Differences Between Red Oak and White Oak Furniture
Oak is a strong, versatile and attractive material used for top-quality furniture projects. Red and white oak are two especially popular subspecies due to their classy look and low maintenance. Furniture made from these wood species tends to be highly sturdy and durable, making lasting heirlooms for years to come.
But what is the difference between red oak and white oak? Before choosing the species for your custom furniture, you’ll want to know how they compare. Red oak tends to come in shades of warm brown to deep cream with red streaks or pink undertones. It’s ideal for everyday use, often used to construct kitchen chairs and tables. White oak is similar, though it’s slightly more robust and water-resistant than other woods, making it ideal for frequent-use furniture and outdoor pieces.
Both types make excellent furniture, though you may value certain qualities of one over the other. Learn how to tell the difference between red oak vs. white oak wood and a few factors to consider before purchasing either type of furniture.
Red Oak vs. White Oak
Red and white oak are two of the most common wood types available for furniture. While they are both oak, they’re two different species of wood. They differ in appearance, moisture resistance and applications. When you order custom oak furniture from Amish Outlet Store, both types are available in various stain options to match your personal style.
But is white oak or red oak better? The answer will come down to your style preferences. We’ll discuss a few of the differences between red oak vs. white oak trees below to help you choose the right one for you:
Visual Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak
While the names are similar, there’s an appearance and biological difference between red oak and white oak trees. The red oak name comes from the color of its autumn leaves. White oak trees are named for the light gray color of their bark. They tend to have rounded leaves, while red oak leaves have a needle-shaped point at the end of their lobes.
Furniture made from these two species tends to differ in color, though it’s relatively unnoticeable to the untrained eye. White oak ranges from light to dark brown or tan and even dark yellow undertones, lending itself to a more rugged appearance. Red oak comes in warm browns to wheat colors with pink undertones. Additionally, red oak has wider grain lines. They run in a subtle wave pattern to a zigzag, while white oak has narrower grains that run straighter and tighter.
With both woods having a timeless, versatile look, oak can be used to make furniture in almost every style, with a color and grain that works in any setting, from rustic to modern.
Both species of oak are hardy, tough and durable. They are among North America’s hardest wood types, making them highly resilient and long-lasting. Furniture made from oak is less likely to show signs of wear or damage.
White oak lumber tends to be harder with its closed grain, making it slightly more durable than the lighter, open-grained red oak. Though when woodworking, this difference hardly matters. Both wood species work wonderfully as furniture, making enduring pieces with the potential to last decades.
Red Oak vs. White Oak Grain
Moisture resistance between red oak vs. white oak grain is also different. While red oak wood has open pores in its grains, white oaks have filled pores, contributing to their moisture resistance. Red oak is a porous wood that takes stains evenly without blotching. White oak can be more challenging to stain evenly, so it’s always a good idea to go to a professional to get the job done right.
Due to its open grains and porosity, red oak is more prone to shrink than white oak lumber. And since its open pores absorb the stains easily, the grain patterns tend to be very evident when using a dark stain as a finish. White oak is ideal for outdoor pieces. With its water-repellent properties, white oak is more moisture- and rot-resistant than red oak.
Both types of wood take stains well, but not equally. As a result, it’s essential only to mix the two types of lumber if you’re deliberate about that choice.
Red Oak vs. White Oak Furniture
Oak wood is highly versatile and can be used for almost any furniture application. While the hardness can make it slightly more challenging to work with compared to softer woods, its durability has the strength to withstand use in tables, seating and other furniture pieces. You might choose oak pieces for every room of the house to ensure a coordinated look that’s strong enough for all types of uses.
When considering red oak vs. white oak furniture, your choice will likely come down to its look and application:
- Red oak: This wood species is especially well-suited for furniture, cabinets, flooring and paneling. Its warm colors and undertones make it perfect for a traditional look, and its high durability means it can last for decades.
- White oak: White oak is often used in the boating industry due to its moisture resistance. It’s also used in outdoor furniture, whisky barrels and cargo truck flooring for the same reason. The grains in white oak are straight and available quarter-sawn to reveal a striking ray flake pattern. White oak lumber might appear dark or light brown and slightly yellow or green, with stains and sealers enhancing its appearance.
So is white oak better than red oak for furniture? The choice comes down to how you plan on using your oak furniture. If you’re looking for an attractive, rot-resistant outdoor piece, quarter-sawn white oak makes the ideal choice. On the other hand, red oak might be better if you’re hoping for a durable indoor piece with a timeless look.
Red Oak Wood Overview
Red oak is commonly used in American furniture and hardwood floors, with several species grouped under this class of tree. The classic wood type is perfect for a traditional-style home, providing a warm and inviting ambiance to any room. From red oak dining tables to desks and chairs, handcrafted red oak furniture is sure to make a statement in your home.
Red oak furniture characteristics include:
- Distribution: Widespread throughout the Eastern U.S., red oak trees are abundant in hardwood forests, growing even more abundantly than white oak.
