Red Oak vs. White Oak: Key Differences

Red Oak vs. White Oak: Key Differences

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” – a saying that has helped us strengthen our determination in the face of adversity for eternity!

No doubt, Oak wood epitomizes resilience and hardness. In this blog, let’s dig deeper and learn more about this mighty species.


Belonging to the genus Quercus of the beech family that boasts over 600 remaining species, Oak trees are pretty common in the United States.

In fact, the US is home to over 60 distinct species of Oak, and they are used for different purposes.


Apart from its superior strength, the Oak tree is also resistant to insect or fungal attacks because of the high content of tannin. These features make this hardwood a favorite for fine furniture and interior paneling construction. Furthermore, this practical, high-quality, affordable lumber is the most popular hardwood species for flooring.

The two most common species of Oak are Red and White Oak hardwood. Many consumers are not able to distinguish between these two.

Learn more about what actually sets them apart from one another here.

White Oak

Cool woodworking projects: DIY wood sign


The White Oak (Quercus alba) trees stand out for their massive sizes. If left to their own devices, these oak trees grow to enormous dimensions. An average tree can end up somewhere around 80 feet and is almost as wide as it is tall if you include the total breadth of its branches.

However, White Oak trees are a slow-growing species, native to North America. These produce many acorns, too; thus, they provide food and shelter to various animal and bird species.


The natural White Oak is lighter in color than its red counterparts. It also has rough and ashier bark. Its bark has very deep ridges, which many people prefer for their yards.

Unlike the coarse bark, the leaves of White Oak do not bear any sharp angles and have more rounded tips instead.

Red Oak

Cool woodworking projects: DIY wood sign


The Red Oak (Quercus rubra, Quercus borealis) trees are not as towering in size as the White Oak but still grow up to 75 feet.

Their branches do not spread out as much, which gives this species a leaner or skinnier appearance.

Red Oak trees are fast-growing and can reach up to 20 feet in a decade. They survive well in various soil types, including highly compact ones. They also feed and are home to a plethora of critters.


Red Oak trees are much darker in color than White Oak trees. They also have much smoother bark with just a few deep ridges.

Compared to the rounded edges of White Oak leaves, Red Oak leaves have much pointier ends.

Key Points of Difference between White Oak and Red Oak

Though some significant differences exist, the Red and White Oak can appear the same. If you are planning to buy White or Red Oak lumber for your flooring or furniture, here are some essential differences that will help you choose.

● Red Oak has a lighter tint than White Oak

In the case of flooring, the shades of Red or White Oak have a stark difference. Red Oak has a pinkish or salmon undertone, while the White Oak is a bit darker and displays brownish or beige hues.

Cool woodworking projects: DIY wood sign

Built with Red Oak by @jdbomar

Cool woodworking projects: DIY wood sign

Built with White Oak by @Hubbs617

White Oak looks better with lighter stains

Both Red and White Oak lumber stain very quickly. However, White Oak is better suited with the lighter gray or white stain colors that are in style these days. However, both White Oak and Red Oak will look virtually the same for the medium and darker shades.

● Red Oak has a much stronger grain pattern than White Oak

Red Oak has a more robust graining pattern than White Oak, which appears smoother. Moreover, the strong graining of Red Oak lumber also assists with dents and scratches. So, Red Oak is appropriate for busy households with children and pets. Again, the Red Oak hardwood comes with longer rays, while the White Oak displays mineral rays that are more suitable for modern designs.

● White Oak is harder than Red Wood

If you are considering Red Oak for sale for your next woodworking project, then you should be aware that it has a Janka hardness rating of 1290 lbf as opposed to White Oak which has a rating of 1360 lbf. This makes White Oak lumber very impact resistant. Nevertheless, Red Oak and White Oak hardwood tend to perform equally well once they are finished and sealed.

● White Oak is slightly better than Red Oak when it comes to water resistance

Water damage is a significant concern, especially regarding hardwood flooring. White Oak boards fare well in this domain as a closed-grain type hardwood. For the same reason, White Oak is used for wine, beer barrels, and boats.

● Red Oak is less expensive though both are affordable

White Oak and Red Oak lumber are both well-known for being affordable. Although prices fluctuate, Red Oak tends to be less costly than White Oak.

In conclusion, Red Oak and White Oak hardwood have many similarities, but their differences make them unique in their own way.

Hence, it is always worth taking time to decide which one would best suit your needs. As both types of hardwood have distinct features, you can easily decide which one to choose based on your project requirements.

If you are looking for Red Oak or White Oak wood for sale, Forest 2 Home stocks the highest quality boards, which can be customized to suit your needs and delivered right to your doorstep. Hit our ‘Shop Hardwood’ Section to explore.

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