Red oak enjoys home-court edge

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The market for Northern red oak (Quercus rubra), a traditional choice for furniture, millwork, trim and flooring, is as strong as ever, according to most hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.

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Miles Gilmer of Gilmer Wood Co. in Portland, Ore., says domestic oak sales are better than they were years ago.

“I still bring in English brown oak and a bit of European oak, but I find the native species tend to be selling better because that’s kind of what the shift is. People would rather buy native species than imported.”

Steve Jackel of West Coast Woods in Watsonville, Calif., says white and red oaks have both been selling well.

“There’s not really an oak industry on the West Coast for anything other than pallets. We sell Eastern white and red oak and they’re steady. Rift white oak is really the only real problem because it’s in tight supply. Our customers use the Eastern oaks mostly for cabinetry and flooring and wall panelling, trim and baseboards to match flooring. The usual stuff; nothing dramatic,” Jackel says.

Bruce Stevens of Highland Hardwoods, a retailer and wholesaler in Brentwood, N.H., says his customers favor Northern red oak for its pinkish color.

“It grows plentifully from western Massachusetts up through Vermont. That’s the big geographical source of Northern red oak. Southern oak has a browner color to it and the growth rings are much larger and it’s just not preferred for any official business for the most part up here,” Stevens says.

“Red oak’s been a staple in New England for a century because it’s an indigenous species of the area here. It isn’t in as much demand presently for the flooring trade as it was four to five years ago. Now people are looking for hickory and white oak for that. But we still sell red oak for cabinetry.”

Terry Baird of Baird Brothers Fine Hardwoods in Canfield, Ohio, confirms red oak is selling, but isn’t convinced the trend will last.

“As far as sales go, it’s a little slow for us, but red oak sales in general have been steady. We sell a lot more red oak flooring than white, but white’s been doing a little better lately. The supply seems to be increasing in a general sense. I get a lot more calls on people trying to sell it than buy it,” Baird says.

Nationally, red oak wholesales for about $1.80/mbf (4/4 FAS) and retails for about $3.20/bf.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue.

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