Western white pine

Category: Softwood
Region: Coast, Interior
Title: Western white pine (Pinus monticola)

Photo credit: Barbara Zimonick

Western white pine is a large tree that can grow up to 60 metres. The wood is light in colour, straight-grained and nonporous with a fine and uniform texture.

It has good working qualities and is generally sawn into lumber for use in products such as windows, doors and furniture, as well as construction lumber. High-grade material is used for exterior and interior siding and millwork.

Where it grows

Western white pine is commonly found in the drier parts of Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland coast and in the wetter parts of the southern interior, particularly at low elevations. It may form nearly pure stands, but is usually found in a forest with other species.

The species thrives in a variety of environments ranging from peat bogs to dry, sandy or rocky soil. It does best on sites that are rich in nutrients and well drained, in moist valleys and on gentle northern slopes.

Did you know?

Western white pine is a very productive and desirable species considering its rapid growth, a clean main stem with minimum taper, narrow crown and non-resinous wood.

Western white pine species distribution map

Identifiable characteristics

Western white pine is a medium- to large-sized tree that can grow up to 60 metres high and two metres in diameter and can commonly live to be 300 to 400 years old. It is usually found in closed groups of trees and has a sparse crown and short branches. When the tree is young, its bark is thin, smooth and greyish-green, and it turns darker as the tree ages, forming deep, vertical grooves with small rectangular scaly plates.

Needles occur in bunches of five, about 5 to 10 centimetres long. Slender, straight and soft to touch, they are bluish-green in colour with a whitish tinge. The edges are very finely toothed. Seed cones are cylindrical when closed, about 10 to 25 centimetres long, and they are on a two-centimetre stalk. The scales are often bent backwards when dry. The seeds have wings about three centimetres long.

Photo credit: Brudder Productions


Western white pine (Pinus monticola) seedlings shown laying on table with workers in the background

Common uses and applications

Western white pine is generally sawn into lumber, which finds its main use in windows, doors, matches, boxes, patterns, as well as construction lumber. High-grade material is used for applications such as siding of various kinds, both exterior and interior woodwork, and millwork. Lower-grade boards are often used for sheathing, knotty panelling and sub-flooring. Indigenous peoples make medicine from the boughs of the western white pine.

Photo credit: Michael Bednar


Several smooth finished western white pine (Pinus monticola) dimensional lumber boards shown as examples

Commercial properties

Western white pine wood is light in colour, ranging from cream to yellow to pale reddish brown. It is straight-grained and nonporous, with a fine and uniform texture.

Western white pine is moderately light in weight and moderately low in strength, but it has good working properties. The wood dries rapidly with small dimensional movement and little tendency to check. It is relatively easy to work, with good machining qualities. It turns, planes and shapes well and can be sanded to a smooth finish. The wood glues easily, has moderate nail and screw holding ability, and takes a good finish.

Photo credit: Nik West

Close up interior view of lumber mill conveyor belt during processing of western white pine (Pinus monticola) boards

Commercial availability

Western white pine is of limited availability. It is produced for millwork applications under National Lumber Grades Authority (NLGA) rules for clears, shop lumber and moulding stock.

Western white pine lumber is dried according to end-use and customer specifications. Kiln drying inhibits natural staining of the wood, improves its strength and stiffness, enhances its appearance, and increases its resistance to decay and attack by insects.

Did you know?

Wood from the western white pine is ideal for carving because of its fine grain and uniform texture.

Photo credit: Brudder Productions

Western white pine (Pinus monticola) seedlings shown laying on table with worker in the background

Western white pine – physical properties

Density (kg/m3)Green355
Air dry383
Specific gravity (12% m.c.)Standard0.36
Hardness (N)Side1700
MOE (Mpa)Green8200
Air dry10100
MOR (Mpa)Green33.3
Air dry64.1
Compression parallel (Mpa)Air dry36.1
Compression perpendicular (Mpa)Air dry3.23
Shear (Mpa)Air dry6.34
Cleavage (N/mm width)Air dry35.4
OD = oven dry
air = air dry 12%
Radial (OD)3.7%
Tangential (OD)6.8%
Volumetric (OD)10.7%
Volumetric (air)6.0%
Tang / rad ratio1.8

Western white pine – visual properties

HeartwoodCream coloured to light reddish-brown.
SapwoodWhite to pale yellow.
Heartwood / sapwood contrastLittle contrast between heartwood and sapwood.
Latewood / earlywood contrastFaint growth rings.
The wood is generally straight-grained with even, uniform texture.
Plainsawn lumber or rotary-cut veneer: none.
Quartersawn lumber or quarter-sliced veneer: none.
The knots are usually intergrown.
Wood of western white pine has a slight resinous odour especially when green. Has fine brown lines appearing on longitudinal surfaces due to resin ducts. Wood is resinous, pitch pockets are infrequent.

Western white pine – working properties

PlaningGood planing qualityRecommended planer settings 12° or 20° hook angle and 20 kmpi (knife marks per inch).
TurningGood to low surface quality Excellent results with rotary-knife lathe and poor results with single-point lathe.
SawingVery easy to workCutting edges should be sharp. Resin exudation can sometimes negatively affect sawing properties.
BoringMedium to wellMedium boring quality with both brad and single twist bits.
MortisingGoodGood mortising quality when using a hollow chisel mortise.
ShapingGood to excellent shaping quality
VeneeringGoodSlight tendency to split during drying.
ScrewingModerate - GoodAverage screw rentention: 378 lb.
Nail retention Moderate
Lateral nail holdingN/A
GluingEasyBonds very easily with adhesives of a wide range of properties, and under a wide range of bonding conditions.
StainingEasyWood is soft and produces a grainy appearance. Dark stains appear blotchy. Recommended: light stains and natural finish.
PaintingGood paint holding ability
LacqueringGoodMultiple coats of clear or a clear coat with a high build is recommended.
WaxingGoodBest results are obtained when using light coloured waxes (e.g., mellow pine).
Ease of dryingEasy to moderately easyStable after drying, moderately high shrinkage.
Natural decay resistanceSlightly durableNot appropriate for prolonged outdoor exposure.
TreatabilityImpermeable to extremely impermeableCan be improved by incising.

Data for these property tables has been compiled by FPInnovations from internal and external scientific sources.
FPInnovations is a not-for-profit technical research institute serving the Canadian forest sector.