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Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak

The oak tree is a tree or shrub belonging to the genus Quercus with over 600 extant species. It is trusted with offering great strength as well as hardness. It is also resistant to fungal and insect attacks as it has a high tannin content. With such characteristics, it has found its way in many buildings with their main uses being interior paneling and construction of fine furniture.

Among the most popular flooring hardwood species is oak. It is a practical wood, readily available, highly affordable, and easy to stain for those who prefer different color intensity. The oak hardwood comes in different types with the most common two being the red and white oaks. Most consumers, however, do not realize that there exist differences between the two species, that is, the red oak and white oak.


What is the Red Oak?

The red oak is a species that mainly thrives well in North, Central, and South America. It styles long and matures in 18 months for most of its species and is widely used for flooring and interior paneling.

Uses of the Red Oak

The red oak, more so the Northern red oak is one of the highly preferred and most important oak species in North America for timber production. It is also highly preferred for its value as lumber and veneer. The defective logs on their part are useful as firewood. Other uses are construction ones and include flooring, interior trim, veneer, and furniture construction.

Ornamental Use

The red oak has some species that grow in large gardens and parks as specimen trees and serves ornamental purposes. This is especially so for the Quercus rubra.


What is the White Oak?

The white oak, also the Quercus alba is one of the distinguished hardwoods, prominent in the Eastern and Central North America. It is native to these regions and is a long-lived oak with specimens having been documented to be around 450 years of age.

The white oak is referred to as such although they do not feature any white bark. The color is usually a light gray. However, the name is derived from the color of the finished wood.

Uses of White Oak

The white oak has several uses including;

  • Ornamental purposes
  • Woodcraft: due to the closed cellular structure that makes it rot-resistant and water-resistant, the white oak is used for making whiskey and wine barrels. It is also used for shipbuilding, construction, the making of agricultural implements, and for interior finishing.
  • The white oak is also used to make musical instruments. It has a timbre that is mellower and has enough power as well as projection ruling out the need for metal tone rings.
  • This oak also serves as wildlife food notably for pheasants, jays, rabbits, squirrels, deer, wood ducks, turkeys, and other wild animals.


Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak

  1. Color

The red oak features a bit of pinkish tint and is a little bit lighter. The white oak, on the other hand, is inclined to a bit of brownish, darker, or yellow color.

  1. Hardness

When using white oak for flooring, the floor is usually a bit harder as compared to the red one. On a Janka hardness scale, the red oak hits 1290 while the white oak gets 1360. 

  1. Graining

The red oak tends to feature a stronger graining while the white one has a less strong one. The strong graining of the red oak is highly preferred as it helps in hiding the dents and scratches while other people prefer the slightly smoother white oak grain because it offers a less busy look.

  1. Appearance

The white oak presents a bit of a smoother look while its red counterpart ii a bit rougher.

  1. Water and Rot Resistance Properties

The white oak is trusted to be more water-resistant and rot-resistant while the red one does not present a strong resistance. This is explained by the fact that the white oak is a closed grain wood making it more impervious to water.

  1. Compatibility with Stair Treads and Accessories

The red oak is commonly found in saddles, banisters, stair treads, and other transitions as it is more compatible with them compared to the white one.

  1. Price

Generally, the price difference between the white and red oaks is not that big. In such a case, the cost of the two tends to fluctuate more often as the hardwood is a commodity item. However, due to such factors as the size and availability, the white oak tends to be costlier as it is not readily available compared to the red one. The red oak is more abundant, thereby reducing its cost. 

White Oak vs Red Oak: Comparison Table


Summary of White Oak vs Red Oak

Both the white and red oaks are great options for flooring and interior needs. While some people prefer the red oak look, others go for the white oak look. The decisions are entirely dependent on the user’s preferences. The only concern is whether you or your repair person would be able to differentiate the two or they will end up giving you a mix-up and an ugly look in the end. It is, therefore, crucial that you understand the traits of each of the hardwoods prior.

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References :

[0]"Distinguishing Red And White Oak | The Wood Database". Wood-Database.Com, 2018, https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/distinguishing-red-oak-from-white-oak/. Accessed 10 Oct 2018.

[1]"Patch.Com - GDPR". Patch.Com, 2018, https://patch.com/new-york/larchmont/whats-the-difference-between-red-oak-and-white-oak-hardwood. Accessed 10 Oct 2018.

[2]"Red Oak Vs. White Oak Hardwood Flooring - What's The Difference?". The Flooring Girl, 2018, https://theflooringgirl.com/blog/red-oak-vs-white-oak-hardwood-flooring-whats-the-difference/. Accessed 10 Oct 2018.

[3]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/666_is_money/12443870725

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/quercus-rubra-northern-red-oak-844639/

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