Wood You? Should You?   Learning more about oak

January 23, 2021

When it comes to choosing a type of wood for flooring or furniture, the wood of the oak tree is often at the top of the list for both homeowners and carpenters alike. As you think about the choices you will make in the design of your custom home, let’s learn a little more about this versatile wood.

The popularity of oak comes down to the many attractive characteristics of the wood, including its interesting grain pattern in rich and luxurious tones, as well as its physical strength. As a hardwood, oak is incredibly sturdy and long-lasting. Because of this, it may come with a higher price tag than other types of wood, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. Beyond flooring, pieces of oak furniture last for decades, often passed down from generation to generation.

White Oak vs. Red Oak

There are many types of oak trees around the world, with over 60 different types in the Unites States alone! Oak wood is usually categorized into two groups: red oak and white oak.

White oak is denser than red oak and results in a heavier, sturdier and more long-lasting – and therefore, pricier – product. It is less porous than red oak and more resistant to rot. For this reason, white oak is better for use in outdoor furniture or in items that need to hold up against water, such as in boat building. Red oak, on the other hand, should only be used for interiors and is popularly used for flooring and cabinet making.

Aesthetically, there is very minimal difference between the two types. The only giveaway, visually, are the rays: small brown flecks, which look like tiny strips of thread running along with the grain of the wood. In red oak, these rays are shorter, and in white oak, they are longer.

Common Types of Red Oak

  • Black Oak (native to the eastern U.S. and Canada) has a pale red-brown color and produces wood with a coarse texture.
  • California Black Oak (western U.S.) has medium to large pores, which gives it low resistance to rot, but it takes stain very well. It is popularly used in flooring and furniture making.
  • Cherrybark Oak (eastern U.S.) is one of the strongest types of red oak and has a medium red-brown color and a coarse grain.
  • Laurel Oak (southern U.S.) is sometimes known as swamp laurel; it has a coarse grain and an attractive scent.
  • Swamp Spanish Oak (eastern U.S.) is also known as pin oak and is known for its vigorous growth and distinctive shape. As a wood, not very desirable because it is very knotty.
  • Scarlet Oak (eastern U.S.) has medium to large pores, a coarse texture, a low resistance to rot.
  • Shumard Oak (Atlantic coast) has a light brown color, large pores, and an uneven texture; it is considered to be one of the most superior types of red oak.
  • Southern Red Oak (southern U.S.) is a relatively fast-growing tree, used in furniture making and construction.
  • Water Oak (southern and eastern U.S.) grows vigorously but has a short (30 to 50 years) life expectancy. The wood is commonly used for furniture making.
  • Willow Oak (eastern U.S.) is not related to the willow tree but does have willow-like foliage. It is an excellent choice for furniture and cabinetry.

Common Types of White Oak

  • Bur Oak (across North America (is a slow growing tree with pale brown wood, a coarse grain and moderate to large-sized pores.
  • Chestnut Oak (eastern U.S.) offers good rot resistance. Because the trunk does not grow very straight, it is most used in the production of fences.
  • English Oak (England) offers superior strength and is in high demand for use in furniture and interior carpentry.
  • Oregon White Oak (Pacific Northwest) produces tough wood with distinctive rings and variations in color from rich chocolate brown to creamy white. The coloring makes it popular, though it has a reputation for warping and cracking.
  • Overcup Oak (eastern and center U.S.) has a pale brown color and is popularly used in woodworking.
  • Post Oak (eastern U.S.) offers excellent resistance to rot and is commonly used where timber comes into contact with soil (railroads, fencing, etc.).
  • Sessile Oak (Europe and Asia) produces tough and sturdy wood suitable for a wide range of uses.

If you have questions about the wood you might choose for your new home, give us a call or check out https://www.trees.com/oak-trees who provided this information to us!

PS: A tree in front of a house increases your home’s value by an average of $7,130 – and provides long-term benefits in the beautification of your home. We can help you maximize your outside spaces. Call us for a free lot evaluation.

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