Oak vs Birch: Difference and Comparison

There is a variety of woods that are used to make furniture, cabinets, and floorings. Each wood has some pros and cons. For making furniture, cabinets, or flooring oak and birch woods are very popular options all over the world.

These two kinds of wood have distinctive characteristics which make them different from each other.

Key Takeaways

  1. Oak is a hardwood species known for its strength, durability, and attractive grain patterns, while birch is a softer hardwood with a smooth texture and subtle grain.
  2. Oak trees grow slower and live longer than birch trees, resulting in denser and more resilient wood.
  3. Oak is more expensive and used in high-quality furniture and flooring, whereas birch is more affordable and suitable for cabinetry, paneling, and plywood.

Oak vs Birch

The Oak tree is a symbol of strength, morale, resistance and knowledge. The oak is considered a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied in its towering strength. Birch is a native hardwood that comes from the genus Betula. There are over a dozen species of birch trees native to North America, but the most common are white birch, yellow birch, and black birch.

Oak vs Birch

Oak refers to a hardwood tree that is very popular for its sturdy wood. There are almost 600 species of oak which are both evergreen and deciduous.

Oakwood has been used for thousands of years. In modern days, oak wood is used in furniture, firewood, wine barrels, flooring, and homewares.

Birch refers to a hardwood, thin-leaved tree. Birch is common in the Northern hemisphere, like in Europe, the US, Russia, Japan, China, and The Middle East.

The majority of the birch woods are located within Asia and Europe, specifically, in Japan, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Birchwood is lightweight but is durable and strong.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOakBirch
Genus nameQuercusBetula
ColourRed oak woods have reddish and pinkish hues and white oak woods are beige through brown.Pale white to yellow or reddish-yellow.
HardnessOakwood is less hard compared to the birch wood.Birchwood is harder than oak wood.
GrainFine straight grainAesthetic grain.
The furniture looksTraditional look.Modern and more contemporary look.
Special characteristicsIt is very useful in the tannery industry.In making plywood.

What is Oak?

Oak refers to a shrub or plant that belongs to the beech family, can grow to forty m in height, and live up to 1000 years but lives to two hundred years. In many cultures, oak is seen as a symbol of knowledge and strength for this reason.

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There are almost five hundred species of oak trees.Oak trees are seen widely in Northern America, especially in Mexico. In this country, almost 160 species of oak trees grow. In North America, there are hundreds of oak species growing.

Mainly oak trees are categorized into two types- red oaks and white oaks. Red oaks have pointed lob leaves with little bristles. White oaks have broad, rounded leaves smoother than leaves of red oaks.

English oak is considered to be the most popular species of oak tree that is used for making modern European furniture. English oak is very popular for its attractive light and dark rings and durability.

This type of oak can be found in most parts of North America and Europe.

Timber made from this tree is considered to be one of the most durable and hardest timbers on the earth. Oakwood is almost 5 times as robust as Scots pine and for this reason, Romans used to call it “Robur”, which means “strength”.

For thousands of years oak timber has been used in construction and it is used widely even today. For the toughness of oakwood, it is used to build coffins and burial caskets.


What is Birch?

Birch is another hardwood tree that belongs to the Betulaceae family. There are almost sixty types of birch species that grow all over the world in temperate climates.

Birch trees need enough sunlight, enough moisture, and well-drained soil for growth. Birchwoods are seen to grow near rivers and lakes.

It is a medium-sized hardwood tree that can grow thirty to fifty feet in height. Some species of birch can grow to 80 feet. It has elliptical or oval green leaves. Birch barks can be yellow, black, silver, or grey. Young birch trees possess a smooth bark.

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The root of this tree is shallow and can affect roads and sidewalks in the urban area. The fruit of the birch tree is known as “samara” which gives almost one million seeds every year.

Bark and seeds of the birch tree are a great source of food for forest animals like birds, rabbits, and deer.

The birch woods are highly flammable and can catch fire even in the wet. For these characteristics of birch wood, it is widely used as firewood. Birchwood is also widely used in manufacturing doors, furniture, canoes, and toys.

Birch barks contain some substances like betulinic acid and botulin that are widely used in the medical industry. Birch bark is widely used as a folk remedy for curing stomach pain. The soaked birch barks are used as a cast for setting the broken arms.


Main Differences Between Oak and Birch

  1. The genus name of oak is Quercus, on the other hand, the genus name of birch is Betula.
  2. Red oak woods have reddish and pinkish hues and white oak woods are beige through brown, on the contrary, Birch has pale white to yellow or reddish-yellow wood.
  3. Oakwood is less hard compared to birch wood.
  4. Oakwood gives furniture a traditional look, whereas birch gives a modern and more contemporary look to the furniture.
  5. Oakwood is very useful in the tannery industry, on the other hand, birch wood is very popular in making plywood.
Difference Between Oak and Birch


  1. https://www.ajevonline.org/content/35/2/77.abstract
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S135223100200417X

Last Updated : 24 July, 2023

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