How to identify pine boards

Updated February 21, 2017

Pine boards are used for flooring or home furnishings such as bookshelves, bed frames or cupboards. Pine is a common, evergreen soft wood. There are different types of pinewood, the most common being yellow and white pine. Identifying pine in your home or in a shop is moderately easy owing to its distinctive characteristics which are similar among the different types of pine. Knowing what wood you have will enable you to treat, repair or clean the boards using the appropriate tools and products.

Remove any paint or varnish that is covering the wood you wish to identify. Follow the product's instructions to make sure you completely remove the paint, leaving the wood undamaged.

Look at the colour of the wood; if the wood is pine it will be yellow in colour. Yellow pine wood is yellow-brown in colour, whereas Ponderosa pine is pale yellow with a slight pinkish tinge. White pine is a light, pale yellow colour.

Check the direction of the grain in the wood. If your board is made of pine, the grain will run lengthways across the board as this is the most attractive and suitable cut.

Look at the pattern of grain in the boards. Pine board has clearly visible oval or circular rings of grain in the wood. The lines are slightly darker than the colour of the pine itself (usually a yellowy-brown in colour). White pine boards will have close, uniform rings of grain.

Identify small knots in the grain. Pine (regardless of type) has dark spots on its surface. These are seen within the circular lines of grain and are known as knots. These dark marks are classic characteristics of pine and will be visible if your boards are made from pine.

Touch or stroke the wood. Pine boards will be smooth to touch as the timber has already been cut for use by a timber merchant. Pine has a flat grain so when you move your hand across the wood you will not feel bumps or roughness.

Lift the pine board. Pine is a lightweight softwood and you should be able to lift a 5 by 1 foot length of pine board without struggle. A pine door can be moved by one person whereas a solid oak door would need two people because it is a denser, harder wood.

Compare your wooden board with other types of wood. Use photos of wood online or in a timber catalogue or take one of your boards to a hardware store.


Be careful when you touch the wood. If the wooden board is untreated it may have splinters on its surface so watch your fingers.

Things You'll Need

  • Varnish/ paint remover
  • Brush
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About the Author

Based in Bristol, Philippa Jones has been a music journalist and script writer since 2007, working across a range of radio programs in the U.K. and Australia. Her articles have appeared in "Impact Magazine," "The Mic" and in local newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of Nottingham.