Yes, Birch is hardwood. Birch tree is a deciduous tree, meaning it sheds its leaves during autumn, which is one of the main criteria of a hardwood. However, Birch is only a medium-density hardwood compared to other hardwoods with higher Janka Hardness ratings.
Birch has a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf. Its Janka Hardness rating pales in comparison to Brazilian Walnut (3,680 lbf), Patagonian Rosewood (3840 lbf), and other very dense hardwoods. Despite not being so dense, it doesn’t expand or contract much due to the vicissitudes of weather. Thus, it is fairly stable and good for many woodworking projects and applications.
What is Birch Wood?
If you live in the United States and want a hardwood native to this country, you might as well consider using Birch. It belongs to the genus “Betula.” You will find it in many other regions of the Northern hemisphere, like Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. Besides, it even grows in some parts of Japan and China.
Birch has thin leaves and around thirty to sixty species worldwide. In the United States, you can find over a dozen Birch species and can quickly identify this tree. Birchwood, of course, is a lightwood and comes with fine grain. You can use it for making furniture, cabinets, and even hardwood floors. Because of its fantastic color and grain, you can also use it to create beautiful veneers.
The most popular and readily available Birch wood types are the White and Yellow Birch. These two types of Birch blend white and gold with a very pale hue. Birchwood is relatively inexpensive since it is very much available. It also warps quickly when drying but is durable when wholly treated.
Birchwood is workable. You can quickly stain and finish it. Besides, it is an excellent alternative to Maple because its grains have the same patterns as Maple. Nevertheless, you can work it easily compared to Maple, which takes stain well.
Furthermore, birch wood is also commonly utilized for making plywood because it is economical. Besides, it has good strength. Moreover, it gets often used as veneers for floors and cabinets.
The Birchwood type commonly used for furniture in the United States is the Yellow Birch, also referred to as “Golden Birch.” It has a light hue with smooth grains.
Janka Hardness Rating of Birch
The ideal wood for hardwood flooring should be hard and durable enough. Besides, it should have a Janka Hardness rating anywhere from 800 to 3,000 Jankas. Birchwood, having a hardness rating of 1,290 Janka falls within this range. Thus, it is hard enough to use as flooring. Plus, you can select from various Birch species with varying Janka hardness ratings.
The hardness rating of Birch makes it a good wood for flooring. Yet, it is best for areas that avoid heavy foot traffic. Birchwood also exhibits high compressive and bending strength. Thus, it is excellent for making cabinets, furniture, and plywood. Moreover, it resists impact and shock because of its high crushing strength.
Birch is solid wood. It is stronger than all softwoods and is harder than many hardwoods. Its strength, of course, lies in its bending strength, compressive strength, density, stiffness, and hardness. It also has a uniform texture and straight grains. Thus, birch wood is a wise choice if you want solid hardwood for many projects.
Properties and Characteristics of Birch Wood
As mentioned above, Birch features fine grain and pale color. Because of these characteristics, it is best for making quality furniture. Nevertheless, its satin-like sheen is also an excellent choice for making veneer and furniture. You can also find Birch types that come with ripple figuring, a byproduct of how the tree matures and grows.
Birchwood also appears like Maple because both have straight grains and uniform texture. It also features a plain or wavy pattern sometimes.
Another sterling property of Birch is its remarkable hardness. It is even harder than Heart Pine, Black Walnut, Teak, and American Black Cherry. Its durability makes it a favorite of many woodworkers. However, it is harder to work manually than other woods and is not easy to chip or carve.
Applications and Uses of Birch Wood
Birch may be lighter than other hardwood, yet durable and robust. Thus, it gets often used for making strong plywood. You will often find plywood made of multiple sheets of Birch veneer. Plywood made of Birch belongs to the most stable and most robust plywood in the market today. Besides, it gets used for making skateboards, allowing for a flexible, dynamic, and stable ride.
Since Birch has many species, you will find some Birchwood species with a pungent smell. Such Birchwood species get mainly used as ingredients for making leather oil and cosmetic products. Additionally, the bark of Birchwood is waterproof. Hence, it gets often used for lining boats made of wood. Furthermore, in the older times, Native Americans used Birch barks for making lightweight bowls and canoes.
Birchwood gets likewise used for supporting heavy structures. The largest flying boat, the Spruce Goose, for example, during World War II, was constructed using Birch wood and aluminum. This is because Birch is lightweight and robust at the same time.
Advantages of Using Birch Wood
A surefire way to improve and have a lovely home is to use quality wood. Birchwood is an excellent option if you are desirous of building a beautiful and durable home. Since it has tightly packed grains, it can take different forms and shapes, providing your floors with a sterling finish. Birch floorboards exhibit varied colors between sapwood and heartwood. When Birch heartwood and sapwood get intermingled, unique contrast and pattern are created. Below are the upsides of using Birch Wood:
The Janka Hardness rating of Birch is by no means low. It ranges in hardness rating from 960 to 1,470 Janka, depending on the species of Birch you are using. Thus, you can expect projects made of Birch wood to last longer and survive the test of time.
Birchwood is not that difficult to work with compared to other hardwoods with higher Janka hardness ratings. You can work Birchwood using your power tools and install it without any issues or problems.
Nevertheless, you might find it challenging to work with if you only rely on your manual tools to make excellent designs using Birchwood. Of course, it is possible to work manually on Birchwood, but it is more challenging than using power tools.
