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What is Red Oak Lumber?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Red oak lumber includes wood boards, beams, and other construction materials which are made from solid red oak wood. When red oak is used as lumber it is generally used for indoor framing because it is not rot-resistant and may stain when exposed to water over time. Treated red oak lumber may be used for making fence posts, although they will likely need to be replaced periodically even with water resistant treatments.

The trees that produce red oak lumber are highly varied and include an array of red oaks. They are widely available across North America, making them some of the most easily acquired trees for building purposes. Red oak is considered a strong wood that is sturdy enough for long-lasting use, although non-treated wood must be carefully maintained in order to prevent damage both inside and out. When the wood is used indoors, it is important not to use water for cleaning.

Red oak lumber is also a prime wood material for making furniture because it is generally easy to work with, comes in both hard and soft wood types, and is easy to stain when compared with other wood varieties. It is also sometimes pliable when bent with steam to form decorative items during the building process.

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The red oak grows in both southern and northern regions, and each area provides different benefits to the wood. Red oak lumber from up north tends to be harder and stronger, making it better for framing and construction use. Southern oaks are often softer but more easily manipulated and bent. Their colors are also different: southern oaks tend to be darker and more red in color, hence the name.

Since red oak lumber is acquired from trees, it is considered a slowly renewable resource. While oaks do grow back and can be replaced, hardwoods take many years to reach maturity, so milling can take a toll on the environment more quickly than with other resources, such as bamboo. There are modern growing methods which speed up the process of replacing the trees, but this often compromises the quality of the wood. As a result, some red oak, primarily that grown in southern regions, may be more likely to splinter or crack.

Red oak lumber can be found at most home improvement stores and purchased in various lengths and sizes. When looking for quality lumber, one should check to ensure there is no warping, stains, peels, cracks, or splinters. Wood should be stored in a dry location that is neither too hot and humid or too cool. To find the best option for a particular project, sales staff should be knowledgeable on the types of cuts. There are also many books on nearly any home improvement project.

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