Birch and beech trees have similar-sounding names, grow in many of the same areas and often thrive in the same climates. However, the two woods are different from each other and have many individual characteristics and uses. Both are used commercially and in the home.
Birches are flexible trees whose wood is known for its resistance to shock. They're found in the northern and northeastern United States and in Canada. The wood is yellowish and heavy. Birch trees are easily identifiable by their white, often peeling, bark. They will grow in most temperate climates, but are most at home in northern, four-season climate zones.
Beech trees grow in the northeastern United States and Canada and grow in dense forests alongside maple trees. Beech wood is pale and is not used in furniture often because it expands and contracts in moist conditions. Beech is considered a hard wood and is popular for burning as a firewood. The beech tree is a popular ornamental tree because of its colour and shape.
Beech tree wood is most commonly used as a firewood for cooking and smoking. It's also used to make wood biscuits that bind joints in furniture. Birch is also considered a good firewood because it has many oils. Birch tree bark is flexible and waterproof and was used as one of the first parchments.
Beech wood does not have the strength or moisture resistance necessary to make good furniture or other wood objects subject to high exposures of moisture. Birch wood has a higher level of moisture resistance than beech wood, and makes slightly better furniture, although the wood is soft. The textures of birch and birch allow for simple woodworking, and the wood is ideal for carving and other indoor uses such as flooring.
Birch wood and beech wood have about an equal lifespan if taken care of and kept away from moisture. Birch wood has an average lifespan of about 25 years, as does beech wood. Beech can last much longer than that if well-maintained.