Spruce is a famous softwood among woodworkers with an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. Furthermore, despite having less hardness and density, its strength is outstanding.
Thus, contractors use Spruce wood in framing projects, such as forming the initial framework for joists and rafters. In addition, music instrument manufacturers prefer it for making piano and violin tops.
However, using Spruce is questionable in exterior applications. It is softwood, requiring users to examine its resistance to various environmental impacts.
So, let’s decipher a common concern among wood users, Is Spruce Good For Outdoor Use?
Spruce wood is unsuitable for outdoor projects because it has poor rot and weather resistance. Further, even though it has moderate durability, it is vulnerable to water damage and insect attacks.
This lumber also has a low density and open-porous grains, absorbing moisture quickly. Therefore, it’s prone to damage in high-humidity areas.
But still, you can make Spruce suitable for exterior applications by treating, sealing, and keeping it from ground contact. This way, you guarantee project longevity.
That said, a yes or no response may not satisfy your curiosity. Hence, read the article below for more insight into Spruce’s characteristics, benefits, drawbacks, and how to finish and maintain it.
You will also find frequently asked questions to guide your perspective on the wood.
What Is Spruce Tree?
Spruce trees belong to a genus of 40 coniferous evergreens, Picea, in the Pinacaea family. They are famous for ornamental and timber wood and are native to the Northern temperate and boreal regions.
When mature, these trees are large, from 60 to 200 feet tall, with whorled branches and a conical form. You can also distinguish Spruces by their needles (leaves) attached singly to tiny persistent peg-like structures on the branches.
Moreover, Spruce trees shed their needles at four to ten years old, leaving rough branches with retained pegs. And their cones lack protruding bracts, causing them to hang downwards after pollination.
Further, Spruce pulp is essential in the paper industry, whereas the tree’s timber is suitable for various applications. For instance, piano and violin manufacturers use resonant spruce wood is perfect for sounding boards, while woodworkers use it in barrels, boats, and airplane construction.
On the other hand, gardeners cultivate some Spruce species as ornaments and Christmas trees.
We have multiple types of Spruce trees. They include
Black Spruce (Picea Mariana)
The Black Spruce is native to Northern North America, especially the Taiga regions or Boreal forest, and thrives in wet areas. It’s a primary host for the parasitic Eastern dwarf mistletoe and grows to 30-50 feet.
Also, though this species is large, some types are smaller cultivars, forming a hassock-shaped mount only one to two feet high.
Bird’s Nest Spruce (Picea Abies ‘Nidiformis’)
This unique cultivar of Norway Spruce originates from Northern and Central Europe. It resembles a round dwarf shrub with an indentation at the top and looks like a bird’s nest.
The tree works well in a container if you want a small evergreen conifer on your patio. But it grows slowly in the early years, being one to two feet tall in the first ten years.
Brewer Spruce (Picea Breweriana)
This tree type is called the weeping Spruce because its branchlets hang down. Further, it is a perfect specimen tree for gardens as the weeping form delivers a lovely appearance.
Brewer Spruce is native to Northern California, primarily southern Oregon, and grows to 30-50 feet.
Oriental Spruce, Caucasian Spruce (Picea Orientalis)
This spruce type is native to the mountainous regions from the Caucasus to Turkey. It thrives in multiple soil types but needs sheltering from the wind. Further, Caucasian spruce is slow-growing with shorter needles, say about ½ inch.
Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea Glauca ‘Conica’)
This unique cultivar of the white Spruce is famous for its soft bright-green needles, conical shape, and dwarf shrub form. Thus, it is perfect for Christmas trees and creating spiral shrub topiary.
Also, Dwarf Alberta Spruce is native to Alberta, Canada, and grows to ten-13 feet.
Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens)
This tree is native to the Rocky Mountains, especially south of Montana. It has blue needles and grows to 30-60 feet.
In addition, although Colorado Blue Spruce thrives in droughts, it needs regular watering in hot locations.
Engelmann’s Spruce (Picea Engelmannii)
Engelmann Spruce is common in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains, dominantly in Western North America. It has a narrow conical shape, grows to 70-100 feet, and is ideal for the lumber industry.
