The timber trade, just to be different (or awkward), differentiates between the two types of wood it supplies for construction and log cabin manufacture based on slight colour differences. Redwood has a pinky tinge; whitewood (when new) is very pale, almost white. You would not necessarily notice any difference unless you were used to looking at wood or held a piece of each next to one another.
Redwood is more commonly known as Scots Pine or Pinus Sylvestris. It is an evergreen coniferous pine tree which is native to Europe and is usually found in Scotland, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia. Normal trees will grow to 25m high with a trunk 1m in diameter. Commercial planting rotations are between 50 and 120 years, sometime longer in Scandinavia and Russia where the growing times are slower.
Whitewood is more commonly known as the Spruce or Picea Abies. It is also an evergreen coniferous tree which is found in temperate and boreal areas – i.e. northern Europe, Russia and Canada. A spruce can grow anywhere from 20m to 60m high.
Both redwood and whitewood are used for general construction the world over, they are cheaper than hardwood and most importantly they are both readily available in areas associated with the log cabin industry.
There does not seem to be a definitive answer on whether redwood or whitewood is better for making log cabins. In fact research is downright contradictory. I have found comments to the extent that redwood is durable but has lots of knots and whitewood only has small knots but is not durable, whereas others say redwood hardly has any knots but isn’t so durable and whitewood is full of knots and defects but it is durable!
The companies who use redwood say it is best, companies who use whitewood prefer that.
Both redwood and whitewood come in different grades. These grades range from the quality of wood you would use to make transport pallets, up to the quality of wood your bedroom furniture is made from.
The wood must be machined to make log cabin parts – first planned and then cut to make the interlock joints on individual logs. The machinery used can affect the quality of the finish. It is also important to sort through the wood at this stage and remove any logs with defects or twists.
Perhaps, then, it is not important which type of wood your log cabin has been made from. Perhaps it is better to look instead at the grade of wood that has been used, how it has been machined and the quality of the end product – a log cabin.