Species of the Week: Red Oak

Species of the Week: Red Oak!

American red oak is the dominant species in the U.S. hardwood forests – with distinctive grain, and wood that is not always red in colour. The name comes from the leaf colour in the fall. Red oak may be sold on the basis of ‘northern’, ‘southern’ and ‘Appalachian’.

In general the sapwood of red oaks is light brown and the heartwood is often, but not always, pinkish to reddish brown. The colour difference between the sapwood and heart wood is quite distinct. The wood of red oaks is generally straight-grained and coarse textured.

The wood is figured with medullary rays – a feature of all true (Quercus) oaks – smaller in red oak than white oak. The wood is porous, and easily identified from the end grain, so not suitable for wine barrels. Other common names include northern red oak and southern red oak.

Red oak lumber machines well, with good performance in nailing and screwing, although pre-boring is recommended. It glues well and can be stained and polished to a very good finish. Being porous, red oak absorbs all treatments. The wood dries best slowly to minimise degrade, but with high shrinkage and can be susceptible to movement in performance in humid conditions. The wood is rated as slightly resistant to heartwood decay, but moderately easy to treat with preservatives. This makes red oak suitable for being thermally modified.

This sustainably managed species group from natural forests of North America, with excellent environmental credentials, is a key species in many export markets. Its main uses are in furniture, flooring, doors, architectural joinery, mouldings and kitchen cabinets. It is also used in certain applications for construction.

Red oak trees grow only naturally and almost exclusively in North America, although planted elsewhere. They are widely distributed throughout most of the eastern United States in mixed hardwood forests. The trees are very tall.

There are many sub-species, all within the red oak classification, which grow from north to south; some high in the mountains and others on low land giving rise to different characteristics. Thus there are significant variations in red oaks depending on location, in particular between the slower grown northern and faster grown southern trees. Red oaks are regarded as highly sustainable for both domestic and export consumption and, being the largest species group, are more abundant than the white oaks.

*All information has been pulled from americanhardwood.org.


The Ludo Stool, in American red oak. Designed by Matteo Thun for RIVA 1920.

The Wall Street bookcase, in American red oak, designed by Maurizio Riva. Manufactured by RIVA 1920.

The Ludo Stool, in American red oak. Designed by Terry Dwan for RIVA 1920.

1 Comment so far

  1. by Deangelo Benage

    On August 28, 2019 at 5:44 amem>

    Appreciate it for sharing the information with us.

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