Walnut vs Oak – A Quick Guide to Help You Choose

Walnut and oak are two common types of wood that can be used to make high-quality products. Both types of wood are attractive, have a lovely hue, and are long-lasting. You can use walnut or oak for a variety of uses to achieve a fashionable and unique appearance. But which option is ideal for your project? What are you meant to do if you can’t decide between walnut and oak?

When comparing oak and walnut, it’s clear that both are long-lasting woods, with oak scoring somewhat higher on the hardness scale. Walnut, on the other hand, is darker than oak but also more costly. Walnut has a finer grain than oak, which has swirls that are quite visible.

It’s not easy to choose between walnut vs oak, especially because they’re both quite pricey woods. As a result, you don’t want to squander money by choosing the incorrect wood. That is why it is beneficial to read this article in order to gain a thorough understanding of the distinctions between these two types of wood and so be able to make an informed decision.

Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.

What is oak wood

Oak is a coarse-grained hardwood that comes in two colors: red and white. Red oak (Quercus rubra) features a swirling, fluid grain pattern and a pinkish-red to light brown tint. Tiger stripes in various colors of yellow run through the grain of white oak (Quercus alba).

Oak is a strong wood that, depending on how it is cut, is resistant to warping. The wood grain will stand out well when treated properly. Oak, on the other hand, is prone to staining, which might result in a two-toned wooden surface.

This hardwood is derived from the oak tree, which is widespread in the Northern Hemisphere. There are over 600 different oak species, with both deciduous and evergreen types. The majority of these trees are native to North America and have been utilized for thousands of years as lumber.

It can take a long time for an oak to be ready for harvesting for construction, perhaps up to 20 or 30 years. Oaks can’t be cut and used until they’re 150 years old in some circumstances. Oak is a sturdy, substantial, and long-lasting light-colored wood that many people choose because of its durability.

What is oak used for

Oak is commonly used for furniture, joinery, floors, paneling, and veneers due to its durability and appealing wood grain. Another key benefit of using oak is that the wood is not susceptible to warping.

Advantages of oak wood

  • sustainable wood
  • attractive wood grain
  • less likely to warp when exposed to sunlight
  • very resistant to wear
  • good water-repellent properties
  • Easy to maintain

Disadvantages of oak wood

  • High tannin content, as well as exposure to damp and cold conditions, can cause oil finishes to react.
  • Finishes can react with the adhesive used in the veneering process, making thin oak veneers difficult to maintain.

What is walnut wood

Walnuts have a straight grain and vary in color from yellow to chocolate brown depending on where they are harvested from the tree. It’s best to oil Walnut to bring out its natural color. Walnut is a robust and solid wood that may also be sliced. It is, nevertheless, far more expensive than oak. Furthermore, some people dislike the stark contrast between the dark and light in this wood.

Walnut is known for its rich, dark color and fine grain. It polishes nicely and can be stained in a variety of colors and tints. The color of the wood also varies a lot, providing you a lot of options when it comes to blending it in with the surroundings.

Walnut comes in wide varieties, but the main type of walnut found in the US is the Eastern Black Walnut, which most woodworkers prefer for their projects.

What is walnut wood used for

Black walnut (Juglans nigra) is well-known for its dark-colored wood with appealing grain patterns. It is a dense and sturdy wood, making it a popular choice among woodworkers for high-end furniture and construction. Walnut is used to make musical instruments, carvings, ornaments, and veneers, among other things.

Advantages of walnut wood

  • sustainable wood
  • attractive wood grain
  • very resistant to wear
  • stains and polishes well

Disadvantages of walnut wood

  • very heavy wood
  • can bleach when exposed to the sun
  • Walnut wood is toxic, more must see details in my article, is walnut wood toxic
Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

Walnut vs oak

Walnut vs Oak color

Walnut is an attractive natural wood with a striking brown to dark brown color. Walnuts range in color from light brown to a deep, dark chocolate brown, depending on the cultivar.

The color of oak, on the other hand, is light to medium brown with reddish undertones.

