Is Birch A Hardwood?

Birch is a type of deciduous tree that is in the same family as hazel and alder. The wood from birch trees is often used for various DIY and construction projects, but what type of wood is it?

Is Birch A Hardwood?

Is birch a hardwood? What properties does it have? Keep reading to find out more. 

What Is Birch Wood?  

Birch is a natural hardwood that comes from deciduous trees. Other parts of the birch tree are also harvested including the bark and the sap. There are different types of birch wood which rank at different levels on the Janka Hardness Scale. Here are some examples. 

  • Gray Birch – Gray birch has one of the lowest scores at 760
  • Paper Birch – Paper birch scores 910 which is softer than teak 
  • River Birch – River birch scores 970
  • Silver Birch – Silver birch scores 1210 and is a popular wood for flooring 
  • Yellow Birch – Yellow birch scores 1260 which is very similar to white oak 
  • Sweet Birch – Sweet birch scores 1470 which is similar to maple

Properties Of Birch Wood 

The exact properties of birch wood vary depending on the type of tree, but in general birch wood is considered to be straight grained with a uniform texture.

It is heavy, hard and strong with good shock resistance. It tends to have a curly or wavy pattern. Colors can vary but the sapwood is generally white and heart wood is a reddish brown color. It is fairly easy to work with and is widely available. 

What Is Birch Wood Used For? 

Birch wood is used for lots of different purposes. The use of the wood will depend on which type of birch tree the wood was taken from. 

Gray Birch 

Gray birch is one of the softest types which makes it easy to work with. It is used to make novelty items, as well as clothespins and other woodenware. Gray birch trees grow smaller than other varieties of birch and have a shorter lifespan.

Paper Birch  

Paper birch is one of the most widely used types of birch wood. It is used for plywood, pulp wood, lumber and veneer. You can find everything from furniture and flooring to toys and broom handles made out of birch wood. 

River Birch 

River birch is very affordable and tends to be used for firewood, pallets, novelty items and inexpensive furniture. However, the most important use of river birch is environmental. They line river banks and control erosion, maintaining important habitats for wildlife. 

Silver Birch 

Silver birch twigs and branches were traditionally used to make brooms and horse jumps. The wood from the trees is often used as plywood, and for brush backs and toys. 

Yellow Birch 

Yellow birch is a strong hardwood with an even texture. It is considered very valuable and is used for lots of different things.

The most common uses for yellow birch include furniture, cabinets, flooring, interior finish, veneer, boxes, wooden ware, tool handles, doors, pulp and charcoal. 

Sweet Birch 

Sweet Birch is similar to yellow birch, but it is even denser and is darker in color. It tends to be used for furniture, flooring, doors, veneer, plywood, and even vehicle parts. Oil is also extracted from sweet birch trees which is then used in aromatherapy treatment. 

Should You Choose Birch Wood? 

Veneer & Plywood 

If you are considering using birch wood for your next project, there are a few things that you should consider. 

Veneer & Plywood 

Birch is commonly used for veneer and plywood. The lower quality birch plywood and veneers are very affordable but are also very thin. They can be delicate to work with.

Baltic birch wood is more expensive, but it is one of the best plywoods on the market. If you want durability, go for a more expensive birch plywood. 


Birch plywood is readily available and is a popular choice for cabinetry and furniture. Because there is so much of it available, it can sometimes sit around for a long time before being purchased.

Make sure you inspect your birch plywood before you buy it to check for water spots of scratches. If you want top quality cabinets and furniture then you are better off with birch hardwood rather than plywood. 

Alder is similar to birch but it is softer and more affordable. Some birch cabinets are made with birch but use alder for the face-framing which is a good option for saving money on materials. 


If you are considering using birch you need to think about the type of finish that you want to achieve. It is not as smooth and glossy as maple. It also has a lighter color and does not absorb wood stain as well.

You may end up with blotching or an uneven color. If you want to prevent this from happening you will need to sand the birch down first, preferably with 120-grit sandpaper. You will need to use a mask as there will be a lot of dust. 

If you like the natural golden color of birch then you don’t need to use a stain. It is a warm and pleasant appearance but some people find it to be dated in style. 


Birch has pros and cons when it comes to durability. It has a natural ability to absorb shock and doesn’t crack or splinter as much as some other hardwoods. It can hold glue and nails well, though smaller nails will need pre-drilling.

Cutting birch can quickly blunt your tools due to the interlocking grain patterns. Birch is not weather resistant and will rot over time if left outside.

It is also susceptible to bug infestations. If you are concerned about birch being perishable then you should consider applying a treatment of some kind. 


Birch is a hardwood that comes from deciduous trees. The hardness of the wood depends on the type of birch you use, with gray birch being one of the softest and sweet birch being one of the hardest. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might like our article about ‘How Much Does Shiplap Cost?‘.

Luke Powell
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