16 Types of Wood DIYers Should Know

Wood is one of the most common materials used by DIYers and woodworkers for projects around the home. Knowing the right types of wood for your needs is key to ensuring success and durability for whatever you’re building or creating. We’ve compiled this guide to the 16 most popular types of wood with details on their qualities, best uses, price, and availability.


Pine is one of the most abundant, affordable, and versatile softwoods. There are over 100 pine species worldwide, but in North America the most commonly used types are:

  • White Pine – soft, lightweight, and straight grained. Stains well and resists swelling/shrinking. Best uses include trim, molding, cabinets, and furniture.
  • Yellow Pine – harder and more durable than white pine. Has a yellowish tint. Used for flooring, furniture, cabinets, and woodworking. Includes longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, and slash pine.
  • Ponderosa Pine – similar to white pine but more resistant to insects and weather. Used for exterior projects like siding, decking, fencing, and outdoor furniture.
  • Sugar Pine – soft, straight-grained, but more resinous than white pine. Takes stains and glues well. Good for trim, windows, doors, and built-ins.

Pros of Pine:

  • Inexpensive and readily available.
  • Easy to cut, sand, stain, glue, and finish.
  • Versatile for indoor and outdoor uses.


  • Softer than hardwoods. More prone to dents and scratches.
  • Can warp or twist over time.
  • Susceptible to insects and fungi. Requires sealants.

Pine is budget-friendly, easy to work with using common tools, and suitable for a wide range of DIY projects.


Poplar is another affordable softwood that has many similarities to pine. It has a straight, uniform grain and a light yellowish-brown color. Poplar is most commonly used for:

  • Paint grade trim and molding
  • Cabinets and furniture frames
  • Crafts and toys

Pros of Poplar:

  • Economical option for indoor projects
  • Takes paint and stains evenly
  • Easy to cut and sand


  • Prone to denting
  • Can warp over time
  • Not as strong or durable as hardwoods

Poplar is a great choice for DIYers looking for an inexpensive paint-grade wood for indoor uses. It may dent more easily than pine but has a nice smooth finish when painted.


Oak is perhaps the most popular type of hardwood used by DIYers and woodworkers. It’s strong, heavy, and durable, making it ideal for furniture, flooring, cabinets, countertops, trim, and millwork. The most abundant species are:

  • Red Oak – Has an obvious reddish tint. More porous than white oak. Used for furniture, flooring, veneer, and barrels.
  • White Oak – Very strong and water resistant. More subtle grain patterns. Used for flooring, cabinets, trim, boats.

Pros of Oak:

  • Extremely strong and durable
  • Ages beautifully over time
  • Stains, glues, and finishes well


  • More expensive than softwoods
  • Heavy and difficult to work with
  • Can warp or cup over time

Oak’s natural beauty, durability, and strength make it the ultimate wood for DIY furniture, shelving, cabinets, and other impressive home projects.


Maple comes in two main varieties – hard maple and soft maple. Hard maple is most prized by woodworkers for furniture and flooring while soft maple is more affordable for DIY projects.

Key traits include:

  • Closed grain pattern with smooth finish
  • Very strong and durable
  • Ages well over time
  • Resistant to wear and abrasion
  • Stains evenly for natural or bold looks

Maple is suitable for:

  • Countertops
  • Cutting boards
  • Tables and desks
  • Cabinets and furniture
  • Flooring
  • Turned objects like bowls and spindles

Pros of Maple:

  • Attractive grain patterns
  • Very hard and durable
  • Ages beautifully over decades
  • Polishes to a silky smooth finish


  • More expensive than softwoods
  • Can be difficult to stain evenly
  • Prone to dents and scratches

Maple is beloved for its gorgeous grain, resilience, and timeless beauty in home furnishings and architectural details.


Cherry wood has a smooth texture and rich red-brown color. When stained, it develops an elegant, deep patina. Key features include:

  • Fine, straight grain patterns
  • Ages beautifully over decades
  • Polishes to a lustrous finish
  • Stains easily and uniformly

Cherry is most often used for:

  • Fine furniture
  • Cabinets and built-ins
  • Flooring
  • Veneer and paneling

Pros of Cherry:

  • Visually appealing grain and color
  • Hard and durable for long-lasting use
  • Ages with a desirable patina
  • Takes stains and finishes exceptionally well


  • More expensive than softwoods
  • Can be susceptible to fungal infections
  • Develops dark spots if exposed to sunlight

The natural elegance and refined look of aged cherry wood make it a top choice for impressive bookshelves, cabinets, tables, and other statement pieces.


