There are so many different types of wood out there that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Everyone is using oak and pine, that woods like teak and poplar get overlooked. But why do people use poplar anyway?
Today, we’re going to talk about this underrated wood that seems to slip under the radar. But it doesn’t have to anymore. There are plenty of benefits to poplar wood. So let’s see why people prefer it over other woods.
Is Poplar Wood A Hardwood?
Poplar wood is a species of wood used for furniture, cabinets, and lumber. It also serves many other uses but these are the primary uses today. It is definitely considered a hardwood however, it is very different than most hardwoods.
Poplar wood is a hardwood that is easy to work with like softwood. Its color is light with green or light brown streaks running through it. The wood is uniform and medium in density and just about every other way.
Poplar On The Janka Scale
So where does this put poplar on the Janka Scale? The Janka Scale is a scale that measures the hardness of different woods. Poplar comes in a little low for hardwoods at around 540. Let’s put that into perspective.
Black walnut is one of the hardware woods at just over 1000, which seems hard until you compare it to hickory which is nearly twice that. A closer comparison to poplar is yellow cedar, which is a nice 580.
Pine and red cedar are lower than poplar, both under 400. So it is actually higher than some hardwoods but lower than most. Making it a good medium-density hardwood that is well-rounded and suited for most uses.
Where Does Poplar Wood Come From?
This is where things get confusing. This is because Populus is actually a genus of trees that breed poplar trees. There are 35 natural poplar species and most of them are found in the Northern Hemisphere.
The cottonwoods are found in the wetlands, the aspens are found in colder climates, and the balsam poplar is usually found in Canada and Alaska. These are the primary types of poplar trees found and used for poplar wood.
Pros And Cons Of Poplar Wood
Everything has pros and cons in this world. Especially building materials like different types of wood. For example, oak is the most popular type of wood in North America, and it isn’t perfect either.
While it is universal, it also scratches easily compared to other woods like it. The same type of pros and cons can be said of poplar wood. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of poplar wood so we can easily compare it to other woods.
Pros Of Poplar Wood
The pros are probably what you want to focus on because they are what is going to draw you to poplar wood. These are the most popular pros regarding the type of poplar wood used in homes today.
- Cost -poplar wood usually costs around $3 to $5 per board foot. This is average or slightly less than average. Some wood can cost $10 per board foot while others may cost $2 per board foot. But this is a good price.
- Easy To Paint – poplar wood takes paint exceptionally well. It isn’t too porous yet it still has enough texture for the paint to adhere to the wood, making it a popular choice for private use and in furniture.
- Molds Well – those with woodworking experience know that some wood is satisfying to cut. Poplar wood is easy to cut, trim, and mold to fit anything you want it to fit, making it chameleon wood.
- Slow To Decay – poplar wood can last. It is resistant to water and decay. So it can be great for indoor and outdoor use. This makes it versatile and lets you rest easy knowing that it will last a lifetime.
- Universal – let’s face it, it’s nice to have a wood you can use for almost anything. Poplar wood is good for just about any use, indoors or outdoors. So it is considered a universal wood, unlike some other niche woods.
Cons Of Poplar Wood
Cons are not something most people like to dwell on but they are just as important as pros. However, some cons are more important to some people than others. It all depends on your lifestyle and planned usage.
- Can Tear – even though poplar is easy to work with, problems can arise if your tools aren’t sharp. Dull tools can tear apart otherwise great wood. So make sure the tools are sharp and there won’t be any problems.
- Not All Sandpaper Works – poplar is a soft hardwood so it needs finer grits of sandpaper. Usually, around 80-grit will work okay, with higher grits being better options. Most of the time, woodworkers use 200 and higher.
- Needs Repainted – although poplar wood is easy to paint, that paint usually needs to be redone every few years. So it’s not a huge deal but it is something to think about when choosing types of wood.
- Doesn’t stain well – as easy as poplar is to paint, it isn’t easy to stain. It can end up uneven. But this can be worked around if you sand the surface and use a pre-stain wood conditioner. Then things should work out well.
Planting Poplar Trees
If you aren’t interested in harvesting poplar trees or buying the wood, you may be interested in planting them instead. Most of the time, poplar trees aren’t planted as single trees but as rows of trees instead.
This row of trees is called a windbreak and is planted to offer a wind barrier and a nice green wall in your yard. In the winter, this windbreak can make your yard much warmer and in the summer, it can offer shade.
Where To Plant Poplar Trees
A general distance from the house is around 100 feet. This is for safety reasons. If you do less than 50 feet then you risk the trees falling on your house. But if you do more than 100 feet then they aren’t very useful.
You want then fairly close to any outdoor seating area you have. Too close and they can be overpowering. But a few yards away is usually a good idea. Just don’t be outdoors near them when it is storming.
How To Buy Poplar Trees
Most saplings will be between 8 inches and 12 inches tall, with an average of around a 10-inch-tall tree. But if you can find a healthy one that is taller then you will probably benefit from the headstart it has been given.
Sometimes, the smaller trees are healthier but they are harder to take care of. If you don’t have experience, get a larger one that has already been given the start that it needs to thrive after you plant it.
Spacing Poplar Trees
There are two ways to space poplar trees. You can space them six feet apart as saplings and they should grow to have a nice wall of trees instead of gaps as they would if you planted them further apart.
Then, there is the staggering way to plant them. For this, you can place each tree a tiny bit closer than do a staggered row behind that first row. This will create a fuller wall that offers even more protection.
Preparing The Area
Soil temperatures should be a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and should be done in the spring or fall. When you feel the time is right, you can dig holes for each sapling six feet apart, ensuring you have the right size.
The holes should be deep enough for the root ball to fit nicely. The holes should also be twice as wide as the root ball. This gives them room to grow in the soil that you add to the hole. Which is what you will do next.
Soil And Mulch
For best results, you should add rich soil to the holes rather than fill them back up with the dirt that you removed. You should also add a base of about 2-4 inches of mulch on top of the tree bases and keep it fertilized.
Learning the correct type of mulch to use and how much to use is crucial. If you feed the wrong nutrients or if you add too much mulch, you could deprive or suffocate the trees. So learn the right type and amount before you begin.
The Importance Of Poplar Trees
Poplar trees grow fast, steady, and are plentiful. While they do have their faults, they are generally an all-purpose wood that can be used for anything from lumber for building houses to children’s toys.
So they deserve as much respect as any other type of wood. Never be afraid to use any type of wood that has been gotten from a reliable farm or source. And more importantly, do your part and plant a tree every once in a while.
Take part in something greater and plant one if you can. Not everyone can, and that’s okay. It’s up to the rest of us to make sure future generations have the resources that we have and more! So lend a hand.