Red Oak

Red oak (Quercus rubra)

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: 43.8 lbs/ft3 (700 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.56, 0.7

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%, 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. Paler sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Quartersawn sections display prominent ray fleck patterns (see images below).  White oak (Quercus alba) tends to have a slightly more olive cast (as opposed to red), but color alone isn’t always 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.)

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable, with poor insect resistance. Can become discolored and stained when in contact with water, particularly in the porous growth ring areas. Red oak does not have the level of decay and rot resistance that white oak possesses.

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, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

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. Handsome, 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.

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. There is also a second quartersawn sample to help show the ray fleck pattern.

Red oak (segmented turning)

Identification: See the article on Hardwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

Red oak (endgrain 10x)
Red oak (endgrain 1x)

Porosity: ring porous

Arrangement: exclusively solitary earlywood pores in rows of two to four, latewood pores in radial/dendritic arrangement

Vessels: very large in earlywood, small in latewood; tyloses absent or scarce

Parenchyma: diffuse-in-aggregates

Rays: narrow and very wide, normal spacing

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Besides being confused with white oak (see notes below), oak species in general are sometimes confused with other ring-porous hardwoods like chestnut (Castanea genus) and ash (Fraxinus genus). But oak species have very wide rays which make them easy to separate from other ring-porous woods, which generally have narrower rays.

Notes: Red oak heartwood lacks tyloses (small, bubble-like structures), while species of white oak have abundant tyloses that can be seen in the large earlywood pores. Additionally, ray height, when viewed on the face grain, tends to be shorter on red oak (rarely exceeding one inch in length). See the article on distinguishing red and white oak for more details. 

Related Content:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I am wondering what this type of figuring inoak is called? I was told it is “bird’s eye oak” but I can’t find any information on that.

Cody p

Kind of Oak do you think this is there are three different boards in this post one I have no clue the second one is like a insanely curly Oak I don’t know what kind and the third one I got from a deceased carpenter’s shop and he had it labeled as well Oak


Could you please help me identify the species of this hardwood? House was built in 60’s & I’m trying to match for renovation.


Hello, I’ve recently had big problems with a deck building “friend”. Ignoring the quality of the deck, I’ve also been told that he may not be using cedar like he said, and that it may be oak. Could anyone please tell me what they believe this type of wood is?


Thank you so much, Eric! Sorry for another question, but is there any reason why this wood is splitting so severely? It’s only been up for a couple weeks and lots of pieces have split very deeply.


Thanks for all your help to everyone! I have a general question: I have 120 year old red oak floors that you helped me identify. It’s mostly plain sawn, but every tenth board or so looks to be quarter sawn (This section has a few more pieces of quartersawn than usual). Was this pretty standard back in the day to just have a mix of cuts in flooring?


Is there any way you can help me identify what kinda wood this is


Could it be mahogany of some sort

Kai Tam

I am currently working with padauk, you are correct, it is padauk.
The sapwood is pale yellow for padauk.


I’ve bought pieces of padauk with sapwood edges and this looks exactly like that. I’ve never seen so much sapwood though. One sniff after a fresh cut and it is instantly recognizable too!

Dan Doupovec

I planted one here in 2011 Calgary Alberta, Canada. I didn’t think oaks could even survive in our climate. Boy was I wrong! If you take care-of it it will do well. From 5 feet tall it is now 20 tall. A nice specimen. Global warming i guess.

Patricia Joubert

I recently bought some “Stickley” furniture that I know is relatively modern on eBay,from two different sites. Both sites claim red tiger stripe solid oak. I don’t see how to take a picture here to send with this. on the arms I see horizontal kind of flame like marks, but also just very straight vertical grain. I am thinking the wood may be maple or something else after I have looked at your samples. I thought maybe you could extrapolate from this what modern Stickley may be made of. Do you have any opinion about modern made Stickley furniture? I… Read more »

Patricia Joubert

Thank you. I see. Ok, I will do that!

Patricia Joubert

Did you receive my pictures! I tried to post them.

Patricia Joubert

These are the bow arm chair and couch I bought. The brighter pictures are the couch. Thanks for the help!

Patricia Joubert

Thanks so much. At least I know that much about this furniture now. Good help!

Patricia Joubert

Oh, I forgot. I don’t suppose you can tell by those pictures if it is red or white oak?


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


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?


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.


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


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.


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.


Mark I very much agree with you


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

Walker Riley



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!


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 »


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