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White Oak vs Red Oak Cabinets: Uncover Pros and Cons

by Gary Wade • January 09, 2024


Selecting the perfect wood species for your kitchen cabinets can be a daunting task, especially when there are numerous high-quality options available. Two types of wood that are often under consideration are red oak and white oak. But how do you know which one is the right fit for your kitchen? This article will delve into the distinct characteristics of both types of wood, shedding light on their unique qualities and how they measure up against each other.

Understanding Red Oak and White Oak

Contrary to common belief, red oak and white oak are more than just different shades of wood. They are distinct species of wood, each with its own set of characteristics. Both belong to the oak family, but their qualities can greatly vary, making them suitable for different applications.

Red Oak vs Whit Oak Cabinets

Appearance - Red Oak vs White Oak Cabinets

The appearance of the material is a critical factor for most homeowners when selecting kitchen cabinets. Red oak exhibits a rich, reddish hue, accompanied by a straight grain pattern. On the other hand, white oak has a lighter shade with slight pink and purple hues. Both types of oak present a natural and unique aesthetic, with each slab varying slightly, adding to their overall beauty.

Design Styles

White oak, fits well in a modern design style due to its tight, linear grain pattern. Red oak, however, is traditionally considered more classic. Nonetheless, it can also be effectively utilized in a modern design style.

Durability - Red Oak vs White Oak Cabinets

The Janka Hardness Scale is a measurement that determines a wood species' resistance to denting or wear. Red oak and white oak are quite similar on this scale, indicating that they are both highly durable, especially for kitchen cabinet use. Red oak scores 1290 lbf (pound-force), while white oak registers 1360 lbf, demonstrating their high resistance to dents or scratches.

White Oak vs Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets

Unique Durability Characteristics

White oak's unique characteristic is its rot-resistance, making it a versatile wood often used outdoors. This resistance also makes white oak highly suitable for kitchen cabinets, providing durability in a moisture-rich environment.

The Impact of Cabinet Finishes on Red Oak and White Oak

When comparing the two oak species, it is important to distinguish which finishing options are better suited to each. Both red and white oak have similar textures, making neither one more suitable for a painted or stained finish than the other. Red oak can be painted, producing a textured surface on a painted cabinet, while white oak is typically chosen for its natural aesthetic and is often stained rather than painted.

Staining Preferences

Stains adhere beautifully to both types of wood. Red oak can take anything from a clear coat to a dark stain, while white oak is usually paired with gentler stains to showcase its light, natural color.

Cabinets White Oak vs Red Oak

Cost Implications - Red Oak vs White Oak Cabinets

Generally, white oak is more expensive than red oak, primarily due to the lower availability of white oak trees. However, the cost also depends on the wood grade, market conditions, and the manufacturer.

Impact of Finish on Cost

The type of finish applied to the cabinets also influences the overall cost. Painted cabinets tend to be 10% to 15% more expensive than stained ones due to the increased labor involved in the painting process and the cost of high-end cabinet paints.

Making the Right Choice - Red Oak or White Oak Cabinets?

The choice between red oak and white oak cabinets primarily depends on your personal style preference and budget. If you desire a slightly darker and more traditional look, red oak may be the better choice. However, if you prefer a lighter color and a more contemporary aesthetic, rift-cut white oak cabinets could be the ideal choice for your kitchen.

Kitchen Cabinets Red Oak vs White Oak

Design with Expertise

Whether you choose red oak or white oak, working with an experienced kitchen design expert is crucial. They can guide you through the process, ensuring that you make the right choice based on your budget, style preferences, and lifestyle.

Choosing White Oak vs Red Oak Cabinets

While both red oak and white oak cabinets have their unique advantages, the final decision depends on your personal preference, budget, and kitchen design. Both types of wood offer a beautiful, natural appearance, and a high level of durability, making them excellent choices for kitchen cabinets. By understanding the differences between red oak and white oak, you can make an informed decision and choose the perfect material for your dream kitchen.


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