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Oak vs. Walnut Wood (for Furniture, Flooring, and Cabinets)

Oak and walnut are your best choice of wood when it comes to quality and durability. See what sets them apart so you can pick the best option according to your preference.

Close-up of a walnut table surrounded by leather upholstered chairs.

When it comes to choosing timber for the furniture, flooring, and cabinets in your home, there are plenty of choices on offer. Many factors will enter into your decision, including durability, strength, and, most significantly, aesthetics.

Oak and Walnut have very similar characteristics and are both excellent choices for furniture, flooring, and cabinets. Generally, Oak is more durable and slightly cheaper, making it a better choice for flooring. The differing aesthetics of the two timbers plays a big role in your choice.

Oak and Walnut are both high-quality hardwoods that make an excellent choice for furniture, flooring, and cabinets alike. Besides the fact that Oak is slightly more durable and may be the better choice under circumstances where the wood is subjected to high levels of wear, the main deciding factor at the end of the day will be aesthetics.

Related: Oak vs. Cherry | Oak vs. Beech | Oak vs. Cedar | Oak vs. Poplar | Oak vs. Birch | Oak vs. Pine | Types of Oak Wood | Pine vs. Walnut | Cherry vs. Walnut | Maple vs. Walnut Wood | Poplar vs. Walnut Wood | Cedar vs. Walnut | Types of Walnut Wood

Oak Vs. Walnut Wood (For Furniture, Flooring, and Cabinets)

Spacious kitchen with oak cabinetry and a center island.

Oak and Walnut are both premium hardwoods that make for excellent furniture, flooring, cabinets, and any other indoor items.

Both timbers are exceptionally hard and resistant to wear. This is mostly because they come from slow-growing trees where a longer growth period leads to a higher wood density.

Oak is a more durable timber and can better function outdoors than Walnut. This is due to the natural resins found in the wood that protect against insects, fungi, and the inevitable water damage that comes with remaining outdoors.

Walnut is a more expensive timber due to its rarity, while Oak can be bought at a slightly lower price, thereby adding significantly to its appeal in addition to its excellent durability.

Oak and Walnut differ somewhat in their aesthetics, and so the way in which they are used can differ significantly. Different styles of furniture are better suited to one or the other type of wood, and some may prefer the aesthetic of one more than the other.

Both Oak and Walnut happily accept staining, but the resultant finishes will differ significantly. In order to understand what the finished product will look like and if it’s a finish that you would be happy with, you should check out some physical examples of the timber that has been stained.

Oak Wood

Close-up of solid oak cabinet with matching drawers and doors.

Oak is a grainy hardwood that consists of two varieties – red and white. It is extremely durable and resists warping, making it highly suited to furniture-making and flooring alike. The prominent grain of Oak (more so with red Oak) helps it to better hide wear and tear.

As a result, this makes Oak a great option for flooring. This type of wood is also significantly harder, which means less chance of denting, scratching, and abrasion. Resultantly, there is also less maintenance required with this type of wood when compared to Walnut.

Due to its durability and density, Oak is suited not only to indoor applications but also to many outdoor applications such as ladders, decking, fencing, pergolas, porches, and garages. It is more dense than Walnut, and its natural resins make it more durable, protecting against fungi, insects, and moisture.

Aesthetically speaking, European Oak boasts dynamic, versatile coloring with a hue of gold to medium brown and natural grain. American White Oak, on the other hand, has light to tan-brown coloring with a straight grain that sets it apart from its European counterpart.

Because of its inherently lighter coloring, Oak is well-suited to a minimalist Scandinavian interior aesthetic. This lighter coloring also ensures the wood’s longevity as it is less susceptible to fading from the sun.

The grain of Oak can be described aesthetically as somewhat of a tiger-stripe. This grain can be further exaggerated by staining, which can result in a two-tone aesthetic that may not be desirable to some.

White Oak has a subtler grain compared to red Oak with golden tones. This will be the better option if you wish to avoid the two-tone effect that can sometimes result from staining.

Walnut Wood

Two small chairs for kids made of walnut wood.

Walnut is a rarer wood than Oak and is significantly more expensive as a result. It is slightly less dense than Oak, so it is better for use indoors. It is the ideal wood for use in furniture, cabinetry, paneling, doors, veneers, and other small wooden items.

The items produced with Walnut are generally on the luxurious end of the spectrum, featuring in premium designs. This is partly due to how the typical aesthetic of this rare timber can be extremely difficult to mimic.

Walnut is a straight-grained wood with a tighter, subtler grain compared to Oak. This makes it less ideal for use in flooring as it can easily show wear. Because it is a softer wood, Walnut also requires more maintenance to ensure it remains in good shape at all times.

Walnut is still extremely strong and shock resistant with good dimensional stability.

In terms of its coloration, Walnut usually comes in a sleek, cream to chocolate brown color that sometimes contains a hint of purple. It usually features darker streaks as well as varied grain patterns that can be of extreme interest to designers and consumers alike.

Walnut is generally darker than Oak, and so it is associated with more sleek, sophisticated furniture items that show plenty of character. A stark contrast of dark and light colors tends to give the wood more character.

When using Walnut, one must always consider the sun exposure that that piece of furniture might experience as this wood tends to discolor quite easily when constantly exposed to the sun.

Conclusion

The choice between Oak and Walnut wood depends on two main factors. Firstly, the proposed use for the wood will help decide which is best. If you are looking for the right timber for flooring, Oak may be your best option because it is extremely durable.

If you are looking for something with which to create luxurious furniture with a smooth and sophisticated aesthetic, then Walnut may be the right choice for you. At the end of the day, the three biggest considerations are aesthetics, cost, and durability.

References:

Real Simple: The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Wood for Furniture