Red Pine Versus White Pine for Timber Framing

Red pine is stiffer and stronger than white pine, but more prone to warping. December 28, 2006

I am looking at cutting timbers for my timber frame cabin. I have access to red pine. How does it compare to white pine in terms of strength, workability, etc.? Is it a good choice? I have been told that larger red pine trees may have shake. Is this true? Trees are on a woodlot in western Wisconsin.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor D:
Red pine is stronger than white and in my experience, turns blue faster, also. You should mill pine ASAP after it is cut. Most timber frames I have encountered are hardwoods. The good doctor and other resources here can tell you all about the technical comparisons between red and white pine. For my own log home, I mixed the two without any problems. Since your needs are more structural, red would probably be best. In over 150 trees on my project, I found no shake at all.

From contributor E:
I built a timber frame house in Polk County, WI last year out of white pine. I logged in August, milled within one week of logging, and had no blue stain. My research led me to white over red pine, but I can't recall why. Tedd Benson wrote a book (The Timber Frame Home, 1997). He discusses oak, eastern white pine, shortleaf and longleaf pine, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, and white spruce as being commonly used for timber frames, but doesn't discuss what to stay clear of.

From contributor J:
Red pine has a tendency to twist as it dries. A local forester told me if the timbers are harvested and milled in the winter, that the timbers are not as prone to rotate. I do not know for certain if it is true. White pine does not shrink as much. I have 6x6 timbers laying in the yard (unrestrained) in the sun that were milled 5 years ago, that have only small splits and are as straight as when I first milled them.

If both are available and the same price, go with the white pine. You do not need the frustrations that a twisting timber will give you, especially if you are new to the game.

From contributor P:
I've worked white pine on timber frame jobs and the wood is wonderful to machine or chisel on. Yes, it is a little weaker species. Our timbers were sawn in Mass in the springtime and coated ASAP for blue stain control. It was mid summer when the frame work started and very little stain was ever seen. We did have to be careful about breathing sawdust and touching the raw timbers and eating food. Best to wash your hands often or use gloves a lot. Hemlock was the other species used and shake was encountered many times.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Although red is considerably stronger and stiffer than white, it is also quite a bit heavier. (Note that strength data are based on clear wood. Wood with knots would not be quite as different.) Both species are used. The red does indeed warp more.