- Color: Red oak tends to have an orange or reddish hue with white to light brown sapwood. Northern red oak grows to have a wheat color that can be stained evenly without significant color variation. Southern and Appalachian red oak trees tend to have more color variation than the northern varieties. This species of wood can be stained in both light and dark colors.
- Grain: Red oak has pronounced open grain, allowing it to absorb stains and become darker at the closed points and lighter in the open parts. Its textured and complex grain creates a unique and distinct pattern perfect for artistic furniture pieces.
- Durability: This type of wood is extremely durable with good wear resistance. Its grain pattern helps to hide minor dents and wear.
- Density: Red oak is desired for its medium density. It presents no problems when machining or gluing and provides enough resistance to be used as flooring or a countertop.
- Applications: As mentioned above, red oak is a popular choice for homeowners looking for a durable furniture item with a classic look. It’s often found in flat sawn, rift sawn and quarter-sawn and makes an excellent choice for cabinets, furniture, flooring and other indoor pieces.
- Working properties: Red oak machines well and can be easily stained to a golden finish with an array of finish tones.
White Oak Wood Overview
White oak lumber is another form of wood that makes stunning furniture for any style of home. It’s perfect for everyday use and takes a stain easily. As mentioned, it resists water better than most woods, and you’ll often find ships with hulls made from this durable wood. Once stained, it reveals swirly and tight grain markings that make any furniture piece stand out.
Here are the main characteristics of white oak wood:
- Distribution: White oak trees grow in North America, Europe and some parts of Asia. You can find numerous species grouped under this class, though it is not as abundant as red oak.
- Color: Like red oak, white oak lumber isn’t actually white. You’ll notice a yellow or slight green undertone running through the wood, visible in a natural state. It’s also often darker than red oak and more brown-tan, creating a more rugged look. The sapwood tends to be light-colored with a light-to-dark brown heartwood.
- Grain: White oak is generally straight-grained with a medium or sometimes coarse texture. It has longer rays than red oak, giving it more figure.
- Durability: Quarter-sawn white oak is renowned for its distinctive grain and high durability. Quarter-sawing involves cutting the tree to produce tight, parallel lines that run the length of the board.
- Physical properties: White oak lumber is hardy and heavy, making it extremely durable. It also has excellent wear resistance.
- Working properties: White oak machines well and dries slowly but stains to an excellent finish. Since white oak has a higher density and smaller pores, the finish may require more time to soak in.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Red Oak or White Oak
Before deciding to purchase red or white oak wood furniture, consider the following factors:
Like all furniture, oak products benefit from occasional cleaning. No matter the type of oak you select, the maintenance process is the same. Go over surfaces with a duster to remove dust, maintain the piece’s natural shine and prevent scratches. Keep surfaces clean and protect them from food or drink spills with coasters and placemats. Clean oak furniture with dish soap and warm water before drying it thoroughly.
Due to oxygen and UV exposure, oak wood can darken over time, taking on gorgeous amber tones. The change is usually fairly subtle, though it’s generally better to purchase a full oak set at once for this reason.
As mentioned, there are differences between red and oak wood graining. Red oak reveals longer rays, while white oak shows streaks that provide a more modern design aesthetic. While both species of wood make stunning furniture pieces, you may consider one over the other due to these minor stylistic differences.
Cost Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak
Red and white oak tend to be popular choices due to their affordability. And while prices fluctuate, red oak is generally more affordable when it comes to red oak vs. white oak. And since it takes stains and dyes so easily, you can make it almost any color. Its versatility and price point make it a bold, economical wood choice. On the other hand, white oak is a popular choice among designers. It’s frequently quarter-sawn with an earthier color attractive in almost any space.
Difference Between Red and White Quarter-Sawn Oak
Amish Outlet store carries quarter-sawn white oak, which is a way of cutting the wood at a 90-degree angle to reduce cupping and enhance growth rings. The result produces tight, parallel lines running across the length of the board. Quarter-sawn white oak has a finer texture than red oak by exposing the internal rays of the wood. Depending on the piece, the flake pattern can give it a dramatic, three-dimensional appearance.
When deciding quarter-sawn white oak vs. red oak, both make stunning pieces and have a significant place in crafting fine furniture. Sturdy, dense white oak is ideal for bar tops, outdoor furniture and other applications where the piece may be exposed to moisture. Red oak works well for cabinet doors and indoor furniture. Their beautiful and unique lines ensure no two pieces are ever the same.
Shop Red Oak and Q.S. White Oak Furniture at Amish Outlet Store
So is white oak or red oak better? While there’s a stark difference between red and white oak trees, both wood species are durable and provide a gorgeous look perfect for any home. As a result, the answer depends on the furniture application and your design preferences. Remember to order your oak furniture from a reputable source.
Amish Outlet Store crafts high-quality, authentic oak furniture built to last. Every piece of furniture uses only the best solid oak wood with effective construction techniques that have been passed down for generations. All our oak furniture is made to order so you can customize every piece to your needs. Depending on your style preferences, we can also stain our solid oak in various colors, from light to dark. A large variety of pieces ensures you can furnish your entire home at AmishOutletStore.com.
Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about our gorgeous, durable oak furniture.