Sugar pine lumber characteristics and uses

Common Names

Gigantic pine, sugar pine, big pine, pine, great sugar pine, shade pine

Common Uses

Sugar pineFraming, millwork, rafters, exterior trim & siding, studs, roofing, beams, trimming, interior trim, siding, paneling, heavy construction, cabin construction, moldings, interior construction, joists, flooring, porch columns, sub-flooring, wainscoting

Species Distribution

REGIONS: North America

COUNTRIES: United States

Environmental Profile

Sugar pine is reported to be rather widespread, abundant, and secure globally, although it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery (Source – The Nature Conservancy – Rank of relative endagerment based primarily on the number of occurrences of the species globally).


The most majestic of all the pines, Sugar pine is reported to occur from western Oregon south through the Sierra Nevada, to western Nevada and southern California. It is also found in northern Baja, California. It is often found in mixed coniferous forests and is reported to be adapted to various types of mountain soils. Sugar pine is reported to grow at elevations that are commonly 6000 to 9000 feet (1829 to 2745 m). It is also found, but less frequently, down to an elevation of about 3500 feet (1067 m) and up to an altitude of about 10000 feet (3048 m). The best stands of Sugar pine trees are reported to occur at elevations between 4500 and 6000 feet (1372 and 1829 m) in the central Sierra, from San Joaquin River to the American River.

Product Sources

Some material from this species is reported to be available from sustainably managed, salvaged, recycled, or other environmentally responsible sources.

Supplies of Sugar pine are reported to be adequate, thanks to modern logging techniques which allow less accessible stands of the species to be harvested. Sugar pine, especially wide clear, stock, is reported to sell at a slight premium over other White pines.

Tree Data

The large and very tall tree is reported to develop a straight trunk with a diameter of 36 to 72 inches (90 to 180 cm). It reaches heights that are commonly 100 to 160 feet (30 to 49 m), but heights of over 200 feet (60 m) and trunk diameters of more than 10 feet (3 m) are reported to have been recorded.

Sapwood Color

The sapwood is somewhat white to pale yellowish white.

Heartwood Color

The heartwood is pale brown to light reddish brown. The reddish brown color is significantly lighter than it is in the eastern and western white pines.


Grain is typically straight and even, and tangential surfaces often exhibit a faint, but very attractive figure with numerous flecks of large, dark brown resin canals.


Texture is usually fairly coarse and uniform.

Natural Durability

The heartwood is reported to have very little natural resistance to decay, and should not be used under conditions that promote decay without appropriate chemical protection.

Cutting Resistance

The material is reported to require very sharp cutting edges, but it works rather well.


Sugar pine is reported to have excellent planing properties. Its working qualities have been described as fabulous because of its uniform texture and low density. The wood is reported to cut and shape readily and predictably, and workshops are usually filled with the sweet scented aroma given off by the resin in the wood.


The material is reported to turn very well.


Molding qualities are rated as very good.


The wood is reported to respond very well to boring.


Sugar pine is reported to have excellent mortising characteristics.


The material is reported to have excellent resistance to splitting in nailing. Nail holding properties are good.


Screwing properties are rated as excellent, and screw-holding qualities are good.


Gluing characteristics are rated as excellent.


The wood is reported to have good sanding characteristics.


Polishing properties are reported to be satisfactory.


The timber is reported to stain satisfactorily, but high resin content may cause turpentine based sealer to soften and bubble around knots and on the end grain.


Varnishing properties are rated as fair. (See comments under Staining).


The material takes paint satisfactorily. (See comments under Staining)

Response to Hand Tools

Response to hand tools is reported to be generally good.

Strength Properties

Strength properties are reported to be rather poor in comparison with the Yellow pines since timber produced by Sugar pine lacks the dense latewood bands which contribute to the strength of the Yellow pines. Bending strength and maximum crushing strength are low. It is not hard and can be dented and marred easily. The wood is light in weight.

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