However, the tree is not an excellent landscape specimen in warmer climates. But you can use its wood to make musical instruments.
Norway Spruce (Picea Abies)
Commercially, gardeners grow this Spruce type for Christmas trees and construction lumber. It also makes stringed instruments as it resonates well.
Further, Norway Spruce originates from Central and Northern Europe and grows 40-60 feet.
Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis)
The Sitka Spruce is native to Alaska to California and is the former’s state tree. It grows to 50-100 feet but goes up to 300 in the wild.
The tree also requires more room in your landscape as its average height is more than 100 feet.
Red Spruce (Picea Rubens)
This spruce type is oval, upright, and long-lived, making it ideal for Christmas trees and wood pulp. It is native to Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern United States.
However, the tree is vulnerable to acid rain and does not deliver a suitable landscape in urban areas.
White Spruce (Picea Glauca)
This species originates from Canada and the Northern United States and grows to 40 to 60 feet. In addition, its needles feature a whitish-waxy coating, making it a perfect Christmas tree specimen for landscapes or windbreaks.
Serbian Spruce (Picea Omorika)
This Spruce tree is native to the Balkans and grows 50-60 feet. Further, although the plant tolerates drought and shade, it prefers medium moisture levels.
What Is Spruce Wood?
Generally, Spruce is a stable, lightweight, and affordable softwood. Further, it features low hardness and lightweight attributes, accommodating various hand and power tools.
This lumber is also versatile, making it suitable for various building applications.
Spruce wood’s hardness and density are similar to Pine’s, making it an excellent alternative. However, Spruce and Pine are more susceptible to dents and scratches than other wood types. Thus, you’ll have to add a protective coating for enhanced durability.
You can recognize fresh Spruce wood by its strong resinous smell and uniformly bright, almost yellow or yellowish-white color. But prolonged light exposure darkens it to brownish-yellow.
Spruce’s annual rings are also narrow to very wide, making them visible. In addition, the longitudinal section reveals the striations typical of softwoods.
The resin channels and cracks are also identifiable, while the lumber adopts a dull sheen when ‘planed.
The greater the wood’s annual ring width, the lower the density, while its mechanical attributes decrease with density: therefore, only use lumber with a four to six millimeters width for structural timber.
Nevertheless, despite its low structural density, woodworkers regard Spruce highly. In addition, you can chemically treat the wood to enhance its tolerance to water, insects, and fungal attack.
Lastly, this wood type is light and elastic, making it ideal for construction. It also shrinks moderately and features excellent strength after drying.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Spruce Wood In the Outdoor Use?
Spruce wood is handy in multiple applications thanks to its unique attributes. In addition, it is widely available, easy to use, and accepts various finishes.
But Spruce also has its cons that compromise its efficacy in outdoor projects.
So, here are the lumber’s primary benefits and drawbacks to help determine its suitability for your work.
Advantages of Spruce Wood
- Affordability. Quality construction spruce is readily available in most locations: thus, it’s affordable to most users. Further, it has clear quartersawn pieces and is free of knots, giving you maximum value for your money.
- Lovely Appearance. Spruce has a bright hue that turns into darker reddish-white or yellowish-brown shades. In addition, it is resinous, featuring a smooth structural surface with a uniform texture and straight grain.
- Mild Rot Resistance. The tree’s heartwood is low to medium rot-resistant, whereas the sapwood isn’t rot-resistant and rots quickly. However, you can treat the wood to enhance its durability.
- Workability. Generally, almost all Spruce wood species are easy to handle with hand and power tools. As a result, carpenters prefer them as they save time and resources.
In addition, the surface is easy to finish and stain, allowing you to customize Spruce workpieces.
Disadvantages of Spruce Wood
- Low Durability. Spruce is softwood, meaning its durability does not compare with hardwood species. In addition, it is not ideal for outdoor applications and needs regular maintenance to enhance its longevity.
- Low Moisture Resistance. Although Spruce wood is generally durable, it cannot withstand moisture. Therefore, it rots, splinters, breaks and rots quickly if not coated with preservatives.
- Susceptibility to Insect Attacks. Spruce is soft and vulnerable to insect infestations. For instance, the Spruce beetle damages the wood and may kill large trees if not checked.
