‘Hardwood’ doesn’t necessarily describe wood that is more durable than other ‘softwood’ options, it simply describes the type of tree the end product is sourced from.
Types of Birch Wood and Its Characteristics
You may notice some differences in the birch wood options you find in your local lumberyard. That’s because birch trees come in over a dozen species. Let’s go over the ones you’re most likely to come across.
Yellow birch is most commonly used for furniture and other woodworking projects. It is durable, light-brown in color, and close-grained—similar to maple.
White birch is the second-most common species of birch. It tends to be weaker than yellow birch, and lighter in color, though it is especially easy to cut and popular among some woodworkers.
Black birch, as you may have guessed, is the darkest of the most common birch species. You can recognize it by its dark brown color. Black birch is a substitute for mahogany or cherry wood.
What Is Birch Wood Qualities & Characteristics
While there are many variations, they do all share some common characteristics that you can count on when considering them for your project. Most species of birch have:
- Straight grain
- Fine texture
- Medium weight
- Good elasticity
- Easy to cut
What is Birch Wood Used For?
Now that we have answered the answer, “What is birch wood?” we will now explore common uses for it. There are a few ways you can capitalize on the strengths of this wood for your projects. Plus, if you aren’t certain how much birch wood you need for your project, our team is happy to assist and provide you with a complimentary quote.
While the heyday for furniture made from birch wood was really during the 1960s and 1970s, it is still sometimes used in more modern-day projects. The durability of the wood makes it a good choice for pieces that get a lot of regular use, while its close grain and medium oak finish is perfect for a classic or mid-century modern look. Plus, birch tends to be relatively affordable, making it a more economical choice for larger projects.
The versatility and ease of access to birch lumber make it a popular choice for cabinetry. For one, birch is especially easy to cut and sand and takes stains rather easily. This means there is plenty of room for creativity and customization when you use birch. Additionally, birch is a much more economical choice for kitchen projects, as you can get a wood that mimics the look of more expensive options like cherry—only for a quarter of the price.
If you’re looking for a hardwood flooring option that elevates your space without breaking the bank, birch is a great choice. Birch is sturdy, strong, and durable enough to last decades. Plus, it can be stained and refinished to keep up with changing trends, while its varied grain patterns give every space a unique but timeless touch.
Even if you don’t decide to finish your floor, the natural amber hue of birch is beautiful on its own, so you can skip that extra step if you’d like.
You can also use birch for any practical parts of your woodworking projects. Its strength makes it perfect for use in crates and boxes, plywood, butcher block counters, and as the foundation for any upholstered or otherwise covered furniture.
The Cons of Birch Wood
We’re big fans of birch wood for many woodworking projects, but there are some cases where this wood just won’t give you the best results.
Cannot be Used Outdoors
Because birch is susceptible to rot and decay, there are better options for furniture or other projects that are predominately outside. It is highly vulnerable to water damage and weather damage which makes it less than ideal for outdoor furniture.
Susceptible to Insects
Similarly, birch is particularly vulnerable to insect infestations and damage. If you have a termite issue or other insect problem, your birch wood will likely be attacked and suffer significant damage.
Can Split Easily
While it is very easy to work with, birch wood also has a tendency to split while working on it if you’re not too confident about handling it. For one, you’ll want to make sure your tools are sharpened so they cut through the wood like a knife through hot butter. Plus, you want to cut the birch wood slowly. By having sharp tools and cutting slowly, you minimize the chance of splitting the wood while cutting which basically makes it unusable.
Is Birch Wood Sustainable?
What is birch wood’s environmental impact? Birch is a relatively sustainable choice when it comes to hardwood, as birch trees grow quickly—in about one-third the time of oak trees, for instance—and can be harvested with a low impact on the ecosystem overall. Birch trees also tend to be harvested locally, reducing the amount of fuel and energy needed to transfer the wood.
You can also take extra steps to ensure your use of birch is sustainable. For one, you can look for birch grown in Sustainably Managed Forests, for instance. Another way to extend the sustainability of birch wood is by reusing or responsibly disposing of the scraps. Finally, you can recycle the entire product when you are ready. This recycled birch wood can be repurposed and sold as a new product that is ready for someone else’s project.
Buy Birch Wood Lumber at Capitol City Lumber in Raleigh
Now that you know the best uses for birch wood, you can turn to Capitol City Lumber for just what you’re looking for. We stock all kinds of wood options and variations of birch at our hardware store and lumber yard. Plus, our team is always on-site to help you make the best choice for your project needs.
For more information about our lumber yard and building supply store in Raleigh, shipping capabilities, wood-cutting services, or items we sell, visit or contact us today. If you can’t visit in person, please check the extensive product lines of wood we ship all over the continental U.S. through TotalWoodStore.com!