Red Oak vs White Oak: Difference and Comparison

Red oak and white oak has different wood type, colour, and texture, so they have different applications. For example, red oak furnishing is not recommended for exterior purposes as it is not water-resistance and reacts with iron.

On the other hand, white oak is suitable for exterior furnishing. There are other distinguishing factors between red oak and white oak.

Key Takeaways

  1. Red Oak features a more porous structure, making it less resistant to water and rot than White Oak.
  2. White Oak has a denser and tighter grain, contributing to its higher durability and strength.
  3. Red Oak exhibits a reddish-brown hue, while White Oak has a light brown to grey color, affecting its aesthetic appearance.

Red Oak vs White Oak

Red Oak, also known as Northern Oak, is a special type of wood that has great commercial use as it is vital in the manufacturing of fuelwood, veneer, and timber production. White Oak is a special type of wood that is known for having a closed cellular structure, and it is used to make boats.

Red Oak vs White Oak

The red oak tree is more famously known as the Northern red oak as it has a very broad distribution across North America. This tree has high commercial significance as its wood is used for making furniture and flooring.

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The red oak trees can grow up to 150 feet with 4 feet diameter. They can be easily spotted in the US and parts of Canada. 

White oak wood is very valuable as, during colonial times, it was used for shipbuilding. These trees grow extensively in the Eastern US, and it plays a crucial role for the animals in that ecosystem.

White oaks aren’t easily available as red oak because of their slow growth. For this reason, it is also a bit costlier. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonRed OakWhite Oak
AppearanceThe color of red oak is lighter than white oak and appears in different shades of salmon and pink. The color of white oak is available in the darker shades of beige, brown, and yellow. 
TextureRed oak has a rough appearance due to strong graining and thus helps in hiding scratches and dents. White oak has a comparatively smoother texture as the graining is moderate. 
UsesRed oak is extensively used for timber production, fuelwood, and veneer. White oak is famous for making boats, and wine barrels for its closed cellular structure. 
ResistanceRed oak doesn’t have a very strong resistance property. White oak shows high resistance to water and rot. 
AffordabilityRed oak is less expensive than white oak. White oak is costlier due to its less availability. 

What is Red Oak?

 Red Oak (Quercus Rubra) is also known as Northern oak. It has great commercial significance because of its extensive use in turning and flooring applications. It is also used as pulpwood, fuelwood, lumber, mine timbers, etc.

Though it has several applications, red oak is not a good option for exterior furnishing. Red oak contains tannic acid, which forms a chemical blue dye in reaction with iron. Moreover, it is not resistant to water and allows it to penetrate the surface. 

The diameter of the red oak trees is approximately 4 feet, and the sapwood is 1 to 2 inches thick. While the sapwood is white, the heartwood appears brown with a tinge of pink or red.

The wood texture varies from place to place as Southern Canada has a fine texture of red oak compared to Southern US. The graining pattern is more evident in red oak, and it is also able to absorb more stain.

The red oak trees are also known as ornamental trees, and due to their shallow root system, they can be easily transplanted.  Red oak grows well both in acidic and alkaline soil, but extreme soil conditions (too wet or too dry) are not suitable for it. 

red oak

What is White Oak?

Apart from the extensive use of white oak in flooring and making furniture, it is famous for making ships and wine barrels. The average height of the white oak ranges between 80 to 100 feet, but some of them can grow as tall as 150 feet.

They have wide-spreading branches, and some of them grow horizontally towards the ground. 

The growth rate of white oak is very slow, so it is harder to transplant white oak successfully. This makes the availability of white oak less often as compared to red oak and thus costlier.

When the wood of the tree is first cut, it gives a beige-to-white colour. The bark of the tree is greyish, and it has rectangular scales on it. White oak produces both male (yellow-green) and female (reddish) flowers. 

In the heartwood of the white oak, tyloses are present that make the wood impenetrable to water. Thus, white oak is suitable for exterior works.

But, various types of insects attack the trees, like the gypsy moth and oakleaf caterpillar. Wood borers affect fully grown plants’ lumber, damaging their economic value. 

white oak

Main Differences Between Red Oak and White Oak

  1. Red oak is lighter than white oak and appears in different shades of salmon and pink, whereas the colour white oak is available in darker shades of beige, brown, and yellow. 
  2. Red oak has a rough appearance due to strong graining and thus helps in hiding scratches and dents whereas White oak has a comparatively smoother texture as the graining is moderate. 
  3. Red oak is extensively used for timber production, fuelwood, and veneer, whereas white oak is famous for making boats and wine barrels for its closed cellular structure. 
  4. Red oak doesn’t have a very strong resistance property, whereas white oak shows high resistance to water and rot.  
  5. Red oak is less expensive than white oak, but due to the less availability of white oak, it is costlier. 
Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak
References
  1. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[0065:RONROP]2.0.CO;2
  2. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article-abstract/53/10/927/254898
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