Red Oak: A Flooring Favorite
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 10/03/2013 2:00PM
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Quercus rubra and other Quercus species of the red oak group of the Family Fagaceae
Red oak, Northern and Southern red oak, American red oak, black oak, buck oak, Canadian red oak, gray oak, eastern red oak, leopard oak, Maine red oak, mountain red oak, Spanish oak, spotted oak, swamp red oak, water oak, West Virginia soft red oak.
Oaks can grow to heights of 126 feet. Weight varies from 41-48 pounds per cubic foot. It has a Janka hardness rating of 1290.
• There is fairly high shrinkage in drying and medium movement in service, comparable to white oak.
• Red oak has a medium bending strength and stiffness, with high crushing strength.
• The wood can have a tendency to blunt cutting surfaces. Nailing may require pre-boring. The wood does stain well. An American classic, red oak is enjoying a great run for domestic flooring, and its use on the world stage is bright and growing.
“Red oak is very strong for residential plank flooring, especially quarter-sawn red oak,” said Andy Johnson, regional editor of the Hardwood Review. Johnson cited a recent survey by the National Wood Flooring Assn. which found distributors sold more red oak and white oak flooring in 2012 and less hard maple.
“Red oak’s market share climbed from 31 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2012, while white oak jumped from 19 percent to 24 percent, which puts the combined market share of oaks above 60 percent. In addition, red oak exports have been exploding this year due to an increase in shipments to Asia and Europe,” Johnson said.
Ang Schramm, director of technical services at Columbia Forest Products also noted that while red and white oaks are “durable, easy to work, very finishable and produce beautiful furniture and cabinetry,” there has been a decline in their usage for these markets.
“Oak seems to have drifted in favor in the last decade as maple has established itself as the more common species, but it is still in demand, especially in architectural millwork and other high end applications,” Schramm added.
Osborne Wood Products Lane Taylor, marketing assistant at Osborne Wood Products, said red oak is one of the many species used for the company’s wood components, such as table legs, furniture feet, corbels, and more. Osborne’s website describes red oak as very hard, heavy and strong, but given its density it is actually fairly easy to work.
“Red oak turns, carves and bends well and it has excellent sanding and finishing characteristics along with great stability,” said Taylor. “It works with a variety of styles. Some customers prefer it in classic designs and it’s often used by restoring older homes.”
Red oak has a nearly white sapwood, with the heartwood typically brown with a tinge of red. Both red and white oak lumber can be used in many of the same products, though red oak is not recommended for tight cooperage due to the lack of tyloses. Both red and white oak also can be quartersawn and they work well in a variety of styles including Shaker, Mission and contemporary styles.
About the Author
Jo-Ann KaiserJo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.