What is the Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak

The main difference between red oak and white oak is that red oak has a pinkish tone ranging from white to soft amber whereas white oak has a darker gray tone, which is almost a yellowish tint. Furthermore, red oak has wider grain lines, which run in zigzag or subtle wavy patterns while white oak has narrow grain lines, which run straighter and tighter.

Red oak and white oak are two types of oak lumber which produce hardwood. Around 20 species of oak has commercial use as lumber.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Red Oak
     – Definition, Features, Importance
2. What is White Oak
     – Definition, Features, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Red Oak and White Oak
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Graining, Hardness, Hardwood, Lumber Color, Red Oak, White Oak

Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak - Comparison Summary

What is Red Oak

Red oak (Quercus rubra, Quercus borealis) is a type of fast-growing oak, which can reach 20 feet in 10 years. Northern red oak or champion oak are other names for red oak. The diameter of red oak with 100 feet height can be over 6 feet. Also, red oak can live for a long time, over 300 years.

What is the Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak

Figure 1: Red Oak

Moreover, the heartwood of red oak is slightly pink in color. However, its sapwood can be white to brown in color. Red oak is easy to steam-bend, and also, it absorbs glues well. But, it is less water resistant since it has an open structure and the open capillaries of red oak can absorb water up to several inches into the wood. Because of this, bacterial and fungal attacks occur to the wood as well.

What is White Oak

White oak (Quercus alba) is a type of slow-growing oaks native to Northern America. Significantly, it can spread over a wide area. Also, the newly-emerging leaves in the spring have a pinky, silver color, giving a frosty look to the tree. On the other hand, in the fall, these leaves become bright red in color.

Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak

Figure 2: White oak

Furthermore, the heartwood of white oak can take a greener, olive color while its white oak can be light brown in color. Also, the hardness of white oak is next to maple wood. However, it is harder than red oak. More importantly, it produces blockages in xylem called tyloses. They effectively close the water flow into the wood, making white oak more resistant to water.

Similarities Between Red Oak and White Oak

  • Red oak and white oak are the two types of oak which produce hardwood.
  • Oak is a tree that belongs to the genus Quercus of the beech family (family Fagaceae).
  • Also, they are native to the Northern Hemisphere. North America has the largest number of oak species in the world.
  • Furthermore, oaks can be deciduous or evergreen species extending from cool temperate to tropical latitudes.
  • The leaves of oak arrange spirally, and they have lobate margins.
  • Moreover, the length of the leaves of both oaks is around 8.5 inches.
  • Besides, both types of oaks can reach 100 feet in length, and they are suitable for larger landscape spaces.
  • The nuts produced by the two types of oaks are called acorns.

Difference Between Red Oak and White Oak

Definition

Red oak refers to any of several deciduous oak trees; especially, Quercus borealis, native to North America, having bristly leaves with triangular lobes and acorns with small cups. While, white oak refers to any of various oaks; especially, Quercus alba of eastern North America with acorns that mature in one year and leaf veins that never extend beyond the margin of the leaf. Hence, this is the fundamental difference between red oak and white oak.

Growth Rate

Furthermore, red oak grows faster than white oak. White oak grows slow to medium rate.

Maturation

Another difference between red oak and white oak is that red oak matures at 80 feet while white oak matures at 75 feet.

Width

Moreover, red oak can spread up to 75 feet while white oak can spread up to 100 feet.

Bark Color

Bark color is another difference between red oak and white oak. Red oak bark is dark brown to black while the white oak bark is gray in color.

Leaves

The leaves of red oak are narrower, around 4 inches, while the leaves of white oak are wider, around 4-6 inches. Further, the red oak has pointed lobes while the white oak has rounded lobes. Moreover, the leaves of red oak turn bright red in the fall while the leaves of white oak turn rich red to wine color. Thus, this is also a difference between red oak and white oak.

Acorns

In addition, red oak acorns have smooth, overlapping scales-like caps while white oak acorns have bumpy caps.

Color of Lumber

The main difference between red oak and white oak is that red oak lumber has a pinkish tint, which is a bit lighter while white oak lumber has a yellow tint, which is darker.

Graining

Besides, red oak has wider grain lines, which run in zigzag or subtle, wavy patterns while white oak has narrow grain lines, which run straighter and tighter.

Hardness

Also, while red oak is less hard than white oak, white oak is less hard than maple.

Weight

Moreover, red oak has a low weight while white oak has a high weight.

Water Resistant

An additional difference between red oak and white oak is that the red oak is less water resistant while white oak is more water resistant.

Conclusion

In brief, red oak has a pinkish tint while white oak has a more yellow tint. Also, the grains of red oak are wider and have a wavy pattern while the grains of white oak are narrower and run straighter. On the other hand, red oak is less hard, lighter, and water resistant when compared to white oak. However, it has a faster growth rate. Therefore, the main difference between red oak and white oak is the color of lumber, grain patterns, and hardness.

References:

1. Marshall, Charlie. “Quercus Rubra (Red Oak) Fagaceae.” Lake Forest College, Available Here
2. “White Oak.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Dec. 2008, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “Quercus rubra @ Tortworth Court” By No machine-readable author provided. (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Keeler Oak Tree – distance photo, May 2013″ By Msact at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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