Oak and walnut woods are two of the most popular hardwoods you’ll find. These can be used for a variety of projects whether you’re constructing a new piece of furniture or you’re planning on installing some new floors.
But when you compare oak vs walnut, there are a few differences to be aware of that can make or break your decision.
In this post, I’ll compare oak vs walnut so you can have a good idea of which wood is best for your project. Let’s dig in!
- Oak and walnut wood are both strong, durable woods that can last for decades when maintained. While oak is slightly stronger – both are considered hardwoods and are perfect for all different types of projects.
- The key difference between oak vs walnut is the color and appearance of each wood. Oak comes in a light brown or red color, while walnut often has a darker tone. Both feature beautiful grain patterns that look amazing.
- If you’re buying furniture – both of these woods are extremely strong and I would highly recommend either of them.
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Oak vs Walnut Key Differences
Color & Appearance
One of the main differences between oak and walnut wood is the color and appearance of each wood.
Oak wood comes in a variety of colors depending on which type of wood you’re looking at. For example, white oak will come in a lighter shade whereas red oak has a red tinge.
Walnut comes in a darker brown color that can contrast a white colored room extremely well. Just like with oak, there are several types of walnut wood including American black walnut, English walnut, and a few others.
Additionally, the wood grain of each wood has a slightly different look.
With oak wood, you’ll often find a straight grain that’s somewhat uneven. With walnut wood, it’s common to have a somewhat curvy grain pattern.
While I wouldn’t say that one wood species is better than the other in terms of looks and appearance, it’s worth considering when deciding which is best for your project.
If you want something lighter with a prominent grain – oak is a great choice. If you want something with a dark brown color – walnut is the wood for you.
Strength and Durability
Because both of these woods are hardwoods, they’re going to be extremely strong and last for decades if maintained.
Overall oak wood is a slightly more strong and durable wood than walnut.
Both white oak and red oak wood have a rating of over 1,250 on the Janka hardness scale where walnut wood has a rating of 1,010.
While this isn’t the “end all be all” when talking about strength, I’ve found that it’s usually a pretty good indicator.
However, because a wood is stronger, doesn’t always mean it’s a better choice!
You’ll also want to consider the “workability” of a wood, or how easy it is to shape and use for projects. Because oak wood is more dense and strong, it’s much more difficult to shape how you need it to – which can be a pain.
Unfortunately, no matter what kind of wood you use for your project, there’s going to be some maintenance involved down the road.
That said, because both of these woods are strong and durable, there won’t be nearly as much when compared to softer woods.
As for cleaning, both types of woods are pretty simple to maintain. You can just wipe away any dust or debris with a clean cloth.
As for longer term maintenance, again, both woods are pretty straightforward. You’ll want to refinish them every 5 to 10 years depending on how they’re used.
The main difference between oak vs walnut when it comes to maintenance is any repairs. Because walnut wood is slightly softer than oak, it will dent and scratch easier – meaning you’ll have to repair it more than oak wood.
For this reason, I’d say that oak is slightly better in terms of overall maintenance, but not by a ton.
Depending on what you’re building, water resistance could be a deciding factor in determine which wood you go with.
For example, outdoor furniture will require additional water resistance to maximize its lifespan and integrity.
While both oak and walnut wood are great when it comes to water resistance, oak is slightly better.
That said, both walnut and oak wood can be finished and sealed for additional water resistance, but naturally – oak is going to be the better option.
When comparing oak vs walnut in terms of cost – both are going to be some of the more expensive woods that you’ll come across.
Despite being a stronger, denser wood – oak is often less expensive than walnut because of the larger supply available.
Because oak trees are widely found throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia they come with a lower price tag.
That said, there’s going to be variation in pricing depending on several factors. For example, some walnut species might be less expensive than other oak species depending on your location and the store you’re shopping at. I’ve found that it’s best to check pricing ahead of time when purchasing lumber so you don’t have to make an on the spot decision.
