Exploring the Versatile Types of Oak Wood for Home Projects

Oak is oak, right? Surprisingly, no. In fact, the differences between white oak and red oak can have a major impact on your home improvement project. Learning what makes varieties of oak unique is key to making an informed decision when using them in your home.

In this article, we’ll look into the two main categories of oak: white oak and red oak (and an additional, less common one.) We’ll discover what makes them different, the benefits of each, and practical tips on choosing the right type for your next project.

Whether you’re revamping your ceilings and walls, ripping up and laying down new flooring, or crafting an eye-catching furniture piece, this post is for you.

The Beauty and Versatility of Oak Wood

The type of wood you choose in a home improvement project greatly impacts the final result and overall aesthetic. Oak is a great option, often sourced for its beauty, workability, and affordability. 

Oak trees are part of the beech family, with over 600 species falling under this genus. They’re naturally found in various parts of the world – from cool climates to tropical latitudes in Asia, Europe, North America, and more.

Did you know? Acorns from white oak trees take ~1 year to mature. Acorns from red oaks take closer to 2!

The color range for oak wood varies from light brown to dark red, depending largely on the type of tree. This variety allows homeowners to seamlessly match their furniture, flooring, and other design elements.

And oak doesn’t just look good, either. White and red oak planks are known for their durability. Oak’s resistance to decay and moisture makes it the preferred choice for areas where water is likely present. These features allow oak to be used extensively in projects like building frames, tables, barrels, flooring, decking, etc.

Key Takeaway: Oak planks are a popular choice for home remodeling due to their beauty, ease of work, and durability. Oak comes in a variety of types and in different shades, so matching your oak planks to existing decor couldn’t be easier.

Unveiling the Major Categories: White Oak vs Red Oak

If you’re considering using oak wood for your home improvement project, it’s important to understand which type you should choose. Generally speaking, oak is broken down into two major categories: white oak and red oak. While the two types share some similarities, each has unique characteristics fit for specific applications.

Did you know? White oaks are generally stronger than red oaks. On the Janka hardness scale, white oak scores a 1360 lbf (pounds-force), whereas red oak comes in slightly lower at 1220 lbf. If you want wood planks that can take a beating, white oak might be a good choice!

Distinguishing Features Between Red Oak and White Oak

If your wood choice is coming down to color, knowing the difference between white and red oak is a big deal. Here are a couple of distinctions to keep in mind:

White oak:
Includes several species like chestnut oak, post oak, and burr oak, all known for producing strong timber historically used by shipbuilders. White oak planks have a light brown hue with an olive cast, great for homeowners desiring a neutral look.

Red oak:
Includes southern red oak, scarlet oak, and willow oak. Red oaks are characterized by bristle-tipped leaves and faster growth rates than most hardwoods, making them an excellent choice for sustainability. Red oak planks have a reddish-pink tone – ideal for those wanting a warm, earthy vibe.

Another way to tell the difference between white and red oak is by looking at the rays on the face grain. In white oaks, the rays appear longer.

Fun fact: Applying sodium nitrite on white oak causes a noticeable color change. This is because the pores are plugged. Red oak, on the other hand, has open pores and isn’t affected in the same way.

Both white and red oak planks are affordable options for home renovation projects. So whether you’re looking to upgrade your walls and ceilings, or craft a comfy new chair, you can’t go wrong with either. Just be sure to choose the one that matches your aesthetic preferences!

Key Takeaway: White oak and red oak are the two major categories of oak wood. White oak is slightly more durable than red, and features a light brown color. Red oak planks come with reddish-pink tones. Both are great choices for homeowners looking to spruce up a room without breaking the bank.

Exploring Other Types of Oak Wood

In addition to the two major categories of oak, there are several other types that can provide equally unique looks to your home. English oak, water oak, laurel oak, holm oak, and Gambel oak planks each have unique properties that should be considered before investing in them.

Spotlight on Black Oaks

A rare type of oak known as black oak exists within the red oak category. This isn’t used as often, but can add a one-of-a-kind aesthetic to your home. Its strong yet flexible nature makes it an excellent choice for durable and stylish furniture pieces.The bark of this tree species produces a yellow dye historically used by Native Americans for basket weaving – adding another layer of story to your chosen material.

Other varieties of the same family, such as scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), pin oak (Quercus palustris), and southern red oak (Quercus falcata) are also available for a range of reddish-brown hues in their wood grains.