Solid timbers can darken or brighten in color over time as a result of the natural aging process. The aging process, on the other hand, differs depending on the wood species.

Red oak, for example, keeps its color for a long time. It may, however, fade gradually with time and begin to lose some of its color.

The aging process of walnut, on the other hand, is much more visible. The rich, dark brown color of walnut naturally lightens over time, which is a key aging characteristic.

Walnut vs Oak: Appearance

The color difference between walnut vs oak makes it easy to recognize the two species of wood. You could see that above. Furthermore, the grain of walnut is much tighter than that of oak. Walnut has a more faint grain than oak, which has some fairly noticeable swirls.

Unlike walnut or other woods, the oak’s distinctive grain pattern allows it to disguise daily wear and tear much easier. It also contributes to oak’s popularity as a material for projects that are subject to wear and tear, whereas walnut is excellent for furniture.

You can see the differences between walnut vs oak in greater depth by looking at the images below. Walnut is on the left, whereas oak is on the right.

Walnut vs Oak: Strength & Durability

Walnut and oak are two of the best materials for constructing superb furniture when it comes to strength and longevity. Oak and walnut woods are the way to go for cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and tables.

The durability class describes how long a piece of wood can survive and how resistant it is to environmental damage. Durability is not the same as wood hardness, which I will explore in more detail later in this post, but hardness does have an impact on durability.

The durability of wood is classified into five classes, with class 5 being the least durable and class 1 being the most durable. More information is available in my article, A Clear Guide To Durability Classes Of Wood + Chart.

Oak is a little more durable timber than walnut. Oak is one of the most resilient and robust natural woods available. Oak is classified as a durability class 2 wood, which indicates it will last for 15 to 25 years.

The durability class of walnut wood is 3, which is slightly lower than that of oak. This indicates that the durability ranges between 10 and 15 years.

However, when the wood is stored in ordinary conditions, durability is simply a guideline. The wood can survive longer if it is properly maintained and kept in an appropriate condition (humidity, temperature, etc.).

Walnut vs Oak: Cost

There is a significant price difference between these two varieties of wood for numerous reasons.
Because oak is more widespread in the United States, it is usually easier to locate. Because oak is frequently less expensive than walnut, it is more widely used.

Another explanation is that walnut grows at a slower rate than oak and is, therefore, less common. As a result, walnut has a lesser supply than oak. If you’re interested in learning more about why walnut is so pricey, I recommend reading my in-depth post on the issue.

Both types of wood are significantly more expensive than many other wood varieties. Despite the high cost of walnut and oak, people continue to purchase them because of the value they may provide to a project for a variety of reasons, including color, durability, and longevity.

Walnut vs Oak: Maintenance

Oak is a generally low-maintenance wood. The life of the wood can be extended by refurbishing it every six months to a year and reapplying an appropriate finish. However, it must be cleaned on a regular basis.

Dust and grime that could scratch the wood surface should be brushed away once a week. Choose your cleaning solutions carefully for washing and wiping. There are some natural soaps made specifically for oak that you may purchase.

In the case of walnut, you’ll notice that the maintenance requirements are nearly same. However, because walnut is a softer wood, you need take extra precautions when cleaning it.

Walnut vs. Oak: Which is More Stable?

Walnut and Oak are all very stable woods. Walnut and Oak are quite resistant to water, (you can read that in my article, is walnut wood water resistant).

As proof of this, let’s take a look at how oak has been used for centuries by boat builders and wine barrel makers. The dense fibers in Oak wood make the wood extremely suitable for this.

Although walnut is softer than oak (see further in this article), this type of wood offers excellent dimensional stability.

Is Walnut Harder than Oak?

The hardness of wood is recorded on the Janka hardness scale. It measures the amount of force required to place a small steel ball bearing halfway into a wooden plank.

White Oak is one of the harder woods, with a Janka rating of 1,350 lbf (5,990 N). With a rating of 1,220 lbf (5,430 N), Red Oak is slightly softer. You can easily find this information on the wood database.