Also, this lumber attracts fungus and insects, making it unsuitable for outdoor applications.
How to Treat Spruce for Outdoor Use
Changing seasons and harsh weather require you to treat Spruce for outdoor wood. Otherwise, it will be overwhelmed by fluctuating temperatures, high humidity, and prolonged rains.
Fortunately, we have multiple strategies to treat Spruce wood if you want to preserve the lumber against elements, wear, rot, and decay.
But before we look at these methods, the first step involves preparing the wood by cleaning, sanding, and conditioning. This way, you enhance adhesion and guarantee a smooth, consistent finish.
Below is a detailed procedure for the exercise.
Clean the Wood
This step is essential in wood finishing as it minimizes bubbles, cracking, peeling, and blotchy surfaces. So, dip a clean rag in soapy water and wipe the wood to remove dirt, grease, debris, dust, and other residues.
Then, let the surface dry to the touch before proceeding to the next step.
Sand the Wood
Use 220-grit sandpaper for sanding the wood to remove surface randomness. In addition, follow the wood grain direction to avoid scratching and cracking the lumber.
This way, you are sure of a smooth, blemish-free finish.
Sand the workpiece without missing spots and avoid high-grade or extra coarse sandpapers as they damage the wood. Further, use uniform pressure while sanding to avoid leaving scratch marks on the surface.
Next, remove sawdust using a dust collection pipe or a rag. Otherwise, it will compromise the formula’s adhesion.
Apply Wood Conditioner
Although Spruce receives stains well, applying wood conditioner is advisable to prepare it for finishing. Further, the formula fills the wood grain and facilitates uniform formula absorption.
Dip a lint-free rag in a pre-stain wood conditioner and wipe the workpiece. Then, apply it along the wood grain direction for maximum absorption and minimum slow drying issues.
Finally, use a wood conditioner and stain from the same manufacturer to minimize incompatibility issues.
Let the Wood Dry
Lastly, allow the wood conditioner to dry for 45 minutes and confirm it is ready for the next step. Confirm dryness by touching the surface with a finer and check if it leaves smears.
Next, we look at different finishing methods for Spruce projects. Choose the most suitable one depending on your desired outcome and proficiency.
Method One: Applying Wood Oil
Usually, oil products penetrate deep into the grain and replace essential oils lost during weathering. Besides, they nourish and seal the surface, protecting the lumber from the inside out.
Oiling Spruce wood prevents drying, splitting, and warping by providing a sturdy, waterproof, and durable low-luster finish.
In addition, it improves water repellence and enhances UV rays filters for better shielding and protection against sun damage.
- Test the oil on an inconspicuous wood area before oiling the workpiece. This way, you’ll know what the outcome looks like.
- Use a roller, brush, cloth, or spray to apply the oil. Also, buffing works but ensure you wait 30-60 minutes after oiling.
- Sand between coats to facilitate better adhesion and longevity. In addition, the exercise removes imperfections before you add the next layer.
- Give the project enough curing time, say two to three weeks, before resuming use. Also, consult the product manual for accurate timelines.
Here’s How to Apply Oil to Any Wood:
Method Two: Applying Wood Preserver
Wood preservers work like dyes, oil, and stains by waterproofing the wood and protecting it against rot and decay.
Moreover, they also make the wood resistant to harmful UV rays, algae growth, woodworm attacks, and mold. As a result, the surface retains its natural color and integrity for a long, long duration.
Wood preservers also penetrate Spruce wood and seal it from the inside out. Further, you can apply them with an exterior brush and deliver a perfect outcome.
The formula is excellent for fences, sheds, and raised beds. Also, you can re-apply a new topcoat without sanding the surface.
- Check the project’s coverage before starting. For instance, you need 160ml per meter squared for maximum effectiveness.
- Apply a minimum of two coats and keep adding, depending on the desired shade. But give the coats enough drying time, say two to six hours, before adding the next.
- Add a suitable topcoat after 24 hours for complete protection. Further, you can choose waxes, stains, varnishes, oils, and paint. Only ensure that they are compatible with the wood preserver.
Method Three: Applying Wood Stain
Typically, wood stains are an excellent way to guarantee superior protection to exterior wood. Besides, they keep the surface from weathering due to heavy foot traffic while delivering a rich color.