The Charm of European Oaks

Moving across continents, we find ourselves admiring the charm and resilience offered by European oaks like English Oak or Holm Oak. Known for their resistance against diseases like oak wilt, these trees produce sturdy timber ideal for heavy-duty applications – like flooring and structural beams. That doesn’t mean they sacrifice their beauty, though!

Pro tip: If you’re looking for more exotic oak options, consider exploring varieties like turkey oak, known for its unusual acorn caps, or hungarian oak.

Gambel's Legacy: Gambel Oak
Another interesting variety of oak worth mentioning is Gambel’s oak. Named after William Gambel (an American naturalist who discovered it during his travels), this type of wood has strong durability and is great for use in projects like fencing. And if you have spare Gambel oak in the winter, it works as fuel for a cozy fireplace, too!

Key Takeaway: Aside from white and red oak, a variety of other types exist. Black oak planks have a rich dark brown color and work great for furniture pieces, and various European oaks are known for their resistance to disease.

Practical Applications of Different Types of Oaks in Home Remodeling

The versatility and durability of oak wood makes it a favorite among homeowners, architects, and interior designers. Each type of oak we’ve discussed features unique characteristics that lend themselves to specific applications and preferences. Here are a couple ideas for future projects.

Using Chestnut Oaks in Flooring

Chestnut oaks, part of the white oak group, are known for their strength and resistance against decay. This superior durability and rich color tone makes chestnut oak planks an excellent choice for flooring in high-traffic areas, like living rooms and hallways.

Incorporating Live Oaks in Furniture Design

Live oaks are preferred for furniture design due to their high strength and beautiful grain patterns. Their dense structure and swirling pattern add longevity and style to any custom piece you create.

Did you know? Live oak gets its name from being virtually evergreen. Whereas other oaks lose their leaves in the winter and might appear dead, live oak trees replace their lives throughout the year. This gives them a fresh, healthy look in any season.

Beyond these popular choices, there are other oak species suitable for various applications:

Water Oak:
Known scientifically as Quercus nigra, water oaks have exceptional moisture resistance, making them ideal for outdoor decking or patio furniture.

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) is valued for its fast growth and ease of working with, making it perfect for crafting intricate designs on cabinets or doors.

Gambel Oak:
Also known as Quercus gambelii, this species offers lighter hues that can provide a refreshing contrast when used creatively within interiors.

Selecting the right type of oak depends on your project requirements. Whether you prioritize aesthetics or functionality, there's almost always an oak species suitable for your needs.

Tips for Choosing the Right Type of Oak for Your Project

Choosing the right oak planks for your project can be tough. Don’t worry though – we’ve got your back. Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice:

If you’re building outdoor furniture or decking, choosing an oak that resists damage from moisture and decay is essential. Planks made from water oak and chestnut oak trees are great choices.

Looking for a dark and grainy aesthetic? Go with black oak. Prefer a lighter, more neutral tone? White and English oaks have you covered.

Budget-friendly options:
Though some types of oak will cost more depending on your location and availability, oak is generally an affordable option. Red oak works particularly well for those with a slightly smaller budget.

Remember: Each oak variety has its own strengths and weaknesses. Live oak is strong, but not always as easy to work with. Southern red oak is affordable, but not as resistant to diseases like oak wilt.

Choosing the right planks comes down to more than looks! Functionality, cost-effectiveness, and availability should all be considered before investing in this beautiful wood. 

Types of Oak Wood FAQs

What are the different types of oak?

There are numerous types of oak trees, including the popular English oak, white oak, red oak, and chestnut oak. And if you really want to be unique, black oak planks make stunning furniture pieces. 

How many species of oak trees are there?

The Quercus genus comprises over 600 species globally, with white oak and red oak being the most common varieties used in home remodeling.

Which oak tree is best?

The "best" oak tree depends on your specific needs, whether it's the durability of white oak for flooring or the strength of live oak for furniture design. Keep in mind your desired aesthetic, functionality, durability and budget when deciding on a type of oak.

What type of wood is oak known as?

Oak is known as a hardwood due to its dense structure and high durability, making it suitable for heavy-duty applications like flooring and furniture making.


There you have it, a whirlwind tour of the oak tree world. Whether you decide on white oaks, red oaks, or any other oak species, there's a tree out there waiting to be turned into beautiful oak wood planks for your next project.

For an easy-to-use option that supports sustainable practices, check out our selection of reclaimed barrel oak planks at Stikwood.com.