Species of the Week: White Oak

Our Species of the Week this Week is White Oak!

American white oak is one of the most popular species from the U.S. hardwood forests in export markets – and is unique to North America.

White oaks have an attractive grain, similar to many other oaks grown globally. In general the sapwood of white oak is whitish to light brown and the heartwood is normally light to mid or even dark brown. The difference between the sapwood and heartwood of white oak is less distinct than in red oak. The wood of white oaks is mainly straight-grained with medium to coarse texture.

The wood is figured with medullary rays – a feature of all true (Quercus) oaks – and these in white oak are longer than those of red oak; thus producing a more pronounced figure. The heartwood wood is not porous, so is suitable for wine barrels and exterior use.

This sustainably managed wood 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 and mouldings and kitchen cabinets. It is also used in certain applications for construction, including structural glue-laminated beams, and other specialist applications.

White oak lumber machines well, with good performance in nailing and screwing, although pre-boring is recommended. It glues well (although the inclusion of primers are recommended for structural gluing) and can be stained and polished to a very good finish. The wood has to be dried slowly and carefully to avoid degrade and it has high differential radial and tangential shrinkage so can be susceptible to movement in performance in humid conditions. It has excellent drilling and finishing properties.

The heartwood is resistant to decay and resistant to preservative treatment.

American white oaks have excellent overall strength properties relative to weight, making them a preferred hardwood species for structural applications. The wood is hard and relatively heavy with good bending strength and compression strength but lower in stiffness. Structural testing carried out in Europe confirms that the white oak has greater inherent fibre strength than European oak. It has excellent steam bending capability. Being hard, stable when dry and easy to finish and stain, it is highly popular for furniture and flooring, especially in export markets.

White oak trees grow exclusively in North America and are widely distributed throughout most of the eastern United States in mixed hardwood forests. As with red oak there are many sub-species, all within the white oak classification, and together form the most common species group accounting for about 33% of the American hardwood resource.

The trees are tall and easily identified by their rounded leaf form, turning brown in the fall. White oaks also 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 white oaks depending on location, in particular between the slower grown northern and faster grown southern trees. As with red oaks, they are regarded as sustainable for both domestic andexport consumption. Also referred to as northern white oak and southern white oak.

**Information pulled from americanhardwood.org.


Solid White Oak Hardwood (Caramel) by Mullican Hardwood Flooring.

Solid White Oak Hardwood (Gunstock) by Mullican Hardwood Flooring.

Solid White Oak Hardwood (Dark Chocolate) by Mullican Hardwood Flooring.

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