Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

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Common Name(s): Red Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus rubra

Distribution: Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada

Tree Size: 80-115 ft (25-35 m) tall, 3-6 ft (1-2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (700 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .56, .70

Janka Hardness: 1,220 lbf (5,430 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 14,380 lbf/in2 (99.2 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,761,000 lbf/in2 (12.14 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,780 lbf/in2 (46.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.0%, Tangential: 8.6%, Volumetric: 13.7%, T/R Ratio: 2.2

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a light to medium brown, commonly with a reddish cast. Nearly white to light brown sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Quartersawn sections display prominent ray fleck patterns. Conversely, White Oak tends to be slightly more olive-colored, but is by no means a reliable method of determining the type of oak.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a coarse, uneven texture. The pores are so large and open that it is said that a person can blow into one end of the wood, and air will come out the other end: provided that the grain runs straight enough. (See the video below.)

Endgrain: Ring-porous; 2-4 rows of large, exclusively solitary earlywood pores, numerous small latewood pores in radial arrangement; tyloses absent; growth rings distinct; rays large and visible without lens; apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates (short lines between rays).

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable, with poor insect resistance. Stains when in contact with water (particularly along the porous growth ring areas). Red Oaks do not have the level of decay and rot resistance that White Oaks possess.

Workability: Produces good results with hand and machine tools. Has moderately high shrinkage values, resulting in mediocre dimensional stability, especially in flatsawn boards. Can react with iron (particularly when wet) and cause staining and discoloration. Responds well to steam-bending. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: Has a tell-tale smell that is common to most oaks. Most find it appealing.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, oak has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation, as well as asthma-like symptoms. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Abundant availability in a good range of widths and thicknesses, both as flatsawn and quartersawn lumber. Usually slightly less expensive than White Oak, prices are moderate for a domestic hardwood, though thicker planks or quartersawn boards are slightly more expensive.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Cabinetry, furniture, interior trim, flooring, and veneer.

Comments: Arguably the most popular hardwood in the United States, Red Oak is a ubiquitous sight in many homes. Even many vinyl/imitation wood surfaces are printed to look like Red Oak. Hard, strong, and moderately priced, Red Oak presents an exceptional value to woodworkers—which explains why it is so widely used in cabinet and furniture making.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: You can see from the picture below that the color of Red Oak looks almost identical, though slightly darker, with sanding sealer applied. However, the grain and pores become much more pronounced if a pigment stain is used.

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Red Oak (sanded)

Red Oak (sealed)
Red Oak (sealed)

Red Oak (endgrain)
Red Oak (endgrain)

Red Oak (endgrain 10x)
Red Oak (endgrain 10x)
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Fabian

should I stain this type of wood to a darker tone?

Rick

You can stain to any color you would like, but there are some types that the lighter the stain, the better they look like mahogany, cedar, red oak, ash, teak, cherry, walnut, rosewood, etc etc. it also depends on the colour of the wood, some are like white pine or some maple, that a spike with medium stain would make it look a lot nicer.

John H

Found several pieces of wood in the rafters of my garage when I purchased the house. Can you help identify?

Timberframer

Would like to knife a small area and smell it, since from a 1000 miles away it looks like Black Walnut to me.

Rick Rosado

No need to knife a piece, just sand it with a 200 or 250 and warm the wood up that way and you will be able to smell it

Brian J. Baumgartner

Looks like quartersawn black walnut.

emon

can anyone help me identify my wooden floor? I dont know what types of wood is this i.e. Oak, maple, pine etc.

appreciate it

Louis

its oak.

Austin Kubin

Hi I had a question about something I’m building with red oak. I was wondering if I have a 1 x 15 board for a tv stand across 5ft across, would I need a support half way to keep it from bowing? The tv is about 50lbs

Rick Rosado

With that thickness, you should be ok, put the legs six inches in from the heads of the board, considering that your tv is not the old heavy ones rather the thin modern ones.
Also at least, clear coat it all around so it does not pick up humidity.

Rick Rosado

I read now the weight you posted, definitely you would need table like support, I mean aprons etc. because otherwise, over time, it will bow.

Scot59

Let’s face it, some of use just plain like the hue of it and the historic use of red oak it a favorite of some of us. Built a warm rifle rack with antler mounts for a Hawken rifle I built . Gave it ghe 100 year treatment and Tung oil. The red came shining thru.

Martin

Mark I very much agree with you

asadefa

I think red oak (Q. Rubra) in particular is overrated and pathetic

Walker Riley

Why

asadefa

because WHY BOTHER WITH RED OAK WHEN THERE IS WHITE OAK??!! Red oak”s rot resistance is non durable to perishable, whereas white oak is very durable. White oak also has a higher Janka hardness!

mark

Well, red oak has some qualities of better to work with. It’s easier to cut, plane and has a deeper look to it qtr. Sawn that is.
It’s a fine wood to work with when your building indoor furniture or milling trim.
It’s also about 50 cents per nd foot.. considerable savings when you run a shop like me.
I do love white too. I would use real for outside projects tho.
Or just a good pine.. firs or lodgepoll ..

Rick Rosado

White oak is not as hardy as red oak and it does not look as nice. Red oak is the preferred choice for fine furniture making for a reason, of course it is not like amazon mahogany or cedar but it has a beautiful grain, easy to stain and lacquer, etc etc. If you do it right and being sure to deal with a dry oak with no more than 4% humidity, seal the pores etc, you will find out. It is true that is less stable but there are techniques to compensate that. It is a very good wood… Read more »

mark

I like red..
Not for outside, but what craftsman uses oak outside.
Teak is affordable and has better resistance I experience..

Joseph Palas

I don’t know what century you are living in, but Teak is not affordable and hasn’t been for some time. Teak is the gold standard of weather resistance so yes, it is durable.

As a teak Subsitute, try Iroko (Milicia excelsa) called “African Teak” – still pricey but usually less than half the bd/ft price of true teak. Fir and redwood wears well outdoors, but White oak will outlast any softwood (maybe save old growth redwood heartwood, but thats debatable).

Red oak is great for indoor woodwork, I agree.

Austin Abbott

Eastern aromatic will way outlast white oak amd will even come close to teak.

Rick Rosado

Teak is an excellent wood for many purposes, very stable and resistant.
It grows in tropical weather so that is also another reason
for its high price. It is not as available as it used to be

Rick Rosado

I know, some people like Ikea only