Walnut has a rich, dark brown color and a straight, moderately open grain. It’s prized for its luxurious appearance and versatility. Uses include:

  • Furniture
  • Flooring
  • Cabinets
  • Gunstocks
  • Boat interiors

Pros of Walnut:

  • Visually appealing dark color
  • Hard and durable
  • Polishes to a smooth finish
  • Carves nicely for sculpted details


  • More expensive than softwoods
  • Can be tricky to stain evenly
  • Polishes and finishes can highlight imperfections

Walnut has a timeless elegance perfect for impressive desks, shelves, tables, and decorative accents that make a statement.


There are two main types of cedar used in DIY projects:

  • Aromatic Red Cedar – Known for its distinctive aroma. Naturally resistant to decay. Used for closets, chests, paneling, and outdoor furniture.
  • Western Red Cedar – Widely available. Workable and takes stains well. Used for decks, fencing, shingles, and outdoor structures.

Pros of Cedar:

  • Affordable and accessible
  • Natural decay resistance
  • Distinctive aroma
  • Excellent for outdoor projects


  • Relatively soft compared to hardwoods
  • Can scratch and dent easily
  • Color and grain patterns not highly decorative

Cedar’s natural resistance to moisture, decay, and insects make it the perfect choice for planter boxes, raised beds, she-sheds, and other outdoor DIY projects.


Teak has a distinctive yellowish-brown color. It’s known for its exceptional weather and insect resistance. Common uses are:

  • Patio furniture
  • Boat decking and trim
  • Outdoor cabinets and accents

Pros of Teak:

  • Extremely weather and insect resistant
  • Stands up to sun, rain, and saltwater
  • Ages beautifully to a silvery-gray patina
  • No finish required for outdoor uses


  • More expensive than other woods
  • Slow growing so not very eco-friendly
  • Difficult to work with hand tools
  • Limited primarily to outdoor uses

Teak is unmatched for durable, low-maintenance outdoor furniture and fixtures that stand the test of time in any climate.


Mahogany has a reddish-brown color and straight, open grain pattern. It offers an elegant look and carves nicely for ornamental details. Ideal for:

  • Fine furniture
  • Cabinets and trim
  • Boatbuilding
  • Musical instruments

Pros of Mahogany:

  • Attractive, consistent grain patterns
  • Polishes to a beautiful patina
  • Carves and mills smoothly
  • Naturally decay resistant


  • Relatively expensive
  • Sustainability concerns in some regions
  • Can be tricky to stain evenly
  • Susceptible to humidity and drying out

Mahogany brings sophistication and intricate details to cabinets, bookcases, and high-end furnishings to add elegance to living spaces.


Despite its name, bamboo is technically a fast-growing grass. However, it is a renewable and sustainable wood alternative used for:

  • Flooring
  • Kitchen accessories
  • Furniture
  • Cabinets and countertops

Pros of Bamboo:

  • Extremely renewable and sustainable
  • Very hard and durable
  • Attractive natural grain patterns
  • Resistant to moisture and changes in humidity


  • Difficult to stain consistently
  • Prone to scratches and dents
  • Can warp if improperly sealed
  • Limited primarily to indoor uses

As an eco-friendly option, bamboo offers unique visual appeal for flooring, shelves, and cabinets made with a renewable resource.


Birch comes in several varieties but yellow birch is the most popular. It offers:

  • Pale yellow-brown color
  • Straight, close grain
  • Consistent texture
  • Stains relatively easily

Birch is well-suited for:

  • Cabinetry
  • Furniture
  • Flooring
  • Turned objects
  • Toys and crafts

Pros of Birch:

  • Attractive, consistent grain patterns
  • Hard and heavy for its density
  • Polishes to a smooth finish
  • Versatile for projects and finishes


  • Susceptible to changes in humidity
  • Not as decay resistant as some woods
  • Diffuse porous nature can cause uneven stains
  • Prone to warping without proper sealing

Birch is an all-purpose hardwood for DIY projects from a classic wooden kitchen table to a hand-turned bowl to custom cabinetry.


Hickory is an extremely dense, stiff, and heavy hardwood known for its strength. Features include:

  • Wide, varying grain patterns
  • Pale to deep reddish brown hues
  • Very tough but brittle
  • Difficult to work with hand tools

Uses include:

  • Furniture
  • Flooring
  • Tool handles
  • Baseball bats
  • Smoking wood chips


  • Excellent strength and hardness
  • Naturally shock and impact resistant
  • Ages well over decades


  • Very heavy and hard to maneuver
  • Challenging to cut, sand, and fasten
  • Prone to splintering if not pre-drilled
  • Can warp or check if improperly dried

Hickory’s exceptional toughness makes it ideal for durable outdoor furniture that can withstand the elements and support people.


