With more than 400 species of oak trees, the term “oak lumber” encompasses a wide range of wood. Oak lumber is very popular for a wide variety of applications because the wood is naturally strong, hard, and highly resistant to fungus and insects. There are many types of oak wood; however, the two most common are red oak and white oak. Native to North America and similar in many properties, red oak and white oak are sometimes hard to differentiate. Use the simple guidelines below to distinguish between red oak and white oak.
While both types of oak are beautiful in color, red oak carries a pinkish tint and is lighter than white oak. White oak is typically darker and browner in color and can sometimes have a yellow tint to it. Even when stained, both oaks’ tones are still vibrant and beautiful.
Typically, white oak is denser than red oak. Red oak carries an open grain and is lighter with a more porous structure.
The end grain (the grain of the wood as seen when cut across the growth rings) varies greatly between red oak and white oak. Red oak normally has four to six rings about half an inch apart from each other. White oak, on the other hand, grows more slowly than red oak and carries ten to twenty rings for every inch of end grain.
Red oak is known to have a stronger grain pattern than white oak, and the strength of grain in red oak hides scratched and dents. However, white oak carries a smoother look and does not look as busy as red oak sometimes can.
Hardness and toughness are important factors to consider when building with oak. White oak is known to be harder than red oak. On the Janka hardness scale, white oak rates 1360, and red oak rates 1290. While comparable, white oak is a little bit harder and tougher than red oak.
While comparable in price, white oak is usually a little more expensive than red oak, but depending on the grade and width, prices will fluctuate between both types of oak. In general, the two oaks are comparable in price.
Rays are the dark brown streaks in many types of lumber that run with the grain. Red oak carries short rays that are less than half an inch long, and white oak carries longer rays that are usually longer than half an inch.
Rot, insect, and weather resistance are important factors to consider in all lumber types, especially those that will be used in outdoor applications. White oak is naturally more resistant to rot and is more suitable to repelling water and withstanding weathering. Red oak is not as resistant and is better used for indoor applications.
Red oak is typically used for indoor applications, such as plywood, veneers, musical instruments, millwork, furniture, cabinets, and heavy construction. White oak is usually used for outdoor applications, such as tables, chairs, trim, baskets, and boats.
With a large stock of both white oak and red oak lumber, McIlvain Company, one of the nation’s most reputable lumber wholesalers, is well-equipped to answer all of your lumber-related questions. McIlvain Company has more than 200 years of experience providing the best quality lumber to all customers. For more information, visit their website today.
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