Red oak or white oak?

Red oak vs. white oak furniture
By Patricia Stephens

Whether you're an expert furniture maker or a consumer seeking beautiful items for your home, oak wood should be a contender. But there are different types of oak to consider. In this blog we will discuss the different qualities of red oak vs. white oak.

Oak is a hardwood tree or shrub in the same family as beech. These are the trees that produce plenty of acorns for squirrels in backyards across America. While both red oak and white oak belong to this class of trees, they have different practical characteristics. 

Red Oak Rocking Chair with seat cushion and back cushion


Pictured is an Upholstered Red Oak Rocking Chair

To the pros, red oak is considered to be a "light sapwood with a pinkish-brown heartwood." Over time this wood will darken to a reddish-brown, making it a good choice if you plan to stain your furniture. Both red and white oak have strong, heavy grain patterns - which furniture makers love. Red oak is a bit less durable than white oak, but is readily available and is less expensive. Because red oak is more susceptible than white to warping, most people choose it for indoor furniture and cabinetry.

While shopping for wood furniture or flooring, you may hear the phrase, "Janka Hardness Test" which measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear. Any wood rated above 1,000 on the Janka scale will offer consumers beautiful items with lasting finishes. Red oak has a Janka hardness rating of 1290.

White Oak Rocker with wood seat and back

Pictured is a Quarter-sawn White Oak Rocker

This wood is also considered a "light colored sapwood" but with a yellow-brown heartwood instead of red oak's pinkish-brown. White oak darkens to a rich chocolate brown over time. It has a straight grain pattern.

While white oak is harder to stain than red, it is very durable and is resistant to rot, water, and decay. White oak is used for indoor and outdoor furniture and you will often see it in flooring and wine barrels. White oak has a Janka hardness rating of 1360 which makes it a bit more resistant to scratches and dents than red. That explains why it's popular in flooring. But since it's more durable, some furniture makers find it a harder wood to sand and saw.

Red Oak Rocker

Pictured is a Red Oak Rocking Chair

A main factor in choosing red or white oak furniture is whether a customer wants a lighter or darker look. Both woods are beautiful and are applauded as being kind to natural resource since the trees are grown in the United States.

While both wood types will need regular maintenance to maintain their beauty, white oak generally requires less care. If you choose red of white oak for your furnishings, flooring, or cabinets, you will have durable, beautiful, heirloom pieces to enjoy for decades.

Oak Dining Set

Pictured is a Red Oak Dining Set with a trestle style table and 4 matching chairs

While solid wood furniture may generally come at a higher initial cost compared to furniture made from composite materials, the long-term benefits and durability it offers make it a worthwhile investment for many people.

Oak for Less is family owned and operated, not a national chain. When you contact us, you don't speak with someone from a call center; you get personal service and the confidence that you are dealing directly with the owners. Customer happiness is our goal. Originally opening in 1993, Oak For Less® provides our customers superior customer service and low discounted prices on beautiful, quality furniture.