Further, the formula offers perfect coverage and durability while enhancing the wood grain, leaving a scuff-resistant and hardwearing finish.
It is also available in multiple forms to accommodate various projects. For instance, wax-enriched formulas deliver a water-repellent and non-slip surface ideal for decking.
Also, wood stain saturates the surface, making it resistant to blistering, peeling, and cracking, whereas wood dye soaks into the lumber to deliver a rich hue.
- Wear rubber gloves and stir the formula thoroughly. It helps mix the color pigments at the container’s bottom.
- Apply the stain using a lint-free rag and wipe it along the wood grain using smooth and continuous movements.
- Let the finish dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Further, the longer you leave it, the better and darker the tone.
- Only add a second coat after the first one dries to avoid destroying the wood or compromising the outcome.
Here’s How to Stain Wood Including Spruce:
Method Four: Applying Wood Dye
Dyes enhance Spruce’s color and natural beauty without covering its grain and texture. In addition, it increases your creative arsenal and delivers a wide option range for wood finishing.
The formula differs from stains as it penetrates the wood and forms a protective layer. Moreover, it is more translucent than the latter.
- Sponge or brush on the dye with a soft cloth, foam brush, or sponge. Also, keep a wet edge between the strokes to deliver a uniform application.
- Wipe some of the dye for a lighter color. Further, ensure the formula is still wet for a better outcome.
- Dilute the mixture by adding more water if the dye is darker than desired.
- Allow the wood to dry, and add a second coat for a darker color. Then, let the project dry before resuming regular use.
Method Five: Wood Varnish
This formula is ideal for external door frames, gates, and timber windows. Besides, it delivers high performance against water and UV light penetration.
Wood varnish is also perfect for previously treated or stained Spruce surfaces and helps them resist peeling, cracking, and blistering. In addition, it stretches and shrinks with the wood to give year-round protection.
Varnish is available in transparent, matt, gloss, and satin finishes, allowing you to enhance the wood grain and darken it for a rich color.
- Stir the varnish thoroughly with a clean stirring stick. But do it slowly to avoid air bubbles.
- Add a thinner, preferably turpentine, to enhance drying time and counteract surface imperfections, such as bubbles and streaks.
- Work with a light touch, ensuring only the brush’s tip bends. In addition, follow the wood grain for a professional finish.
- Tip-off the brush while the formula is wet to smooth lingering bubbles and remaining streaks.
Method Six: Wood Paint
Exterior wood paint is an excellent strategy for new Spruce projects or injecting color with a new scheme. It offers superior protection against weather-related wear, peeling, and fading while enhancing the lumber with rich pigmented color.
Paint is available in multiple shades, from bold statement shades to garden hues and soft pastels. In addition, it is ideal for tired Spruce fence panels, timber structures, old garden furniture, unloved sheds, planters, trellis, and bird boxes.
- Prime the Spruce surface and let it dry before sanding. Also, use 220-grit paper and apply light pressure to avoid gouging the finish.
- Use a paintbrush for irregular workpieces such as trim, furniture, and crown molding. Or get a high-density foam roller for large, flat surfaces.
- Sand the first coat before adding the next to remove inconsistencies and bumps introduced by the brush or roller. Then, wipe the surface with a clean tack cloth.
- Add the final paint coat, as desired, and let it dry. Further, let the workpiece cure overnight or longer before resuming use.
What Are the Outdoor Uses of Spruce Wood?
Generally, Spruce wood is not ideal for outdoor uses due to poor weather and rot resistance. Moreover, it has no resistance against water damage and is susceptible to fungi and insect attacks.
However, you can make the wood suitable for exterior applications by sealing and preventing it from touching the ground.
Below are some recommended outdoor uses of Spruce wood.
- Building and Construction
Spruce’s stiffness and straight ratio make it perfect for building and construction projects. Furthermore, it is widely available and more affordable than other hardwood and softwood types.
Thanks to Spruce wood’s flexibility, you also can craft it into any preferred shape and structure. In addition, this lumber type is commercially available in round logs, such as veneers, and as glued structural elements.
Spruce wood makes quality boxes or crates because of its lightweight properties. Moreover, it holds heavy-weight goods well and aids in handling and transportation.