When to Use Oak Wood
Oak wood is one of the most popular choices when it comes to hardwood flooring for several reasons.
First, oak flooring is a great choice because of its durability and strength to withstand the daily beating that floors takes. Because it’s harder, it’s more difficult to scratch or dent than other types of woods.
Second, the straight grain pattern and variety of colors give you plenty of options to match the aesthetic you’re going after.
Finally, the longevity of this wood means you won’t have to replace your floors every few years like you would with some cheaper woods.
Oak is also an amazing wood for furniture of all types. Oak furniture can last for decades because of its durability and I love the looks of its straight grain. I also love the ability to customize the color of your furniture because of the different color variations that oak offers.
For example, if you want something with red tones, go with red oak. If you want a light colored wood, go with white oak.
Finally, because of its superior water resistance, oak is an excellent choice for outdoor furniture like Adirondack chairs, wood benches, and other pieces of furniture.
Just like with furniture, oak is also a great choice for cabinetry. When you combine its durability and water resistance, it’s pretty easy to see why it’s so commonly used for cabinets. And just like with furniture, you can get the color you want by using different kinds of oak, depending on your desires.
Oak is also a great choice for doors because of it’s strength and appearance. If you want a luxurious feel to your home, solid wood doors can be an easy (but expensive!) way to add some character and style to your home.
Wondering the differences between each oak species? Check out the video below!
Pros of Oak Wood
- Extremely durable and strong wood that will last for decades
- Amazing appearance with several color varieties including light brown and red
- Can be stained or coated with polyurethane to accentuate the wood grain
- Widely available throughout the US
Cons of Oak Wood
- One of the more expensive woods you can buy (although cheaper than walnut)
- Because of it’s strength, it’s more difficult to work with
- Extremely heavy wood, which can make transporting it difficult
When to Use Walnut Wood
Walnut wood is often used to make many different types of furniture. Because of how strong this wood is and the beauty of its natural grain – walnut wood is an ideal wood for furniture.
While walnut flooring isn’t quite as popular as oak flooring, it’s a better option than softer woods that can’t withstand the foot traffic that floors receive.
Just like with oak, walnut flooring is popular because of the different color options you can find in addition to the durability and longevity.
If you’re interested in wood carving, walnut is a tremendous choice because you get the best of both worlds. You’ll get a pretty strong wood but it’s also workable enough so you can complete your carving precisely how you want it.
Similar to carving, walnut is often used to make musical instruments for the same reasons. This wood will last for decades and you can shape it exactly how you need making it an excellent choice.
Want more info on using walnut wood? Check out the video below!
Pros of Walnut Wood
- Beautiful grain pattern and slightly darker appearance
- Durable wood that can last for decades (although not quite as strong as oak)
- Easier to work with and shape
Cons of Walnut Wood
- One of the more expensive woods you can find
- Not quite as durable as oak wood
Is oak a hardwood?
Yes, oak is considered a hardwood because of its strength the type of tree that produces this wood. Oak trees are angiosperm, deciduous trees that offer some of the densest wood you can find.
Is walnut a hardwood?
Yes, walnut wood is considered a hardwood because of its profound strength and the type of tree that produces it. Walnut trees are deciduous trees that produce some of the strongest woods you can buy.
Is oak cheaper than walnut?
Yes, in many cases oak wood is cheaper than walnut because it’s more widely available. The larger supply often offers lower prices, but it will depend on the type of oak, the store you buy from, and several other factors.
When comparing walnut vs oak, you’ll notice that there are a lot of similarities. But there are a few differences as well.
The right type of wood for your project will depend on a few factors.
For example, if you need something with maximum strength – go with oak wood. However, if you need something that’s easier to work with and has a darker color – go with walnut.
Ultimately, both of these woods are great for woodworking projects, flooring, furniture making, and any other wood projects you can imagine. You can’t go wrong with either of them.