According to the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, oak wood is timber or lumber from the evergreen or deciduous oak tree, which belongs to the genus Quercus. Over 500 varieties of oak wood are found worldwide. It is a type of hardwood that has been used for many centuries because of its availability and favourable inherent qualities as a building material.
Each variety of oak wood, such as white oak and red oak, has its own distinct grain and texture. The assortment and complexity of patterns on the wood give it an appearance other hardwoods, like cherry or maple, can’t match. Oak can display prominent rings, vertical strips, wavy figures, intermittent flecks, ray-like projections or any combination of these patterns. Oak wood comes in white, red, brown or pink. In addition, it is possible to artificially stain oak wood to give it an aged look.
Oak wood is strong, hard and very resistant to moisture and the elements. Builders and carpenters prefer it for building support beams and foundations of buildings because of its durability. Many historical houses and buildings built from oak during the 1800s still stand over a century later. Oak also has been a favourite of shipbuilders of old because of its incredible strength and resistance to rot and decay. According to the Janka Wood Hardness Scale, oak wood is harder than pine, teak, birch and cedar; this is one reason why it is preferred when making furniture.
There are a myriad of uses for oak wood as a building material. Furniture like cabinets and grandfather clocks are given a more rustic, traditional look by using oak over poplar or birch. Because it is relatively flexible and tough, oak wood is also used as flooring. For boat building, it’s impermeability to water makes it more suitable than most other hardwoods. According to the New York Times, oak wood is also a choice in making wine barrels to alter the taste, flavour, aroma and texture of the wine.
Unlike dwindling types of wood such as Brazilian mahogany, teak, American walnut and Spanish cedar, most supplies of oak wood come from sustainable forests. The longevity of hardwood prevents it from being replaced by other woods or modern materials like steel and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is cost-efficient compared to more expensive but similarly durable woods like teak and mahogany. The processing of oak wood timber is also relatively straightforward, usually not needing to undergo industrial reprocessing and chemical treatment which is harmful to the environment. Old oak wood slabs can be reused or recycled for other purposes.