Ease of Maintenance
Compared to other wood types, Birchwood doesn’t necessitate meticulous and specific maintenance to ensure its longevity. You can simply follow the standard maintenance practices for hardwood floors if you use Birch for hardwood flooring.
However, you need to ensure that you protect the wood from scratches and getting scuffed by utilizing area rugs and floor mats in areas that see heavy foot traffic.
Disadvantages of Using Birch Wood
An assessment of Birchwood would be incomplete if you only know the upsides of its use. Thus, it is best to know likewise the following downsides of its use to have an honest-to-goodness evaluation of the merits of its use:
More Expensive than Other Types of Wood
There are various species of wood on our planet, and many of these woods are cheaper than Birch. Thus, if you want to spend less on wood, you better opt for the less expensive wood types.
Warp and Crack in Humid Environment
Birch wood tends to absorb and desorb moisture, meaning it is hygroscopic. So, it can crack and warp in extreme environments characterized by dry weather. Thus, it will be best if you keep the place not too dry to prevent cracking and warping of this wood.
Poor Shear Resistance
Birch fiber exhibits relatively poor shear resistance. Thus, it can break with ease. So, it is not ideal for furniture that requires bending. It is also not worn resistant compared to other hardwoods.
How to Work with and Use Birch Wood in Your Woodworking Project
Many kinds of wood can be spalted. This process involves intentionally growing fungi on the wood to create unique coloration and patterns to add value to wood that would have low value otherwise. Woods like Sycamore, Maple, and Birch work excellently for spalting. This is because these wood types feature whitish colors like a black canvas for designing and painting.
Before you spalt wood, you should know the tricks and tips for this process. Beech is one of the most used woods for spalting. Spalting Birch might take two to three years to get the ideal stage for cutting and seasoning the timber.
With the proper process, you can create black lines created by various fungi species. Fungi might be primary and secondary colonizers. When spalting, you should know how to check the spread of fungi effects to ensure that the whole tree is not eaten or consumed by fungi.
You can work the hard and soft zones of the wood, and you will notice that the soft and hard zones are simply adjacent to each other. When sanding, it will be best to take extra care not to sand away any soft area, leaving hollows in the wood.
The softer areas exhibit whiter hues on the Birch boards. Nevertheless, if you did your spalting job well, more often, the results of spalting don’t display any soft area.
Frequently Asked Questions on Birch Wood
Aside from knowing the properties and characteristics, as well as the pros and cons of using Birchwood, it will also help if you are familiar with the following FAQs about Birchwood:
Is Birch Excellent for Making Furniture?
Birchwood has some sterling qualities that you would love to have in wood. It has remarkable strength that makes it great for making furniture. Thus, it is an intelligent wood choice for making furniture. You can expect furniture made of Birch to be highly strong and durable. It can also last for a lifetime, given proper care.
Birch is also workable. It doesn’t easily split or tear apart using machine or hand tools. Besides, it is easy to glue and receives stains well. Yet, when working with Birch, it will be best to use sharp tools to ensure smooth working with this wood.
Ensure you employ the correct speed when feeding the wood to prevent the splitting of this wood. Moreover, it will be best to sand this wood using 80 to 400 grit sandpapers for optimum results. Besides, when you drill, start at a slow speed, especially when drilling close to the edges.
Can You Use Birch for Outdoor Projects?
Birch is a pretty stable wood with medium density. Yet, it is also hygroscopic, meaning it will absorb and shed moisture due to changes in the weather. So, using Birch for outdoor projects will never be a wise idea. Even if you protect it or seal it, it will get damaged over time. Thus, it will be best to keep the use of Birch indoors. Besides, it is vulnerable to infestation and rot.
Is Birch Ideal for Flooring Material?
Birch is a hardwood, and it is hard enough as a flooring material. Yet, if money isn’t an issue for you, you can always go for other hardwood that can withstand heavy foot traffic better than Birch. Yet, it doesn’t mean that it is not a recommended wood for flooring.
Yes, you can use Birch for flooring, and it can last for a lifetime, given proper care. But as mentioned above, it should be reserved for areas that do not see heavy foot traffic for it scuffs or dents over time.
Is Birch Eco-friendly and Sustainable?
Well, the use of Birch is sustainable, especially the Yellow Birch, which is in the lowest risk category of endangerment. It is a secure species though some states consider it an endangered one. Birch, however, is not an endangered species. As such, its use is still sustainable. Besides, its supply still gets replenished by cultivating new seedlings of this tree.
Is Pine Better Than Birch?
Birch is harder than Pine (420 lbf). So, it is better than Pine in many respects. However, Pine is a very popular wood in woodworking because it is also strong and comes with a great grain pattern. Besides, it is very workable and affordable.
Is Oak Harder Than Birch?
When it comes to the physical properties of Oak, it is denser and harder than Birch. But Oaks and Birch come in various species. Both, however, are within the same range of Janka rating. So, they are almost as hard as each other. The hardest species of Birch, however, has 1,470 lbf, while that of White Oak is 1,360 Janka.
It is a good idea to use Birch for your many woodworking projects like flooring and cabinets, for it is a remarkable wood with high durability and strength. Nevertheless, when using it, it will be best to know the limitations of this wood and use it best on projects appropriate for its applications.
Birch is an excellent wood. It has many sterling characteristics that you would indeed love. Moreover, it has excellent grain patterns as well as great strength as hardwood. Nevertheless, you should know how to maintain it well because anything that is maintained well will last longer.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.