Can I Use Pine For French Cleats? Let’s Find Out

A French cleat system allows you to organize your tools on the wall in a sturdy and attractive way. It’s a great alternative to other solutions such as pegboard or a slat wall system. However, the wood you use may make a difference in the overall sturdiness and longevity of the system. What about pine? Does pine work well for French cleats?

Yes, pine is acceptable for French cleats and is an affordable way to create French cleats out of solid wood. French cleats are often created out of plywood but pine is a great alternative as long as you are using premium or select wood that is less likely to split or bow.

Pine french cleats

Pine is what I used on the French cleat system that I recently built. I used 6-inch wide premium kiln-dried whitewood pine boards that were ripped to size on my table saw to create beveled cleats. This worked perfectly for my cleat system. It was affordable and much easier to work with than a full sheet of plywood would have been.

Best Wood For French Cleats

The best wood for a French cleat system will usually depend on what your system will be used for. You will want to select a wood that is sturdy enough to handle the amount of weight that you intend to hang on it. If you are using lightweight tools rather than large cabinets, most any type of wood will be suitable.

However, if you are hanging very heavy items, you will want to consider these weight limitations as you seek out the perfect wood for your solution.

The following three options are typically the best-suited woods to use in a French cleat system.

1. High-Quality Plywood

A high-quality plywood is usually the preferred choice of those who want a sturdy French cleat system in which to organize their tools. This solution is an affordable way to create a lot of cleats that will span a large size area.

You will want to use three-quarter-inch plywood and make sure that it doesn’t have knots or other defects that will stand in the way of a good quality cleat.

Steer clear of the cheapest plywood which often has many defects that could cause the cleat to be weakened or unusable.

The best plywood to use is going to be a premium type that is mostly free of defects. Birch is always a great option as it is usually high-quality and sturdy. If you stick with something that is cabinet-making quality, you’ll probably be ok. It will cost a little more than the more affordable options but you’ll end up with a great-looking cleat system that is free from warps and other damaged areas.

2. Poplar

If you prefer to use solid wood over plywood, poplar is likely going to be the second-best choice. While this option will be more expensive than plywood, it’s still affordable to create a French cleat system that will last for many many years. Using premium poplar lumber will give you a good result as this type of wood is often free from knots and is very sturdy. It can hold a substantial amount of weight with no problem.

Poplar will create a nice clean cleat system that will look great, be functional, and last a long time.

Unlike plywood, you will have a solid wood cleat that will be stronger and allow you to support heavier items on it. Be sure to select kiln-dried wood as this wood has already had the majority of moisture removed from it. Kiln-dried wood will not warp and change as much as non-dried wood will as it dries out.

3. Pine

Pine is also a great option for French cleats and it has the benefit of being one of the most affordable options. Depending on how large your cleat system is, you may find that using premium pine boards will allow you to create the entire system for less than it would cost using plywood.

Closeup view of pine French cleats on wall

This was the case for me as I was able to purchase premium, kiln-dried pine boards that cost me less than it would if I had chosen to use three-quarter-inch birch plywood. The result of my system is all done in pine and it made a great option for me.

Good quality pine lumber has substantial strength and will likely be plenty good for most French cleat systems. It will contain more knotty areas than you will find in poplar but you can easily select pieces that have fewer knots in the most important areas.

As with poplar, it’s important to select a kiln-dried product that contains little moisture in it so there will be no chance of the wood changing over time as it dries out.

There are a couple of options to choose from when going this route.


Select wood is the best of the best! It’s the highest quality of lumber that you can buy. These cuts will contain the least number of defects or problem areas such as knots. It is often used as trim or on cabinets where the look of the product matters.

It is also high in strength and durability and will make a great option for building very strong French cleats.

The drawback is that it is also the most expensive. Select wood is far from being affordable and when building a large wall of French cleats, it can add up to a large cost. If you are building a smaller wall as I did, you can get away with using select boards like this as long as you are okay with a cost that will be a little higher than other options.

Premium Common Board

Premium common board is going to be your best bet when selecting pine to use for your cleat project. This wood is also kiln-dried and it is a premium wood product rather than rough-cut lumber as you might find in the more affordable section.

While this wood still has knots and could have some bad areas, overall it is a good product and you should be able to select boards that will work well for your French cleat system.

On my system, I chose 1x6x6 boards. I selected the ones that I wanted that had the least amount of defects and was able to cut them to size with my table saw. This was the perfect solution for me but if I had gone with a larger French cleat wall, I would have chosen birch plywood.

Cutting bevel in pine wood for french cleat

When choosing pine lumber, be sure and eyeball the length of the board to make sure it isn’t warped in a way that is unusable. For French cleats, you want to make sure the boards are as straight as possible.

Installing a Pine French Cleat

When installing a pine cleat, you’ll want to be careful with the process. Any wood can be damaged when screwing or nailing but pine is especially prone to splitting. You can’t expect to just screw the wood into the wall without any kind of preparation. Here is what I suggest:

  • Use sturdy screws. This will depend on the size of your cleats and what you intend them to hold. Be sure to use a screw that penetrates at least halfway into the securing studs. Your application may call for larger screws to make sure it is sturdy enough.
  • Drill before screwing. You’ll want to drill through the pine cleat using the recommended bit size of the screws you’ll be using before inserting a screw.
  • Countersink for the screw head. Using a countersink bit is a good idea so that the screw head can sit flush in the wood.
  • Don’t over-torque the screws. When screwing into the wall, don’t torque the screws too tightly. You’ll want them tight but there is no need to keep driving the screws in even after they are tightly into the countersink.
  • Space screws out evenly and often. The screws do the work of holding the cleats on the wall so you want them spaced out properly so that each cleat has maximum support.

Solid wood can be easy to split if you do not take precautions. It’s always a good idea to drill holes first before screwing through solid wood, or any wood for that matter.

Bottom Line

Pine is perfectly acceptable for French cleats since I have successfully used it. I have been very happy with my cleat wall and am glad I chose to go with pine for the project. I love the look of pine and the small knots throughout give it the rustic look that I like.

My wall is sturdy, it was affordable, and it was super easy to cut and work with. Rather than wrestling a large sheet of 3/4-inch plywood around, I simply maneuvered lightweight pine boards through my table saw for perfectly cut 45-degree beveled edges.

As long as you carefully select good cuts of wood, you will have no problem using pine for a French cleat system.