The janka classification of Black Walnut is slightly lower, which means that
black walnut is one of the softest hardwoods with a Janka rating of 1,010 lbf (4,490 N).

From this we can infer that harder woods like White Oak and Red Oak are more resistant to dents, dings, and scratches, while softer woods like walnut tend to show more wear and tear.

Although walnut is a softer wood, many people will still opt for this wood because of its incredibly rich color.

If you are in doubt about walnut vs oak, you will have to determine what is most important for your project. If hardness plays an essential role, for example in making wooden floors where wear and tear will take place over the years, oak wins over walnut.

Walnut vs Oak: Which Wood Stains Better?

Walnut and oak both have a structure that makes it easy to absorb stains. This allows both types of woods to be finished in a wide variety of colors to suit whatever project you’re working on.
Related article: 4 types of wood finishes ,what to use when and how.

Walnut vs Oak: Comparison Table

Botanical name Black walnut ( Juglans Nigra)White oak (Quercus alba) and Red oak ( Quercus rubra)
AppearanceYellow to dark (chocolate) brownPinkish-red, light brown or yellow with stripes
DurabilityDurability class 3 ( 10 – 15 years)Durability class 2 (15 – 25 years)
Hardness (Janka Scale)1,010 lbf (4,490 N)White Oak 1,350 lbf (5,990 N), Red Oak 1,220 lbf (5,430 N)
PriceExpensiveExpensive but cheaper than Walnut
MaintenanceNeeds regular MaintenanceNeeds regular Maintenance
Walnut vs Oak Comparison table

Walnut vs Oak Cabinets: What’s Right For You?

It is difficult to write which is the best choice for you between walnut vs oak. Everything depends on so many factors. If you want a better type of wood, you are better off with walnut, if you want a harder type of wood that is more resistant to dents and scratches, then oak is better.

Thanks to all the differences that have been clarified in this article, you should now be able to form a good idea of which type of wood is the best choice for your project.

By looking closely at the properties of these two wood quick derivatives, you will know which one is right for you. Another alternative to walnut wood may be mahogany wood. In my article Walnut Wood vs. Mahogany: Which Is Better for Your Projects? I will go deeper into the differences between these types of wood so that you are even better informed and can make the right choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is better walnut or oak?

It depends on the intended use and personal preference. Walnut and oak showcase distinct traits and properties that set them apart. Walnut is known for its rich, warm tones and elegant grain patterns, while oak is more durable and has a more pronounced grain pattern.

Is walnut more expensive than oak?

Yes, generally speaking, walnut is more expensive than oak. Due to their slower growth rate and lower numbers, walnut trees are less common than oak trees.

Is walnut darker than oak?

Yes, walnut is generally darker than oak. It has a rich, warm brown color, while oak is typically lighter and has a more golden hue.

Is oak softer than walnut?

No, oak is actually harder than walnut. Oak is renowned for its strength and its ability to stand up to repeated use.

What is the difference between walnut and oak color?

Walnut has a warm, rich brown color with darker, chocolate-toned streaks, while oak has a lighter, golden color with a more pronounced grain pattern.

Is walnut a high-end wood?

Yes, walnut is often considered a high-end wood due to its unique beauty and relative scarcity.

Why is walnut wood so popular?

Walnut is popular due to its unique beauty, durability, and versatility. This versatile material finds a wide range of applications, from furnishing, flooring and cabinetry to decorative accents.

Does walnut scratch easily?

Walnut is a hardwood and is generally resistant to scratches and dents. Despite its robust nature, this wood must be appropriately protected and maintained to prevent damage.

Do oak and walnut go together?

Yes, oak and walnut can complement each other well in certain design schemes. However, it is important to consider the overall aesthetic and ensure that the two woods work well together.

Can you make oak look like walnut?

It is possible to stain oak to achieve a similar color to walnut, but the grain pattern will still be different.

What is darker than walnut?

By observing its color, one can easily see that walnut is somewhat lighter than ebony, mahogany and rosewood woods.

What color is similar to walnut?

A similar color to walnut would be a warm, rich brown with darker streaks.

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