- Boats and Aircraft
Finally, this lumber is solid and durable to manufacture boats and aircraft. Besides, it finishes nicely and delivers medium resistance to decay.
Spruce Vs Pine for Outdoor Use (Which Is Better?)
Pine is better than Spruce wood for outdoor use due to its excellent workability. Furthermore, it is more prevalent among woodworkers.
Also, although Spruce and Pine are softwood, the latter is more durable in outdoor applications.
Pine is a better alternative as it receives stain well. And while Spruce is cheaper than Pine, finishing Pine wood fences is easier than Spruce fences.
Nevertheless, both wood types need treatment before exterior use as they have poor rot and weather resistance. They are also susceptible to water damage.
Therefore, apply a sealer or finisher before installing the workpiece outdoors.
Generally, Pine and Spruce are structural lumber as they share similar attributes. However, they have subtle differences, and breaking them down based on applications, aesthetics, and durability is informative.
- Fencing Applications
Spruce boards are ideal for fence building. They are less likely to twist or warp and come in long and straight pieces than Pine.
Pine and Spruce are softwood, meaning their hardness and density are similar. However, the latter’s processing is more complicated, making woodworkers prefer Pine wood.
Also, the wood types are unsuitable for high wear and tear applications like deck and house flooring.
- Physical Properties
Since Pine and Spruce are softwood, they have similar density and hardness. They are also lightweight with a light color.
However, Spruce’s perfect weight-to-strength ratio makes it suitable for aircraft and ship construction, whereas its incredible acoustic attributes allow it to create quality guitar and violin tops.
On the other hand, though Pine wood types vary in strength and density, they feature medium weight and are often soft. Further, they guarantee excellent durability but do not withstand prolonged moisture exposure.
Still, Pine is preferred for multiple construction applications, and interior decorators use it for paneling.
Lastly, neither Spruce wood’s heartwood nor sapwood is decay-resistant, whereas Pinewood’s heartwood is relatively rot-resistant.
Spruce is light-colored with little variations between heartwood and sapwood. In addition, its knots and rings are light and not easy to identify.
This wood comes in white to yellow, or sometimes, pink shades. It also has a straight-grained appearance with a smooth and silky feel.
Similarly, Pine is light-colored but has visible and aesthetically pleasing growth rings and knots. Thus, it is perfect for furniture.
However, the surface easily dents, making woodworkers deem it a lower-quality material. Spruce delivers a dull glow thanks to its creamy white shade and fine consistent grain patterns.
On the other hand, Pine is reddish-brown to amber but alternates with either yellow or white shades. It also sometimes features a bold grain pattern or displays brown streaks.
Is Spruce Wood Rot Resistant?
Unfortunately, Spruce wood is not rot-resistant. Moreover, even its heartwood has moderate rot resistance and is susceptible to UV light, water, and insect damage.
However, you can stop Spruce from rotting by applying a quality sealant or finish without making mistakes. In addition, we have special chemicals that restore rotted wood.
Also, remember, rot mainly occurs when wood soaks water. Therefore, waterproofing the surface helps keep the structure intact.
Spruce features a low density and has open-porous grains that absorb moisture quickly. Moreover, although some wood species withstand moisture well and are ideal for boat building, painting, or treating, Spruce is not recommended for outdoor applications.
NB: No wood is a hundred percent waterproof; some only perform well in moisture for a while.
How Long Will Spruce Last Wood Outside?
Spruce can last outdoors for more than a decade with proper finishing and sealing. However, experts advise you to apply a sealer or finisher annually and regularly maintain the workpiece from harsh weather elements.
Conversely, untreated Spruce projects cannot last for more than two to three months outside as they quickly experience moisture damage.
They also have no tolerance for environmental impacts. So, moisture quickly penetrates the wood fibers, causing them to rot.
Is Spruce Better than Cedar? For Outdoor Use?
Spruce is not better than Cedar in outdoor applications. Besides, although the wood boasts a lightweight and straight grain, it is susceptible to moisture, UV light, and insect infestation.
On the other hand, Cedar is perfect for exterior furniture, benches, flooring, fences, and wood carvings without issues.
