It used to be when I went to the lumber store the inexpensive soft wood was Pine. Now they call it "White Wood", what exactly is "White Wood", I don't recall ever hearing of a tree species by that name.

  • It appears to be several sheets of luaun pressed together. Very stiff, square and easy to work with, but no finish-ready wood grain veneer.
    – woodEye
    Oct 8, 2018 at 22:34

6 Answers 6


I suspect it is any cheap tree that is fairly white. 'White wood' is not a species. It is likely pine, but in theory could be balsam or aspen or a bunch of others.

I did a little looking and it mostly confirmed that. It can be any of a number of species that all are fairly 'white' with little strong grain showing.

  • I have seen Aspen on multiple occasions in its own section of dimensional lumber, but have also seen White Wood similarly. I am not sure if those designations are used interchangeably, or if some stores carry Aspen, and then 'White Wood' separately. Jan 9, 2017 at 19:18

White wood is the cheap, crappy wood available at home centers, and will vary by region. Here in Arizona, it's white pine.

  • Just to clarify, it seems like you are answering the question, "What species is the inexpensive soft wood?" not "What is white wood?" Am I right?
    – drs
    Mar 18, 2015 at 18:13
  • 1
    Not quite. At Home Depot here, they have white pine labelled as white wood. My assumption is that the definition of white wood will vary by location.
    – saltface
    Mar 18, 2015 at 20:58

That's a deliberate misuse of the poor tulip tree's name. White wood is Liriodendron tulipifera, a rather valuable hardwood (which funnily is not white at all).

Insofar, calling the inexepensive soft wood "white wood" is somewhat misleading.
Nevertheless, in practice, home improvement centers will sell anything from spruce, fir, or pine to "coniferous wood" under the umbrella term "white wood". In other words, you get whatever happens to be around and is cheapest, but it sounds like you buy something valuable.

  • 1
    The article you link to portrays tulip wood as cheap and goes on to say, “During scarcity of the better qualities of white pine, tulip wood has taken its place to some extent.” Mar 20, 2015 at 16:15
  • (Must admit that I didn't even read that Wiki article I linked to, assuming it would be accurate). Let's say that I'm seriously impressed by that quote. Price of whitewood here is comparable to walnut, so not at the very top, but rather in the upper price range. It's a wood that you'd use for example for a knife grip. White pine, on the other hand, is pretty much among the cheapest crap you can get. Stuff you use for building a tool shack in your garden.
    – Damon
    Mar 20, 2015 at 18:25
  • The wiki page claims that tulip wood (American Whitewood) was used for house and barn sills. Other sources claim that it were not resistant enough against weather for that, but well usable for the interior - and also used for packaging etc. I also did find claims that the name “American Whitewood” were sometimes used for magnolia grandiflora or m. acuminata. (I have no idea what of these things is true, myself.) As for pine, we probably can agree that there is a wide range of qualities you can get, from tool shack to stairs and (common) furniture quality. Mar 20, 2015 at 18:45

In Canada anyways, you would also see it referred to as SPF - Spruce, Pine, Fir which is used as dimensional framing lumber.


The meaning of "white wood" or "whitewood" may vary by region.

In the UK, for example, it usually means timber primarily intended for "first-fix" use where it will not be visible when the work is completed.

The species probably depends on what is available in the region but can include Spruce, Douglas Fir, Pine and so on. Spruce seems to be most common in the UK.

  • And to make it even more confusing: in Scandinavia whitewood is spruce and redwood is pine Oct 10, 2018 at 7:46

There is a fast growing pine species called radiata pine that is grown in New Zealand that Home Depot sells. They sometimes mislabel it white pine but it not eastern white pine. Now they call it white wood.

  • Though grown in New Zealand and Tazmania, radiata pine is native to North America.
    – Ast Pace
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:43

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.