Most experts in the hardwood lumber industry will tell you that not all red oak is the same.
For many reasons, most people will categorize red oak into two general classes. Northern red oak and southern red oak and in our opinion they truly are different. When we refer to northern red oak we are referring to lumber from the Quercus rubra family. This is typically found in the hardwood forests stretching from Southern Canada to Tennessee. When we refer to southern red oak, (a.k.a. pin oak, Spanish oak or scarlet oak) we are referring to the species of Quercus falcate which is mostly found the southeastern states spanning from Mississippi to South Carolina.
Many of our manufacturing and distribution customers have a noticeable preference for one type of red oak versus the other because of their specific needs or application. For example, Northern Red Oak, because of the shorter growing season and fewer native species variants, is known to have tighter growth rings and better color consistency. So for applications that require those special red oak characteristics Northern is their preferred choice. In addition, the size and quality of the logs also enable sawmills to cut thicker stock which means you are more likely to see Northern Red Oak used when thicker lumber is required such as doors.
On the other hand, Southern Red Oak, because of its longer growing season, can typically be attractive to customers that require larger average lengths and widths. Many of our moulding and millwork customers have requested southern red oak material for this very reason.
Both classifications of red oak can be of high quality. The distinction to be made here is that you should work with a supplier who strives to understand your specific needs and applications and provides you the lumber that would work best for you. Let us know if our team of lumber traders would be able to help you with any of your red oak needs. They understand the difference between the red oak species and when they work best!