Red alder is lightweight and straight-grained. It offers a pale orange-brown color and minimal knotting. Uses include:

  • Furniture
  • Cabinets
  • Turned objects
  • Miller dowels
  • Toys and novelties

Pros of Alder:

  • Affordable and abundant
  • Consistent, knot-free grain patterns
  • Easy to saw, sand, stain, and finish
  • Takes paint and clear finishes extremely well


  • Softer and less durable than other hardwoods
  • Susceptible to dents and wear
  • Prone to warping and checking without proper sealing
  • Not suitable for outdoor uses

Alder is a workhorse wood for painted cabinets and furniture where an affordable, attractive finish is desired without breaking the bank.


Ash has an open, coarse grain pattern that allows it to take stains very well. It has a light brown hue and provides an excellent option for replacing oak. Common uses are:

  • Flooring
  • Doors
  • Cabinetry
  • Furniture
  • Baseball bats
  • Tool handles

Pros of Ash:

  • Very strong and shock resistant
  • Low stiffness rating makes it easy to work
  • Stains evenly with bold, attractive results
  • Sands smoothly to a silky finish


  • Less water resistant than some hardwoods
  • Prone to fungal infections if not properly finished
  • Can warp or check without adequate sealing

Ash offers an affordable, workable hardwood for DIY projects where a darker stained look is desired without going all the way to walnut.


Sitka spruce and Engelmann spruce are two commonly used varieties. Features include:

  • Pale yellow-white color
  • Subtle grain patterns
  • Lightweight and semi-soft
  • Very stiff and resonant

Ideal uses are:

  • Guitars and other musical instruments
  • Piano soundboards
  • Model aircraft
  • Rowboats

Pros of Spruce:

  • Affordable and readily available
  • Lightweight but very stiff
  • Easy to machine and work
  • Consistent, straight grain patterns


  • Lower strength than pine or other softwoods
  • Not suitable for outdoor uses
  • Dents and scratches easily
  • Limited primarily to specialty uses

Spruce is perfect for crafting lightweight DIY musical instruments where resonance and stiffness are desired without adding a lot of mass.


As one of the lightest commercial woods available, balsa is used primarily for specialized applications like:

  • Model airplanes and boats
  • Soundproofing
  • Buoyancy aids
  • Insulation
  • Crafts

Pros of Balsa:

  • Extremely lightweight and buoyant
  • Very easy to cut, shape, and glue
  • Affordable and accessible


  • Low strength and hardness
  • Not durable or suitable for outdoor uses
  • Primarily used for hobby applications

Balsa’s ultra light weight makes it perfect for DIY model planes, boats, school projects, and other crafts where low density is required.


Butternut has a light tannish-brown color and straight, coarse grain pattern. It’s similar in appearance and workability to walnut. Uses include:

  • Furniture
  • Cabinets
  • Turned objects
  • Carvings

Pros of Butternut:

  • Attractive grain patterns
  • Easy to work with hand and power tools
  • Polishes to a smooth finish
  • Takes stains evenly


  • Limited availability
  • Low natural decay resistance
  • Can be prone to worm damage
  • Difficult to find wide boards

Butternut works well for smaller DIY projects like carvings, furniture accents, boxes, lamps, and other decorative pieces.

Frequently Asked Questions About Types of Wood for DIY Projects

What is the easiest wood for beginner DIY projects?

Pine, poplar, alder, and cedar tend to be the most beginner-friendly woods. They are affordable, readily available at home centers, easy to work with using basic tools, and forgiving to mistakes.

What is the strongest and most durable wood?

Oak, maple, walnut, and hickory are among the strongest and most durable options. They can withstand decades of wear and tear through abrasion, impacts, weathering, and more while maintaining structural integrity.

What wood is best for outdoor projects?

Cedar, redwood, teak, and pressure treated pine have good natural decay resistance. Ipe and some other exotic hardwoods are also extremely durable outdoors. Apply protective stains and finishes to further shield the wood from moisture, sun, and pests.

What type of wood is best for furniture?

Oak, maple, walnut, cherry, mahogany, and ash are excellent choices for fine furniture. Opt for a hardwood with attractive grain patterns and sufficient hardness to withstand daily uses. Consider durability, finishes, and style preferences when selecting wood species.

What is the most affordable wood for DIY projects?

Pine, poplar, and alder provide the best value for DIYers looking for inexpensive lumber. They take paint and clear finishes very well. Oak and maple are more durable options that are moderately priced for hardwoods.

How do I choose the right wood species for a project?

Consider the project location, use case, desired aesthetics, hardness needs, budget, and woodworking skill level. Outdoor projects demand durable, weather-resistant woods. Furniture and floors need hardness to resist scratches and dents. Know the characteristics of each species to make the best selection.

Wood is a remarkable, versatile material with an array of species well-suited for DIY creations. Understanding the unique qualities of pine, oak, maple, cedar, and exotic hardwoods helps match the right woods with your skills and intended uses. Whether building an heirloom dining set or assembling simple pine shelving, choose wisely from these 16 types of wood to complete your next carpentry project with success.