It features natural resistance against moisture, rot, and decay, enabling it to withstand humid environments.
Cedar wood releases Thujone, a neurotoxic chemical to bugs and insects. Further, the compound causes nerve damage to these organisms, keeping the wood safe from infestation or attack.
This lumber also features a strong aromatic smell that repels bugs and insects. As a result, they hate Cedar workpieces.
Nonetheless, treating and finishing Cedar wood is advisable before placing it outdoors. Otherwise, it weathers to a grey, ash hue over time.
Moreover, the wood is softwood, requiring proper maintenance to enhance its lifespan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Spruce Hardwood or Softwood?
Generally, Sprue is softwood as it has a relatively lower density than most hardwood. Other softwood examples include Larch, Cedar, Pine, and Fir.
However, we have sturdier and more rigid softwoods than hardwoods, such as Juniper, Red Cedar, and Yew. Further, like most softwoods, Spruce has a light hue, is weaker than hardwoods, and grows rapidly.
Is Spruce Wood Good for Firewood?
Unfortunately, Spruce is not famous for firewood as it neither burns quickly nor generates high heat. But being a softwood, it is easy to split and burn, and you can find it at an affordable price.
Spruce’s BTU (British Thermal Unit) is 14.5 Million BTUs per cord, less than most softwoods. A BTU value measures fuel or energy sources’ heat content.
Nonetheless, some homeowners prefer using Spruce as firewood because of its availability and low price.
Why Use Spruce for Framing?
Spruce is suitable for framing because of its stability and has moderate twist and warp resistance after getting damp.
In addition, the wood has a straight grain but is still flexible, so it accommodates framing applications.
Remember, construction framing does not involve direct ground contact. The contractor sets the frames on concrete, which guarantees Spruce’s longevity.
Moreover, Spruce wood lasts for decades if it does not have direct ground soil or moisture contact.
How Do I Differentiate Spruce From Other Wood Types?
You can quickly recognize Spruce wood by its resinous smell. In addition, it has a light color, usually almost white to yellowish white but darkens to brownish yellow over time.
This wood has visible, narrow, to extensive annual rings, and its longitudinal section resembles typical softwood.
How Strong Is Spruce?
Interestingly, Spruce’s comprehensive and bending strength are significantly high, and has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio.
Moreover, its straight grain structure increases its strength, making it the best for musical instruments. The lumber’s comprehensive strength is 5,610 psi, while its bending strength is 10,200 psi.
As a result, it features incredible strength and flexibility needed for multiple woodworking projects.
How Hard Is Spruce?
Typically, Spruce is softer than hardwoods and most softwoods. Further, it scores 510 lbf on the Janka hardness rating, which is relatively lower than most wood types.
More specifically, Stinka Spruce scores 510 lbf, whereas White Spruce has a 480 lbf Janka score. In addition, Engelmann Spruce features a 390 lbf score, Red Spruce 490 lbf, and Black Spruce 390 lbf.
Thus, Spruce species have an average Janka hardness rating of 490 lbf to 520 lbf.
Finally, remember wood types with higher scores in Janka hardness ratings have high wear and dent resistance. So, protect Spruce projects from scratches and harsh environmental conditions.
Spruce features poor water and rot resistance. Besides, it absorbs water like a sponge, quickening decay: therefore, it may not perform satisfactorily outdoors.
However, woodworkers have solved the problem by sealing and finishing the wood. This way, they make it watertight and protect it from moisture, enhancing its suitability for various projects.
For instance, Spruce works well in musical instruments and framing applications. Moreover, these projects keep the wood from ground and moisture contact, minimizing exposure to elements.
But still, homeowners keep asking whether they can expect anything good from the wood in exterior works. So, check the write-up above for a detailed response and expert recommendations.
Is Spruce Good For Outdoor Use?
Overall, Spruce wood is not ideal for outdoor projects. Besides, it attracts bugs and insects, accelerating mold and mildew growth.
In addition, the material is vulnerable to moisture damage and cannot withstand ground contact.
This wood splits and cracks quickly due to poor weather resistance and eventually rots with prolonged moisture exposure.
Therefore, please avoid Spruce wood for exterior applications. And if you must use it properly, finish and treat it for guaranteed protection.