Red Oak vs. White Oak: Which Wood is Right for Your New Project? – Sawyer Custom Crafts

Red Oak vs. White Oak: Which Wood is Right for Your New Project?

Picture showing the difference between Red Oak and White Oak Lumber

Red Oak vs. White Oak: Which Wood is Right for Your Project?


     Hey friends, over at SawyerCustomCrafts.Com we get to play with a lot of different types of lumber. It's one of the perks of the job :) . One of the questions that we get asked all the time is "Hey wood guy, which type of wood is best for my project?" And the answer to that really depends a lot many things. The look you are after, the durability you need and of course the big one, How much do you want to spend. For this article I want to narrow the list down to two of the most confusing types there is, Red and White Oak. Later we can look at a few others, but these are by far two of the most popular options. They are used for new floors, kitchen cabinets, stair rails, mantles, you name it. So today, I want to   explore the unique attributes of each type, helping you make an informed decision for your next woodworking endeavor.

Red Oak: The Versatile Workhorse

Appearance and Grain Pattern

     Let's start with the obvious, Red Oak is Red, right? Well not really, Red Oak does boast a more reddish-brown hue than White Oak, it is not really all that red. It does have a distinctive grain pattern that adds character to any project. The open grain structure sets it apart, giving it a visually appealing texture. One thing to note about Red Oak is that *generally, it is not used for cutting boards and the such. Some people claim that the open pores will harbor bacteria faster than the more "closed grain" hardwoods. Of course, this is a contested opinion, as many other people just love the look of Red Oak in their cutting boards. So, proceed at your own discretion there. 

Durability and Hardness

One of Red Oak's primary strengths lies in its durability. It's resistant to wear and tear, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas. Its hardness (1220 on the Janka Scale)  makes it suitable for projects that require robust materials. This is probably why it is one of the top choices for flooring in new home construction!

Common Applications

Red Oak finds its way into a wide array of projects. Its versatility makes it a favorite for flooring, furniture, cabinetry, and interior trim. Whether you're aiming for a traditional or contemporary look, Red Oak adapts beautifully to various design styles.

Staining Considerations

When it comes to staining, Red Oak is a receptive canvas. It absorbs stains well, allowing for a range of color options. Keep in mind that it may take stains differently than other woods, so it's recommended to test a sample piece before applying it to your entire project.

White Oak: Elegance with Endurance

Appearance and Grain Pattern

     Now, on to the next Contestant, White Oak! White Oak offers a lighter coloration and a finer grain compared to its Red Oak counterpart. Its tight grain structure gives it a smoother, more refined look, making it an ideal choice for projects with a touch of elegance. Just as a personal opinion, to me you almost see a hint of grayness in the White Oak Variety that is not seen in Red Oak. 

Durability and Hardness

If moisture resistance is a priority, White Oak excels. Its exceptional durability, particularly its resistance to moisture and decay, makes it a top pick for outdoor projects. It's also known for its hardness (Janka hardness rating 1335) of and resistance to warping, ensuring longevity in demanding environments.

Common Applications

White Oak finds its niche in projects that demand both elegance and endurance. Boat building, outdoor furniture, flooring, and barrels for aging spirits are just a few examples of where White Oak truly shines. Its adaptability makes it a sought-after choice for a wide range of applications.

Staining Considerations

When it comes to staining, White Oak responds beautifully, allowing for a range of finishes. Keep in mind that due to its tighter grain, it may take stains differently than Red Oak. As always, a test piece is recommended to ensure the desired result.

Cost Difference Between Red and White Oak

     Honestly, wood costs will change every day, and will be different depending on a lot of factors. But, with all that being said I will give you an idea of what I paid per board foot of both Red and White Oak. Perhaps you can use this as a gauge of the difference between the two. 

The last time that I bought Red Oak from our local mill it costs : $3.40 per board foot. To put this number in perspective a 1x6x8 piece of Red Oak at this price would cost $13.60

The last time I bought White Oak it costs: $7.65 per board foot. So, a 1x6x8 here would run you $30.60

As you can see White Oak was considerably more expensive. 

Choosing Between Red Oak and White Oak

In the end, the choice between Red Oak and White Oak boils down to the specific requirements of your project. Consider factors such as the intended use, desired aesthetic, and cost. Each wood offers its own set of strengths, ensuring that there's a perfect fit for every application.


Both Red Oak and White Oak bring their own unique qualities to the table. By understanding the distinctions between these two popular woods, you can confidently choose the one that aligns with your project's needs. Whether you opt for the versatile workhorse of Red Oak or the elegant endurance of White Oak, you're sure to create a masterpiece that stands the test of time.


Don't forget that we also offer Stain Sample Sets of both Red and White Oak. If you are interested in seeing any of these click this link HERE.


*have you used either Red or White Oak? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know which you prefer, and what you have used them for. A picture is welcome as well. 


thanks friends


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