Oakwood is one of the most popular types of wood for flooring, furniture, and construction. It is known for its beauty as well as its strength and durability.
Benefits of Oak Wood
Oak is a type of hardwood that is known for its durability. It offers a high degree of strength which means it will be less prone to scratches and dents compared to softwood.
Some types of oak offer an impressive level of moisture resistance, which means they are ideal for use outside because they will resist rot.
Oak has a grain that is distinctive without being too bold. It is a look that is considered to be very attractive, which adds to the popularity of this type of wood.
Resistant to warping
Oak will not warp easily, compared to many other types of wood, which will warp over time, especially when exposed to sunlight.
Red Oak Vs. White Oak Trees
There are over 600 species of oaks growing around the globe, but the list of oaks that are commonly used for their lumber is much smaller.
Different species of oak trees have been divided into two categories; red oak and white oak. You might expect that these groups would be defined by the color of the tree’s bark, the foliage it produces, or the color of the timber, but the color is actually not significant in determining which category the oak tree falls into.
Red oak trees have foliage with bristles at the end of each lobe, and they produce acorns that take two seasons to mature. White oaks, by comparison, have rounded lobed leaves and produce acorns that mature in one season.
The wood produced by red oak trees tends to be slightly softer than white oak, though, in practical terms, both types of oak wood will perform at a very similar level. Red oak has a more noticeable grain than white oak, making it better suited for a dramatic style.
It will have a pale cream color with a slightly pink undertone, compared to white oak, which is a more beige to light brown color without any hint of pink or red. Trees that are categorized as red oak include:
Black Oak, Quercus velutina
This oak tree is native to central and eastern North America, and it is widespread across this area. It grows to heights of between 60 feet and 140 feet, depending on the location. The tree is named after its dark bark, which is almost black in color, though beneath the surface, it is yellow.
The wood from this tree has a coarse and grainy texture which is a medium shade of red-brown. It is widely used in cabinetry and furniture making, as well as in flooring and veneer.
Laurel Oak, Quercus laurifolia
Native to the southeastern and central United States, this is a medium-sized tree that is predominantly used for landscaping since it has a fast growth rate. Its acorns also provide an important source of food for deer, squirrels, quail, and raccoons. The wood from this tree is rarely used as lumber and instead is used for pulpwood.
Pin Oak, Quercus palustris
Also known as the Spanish swamp oak, this tree is native to the eastern US. It is a medium-sized tree, reaching heights of between 60 and 70 feet tall. It is a popular landscape tree since it grows quickly at a rate of between 2 and 3 feet in height each year, and it is also tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions.
The wood from this tree is heavy and hard, which makes it well suited to use as firewood because it will burn slowly and as lumber in construction. This wood features lots of small knots, which can make it weaker than other types of red oak, and affects its visual appeal. As such, this type of oak is not commonly used in flooring or furniture making.
Scarlet Oak, Quercus coccinea
This tree is native to the central and eastern United States, growing to heights of between 60 and 100 feet tall. This is favored as a landscape tree due to its striking vibrant red fall foliage. The tree also produces wood which is widely used in construction, furniture making, veneer, and flooring.
The wood from this tree is red-brown in color, varying from light to medium in shade. It has a coarse texture and large pores. It benefits from a pleasant aroma associated with oak trees.
Water Oak, Quercus nigra
This tree is native to the south-central and eastern United States, where it grows in swamp-like conditions along streams, ponds, and wetlands. It will typically grow to heights of 100 feet with a trunk diameter of 3 feet.
The wood from this tree has been utilized as lumber in construction for centuries by the local area. It continues to be used as lumber today and is also used for pulpwood.
Willow Oak, Quercus phellos
This deciduous tree is native to central and eastern North America, reaching typical heights of between 80 and 100 feet. It is a fast-growing tree, gaining around 2 feet in height per year. As such, it is popularly used as a landscaping tree in public parks to provide interest and shade.
The wood produced from this tree has a fine grain and is rarely used for furniture making or flooring. Instead, it is often used for pulpwood to make paper or as lumber in construction.
Other red oak species include:
- Shumard Oak, Quercus shumardii
- Southern Red Oak, Quercus falcata
- California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
- Cherrybark Oak, Quercus pagoda
White oak is more durable than red oak, with a Janka hardness rating of 1360 compared to red oak’s rating of 1290. These numbers are very close, so most people will not notice a difference between the durability of the two, though technically, white oak is going to stand up better to scratches and dents.
White oak has a very neutral beige to tan color, which tends to be more appealing than the salmon-toned red oak. As a result, white oak will generally be more expensive than red oak. If you plan to stain your oak, then the color will not be distinguishable, so the type of oak is not going to matter as much.
The grain of white oak is less obvious than red oak, giving it a more subtle and elegant appeal. Types of white oak include:
Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
This tree is native to eastern North America, growing to typical heights of 100 feet. The trunk of this tree generally spans around 10 feet in diameter and features very rugged-looking bark in a gray-brown color.
This type of oak is regarded as one of the most commercially important white oaks because it is incredibly durable and has an appealing creamy brown color. It is widely used for flooring, cabinetry, furniture making, and countertops.
Chestnut Oak, Quercus prinus
This tree is native to the eastern US and is of a medium size at a mature height of between 60 and 70 feet. The wood from this tree is commonly used for exterior applications where it will come into contact with the soil, such as in railway sleepers and fence posts. This is because chestnut oak has a good resistance to moisture and decay.
The wood has a close grain and is very strong and durable. The high density of this wood makes it ideal for use as firewood. It is less commonly used for timber because the trees do not tend to grow very straight, and they have low branches. The heartwood is a dark brown color, while the sapwood is a lighter brown shade.
English Oak, Quercus robur
This tree is native to much of Europe but is known as the English oak since it is one of the most iconic trees in England. It is cultivated around the world, including in Asia and North America.
The wood from this tree is commercially important since it is consistently in high demand for use in flooring materials and furniture making. It features large and distinctive growth rings in dark brown, surrounded by pale yellow growth lines. It is known for its heartwood which is extremely durable and long-lasting.
Holm Oak, Quercus ilex
This tree is native to Mediterranean areas. It is large in size and able to withstand a wide variety of growing conditions. The wood from this tree is strong and hard and, as such, has historically been important for construction.
It is also widely used as firewood because it is so dense and burns slowly. This tree is also associated with the growth of truffle orchards because they are known to grow near the roots of this tree.
Other white oak species include:
- White Oak, Quercus garryana
- Overcup Oak, Quercus lyrata
- Post Oak, Quercus stellata
- Sessile Oak, Quercus petraea
- Swamp Chestnut Oak, Quercus michauxii
- Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor