Red oak’s price drops as demand slows

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Red oak

Red oak

Demand for red oak (Quercus rubra) has slowed despite favorable pricing, according to hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.

“It’s definitely been declining over the past five to six years,” says Steve Van Osdol of Hickory and Oak Sawmill and Lumber Co. in Decatur, Mich. “I don’t know if the market is saturated or people are tired of it, but its not selling as much. If it does sell, quartersawn sells better than flat because it’s got a sharper look.

“It still sells, but it’s not as big as it used to be. It’s the ‘meat and potatoes’; the standard hardwood. But others are a little more prevalent. Cherry, maple, walnut and hickory have taken over.”Clint Dillon of Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan, N.C., says red oak sales volume is the same as last year, while pricing has dropped a bit.

“I would say that red oak always holds its own in the cabinet world. Cabinets and trim work are one of the main things people are buying it for here on our end. It’s one of those woods everybody knows what they’re going to get with it. Everybody knows how to work red oak and finish it and everything. There aren’t really any question marks about it,” says Dillon.“It works a lot better than the white oak in my opinion. It sands well and takes a stain or clear coat well.”

Raymond Hochstetler at Appalachian Woods Antique Flooring & Lumber in Stuarts Draft, Va., specializes in selling reclaimed wood. Orders typically include both red and white oak.

“My gut sense overall is that in our market, which is the custom and upper end specialty flooring business, white oak is definitely more popular than red oak for sure,” says Hochstetler.

“Red oak sales alone are about the same as last year, so I haven’t seen much change at all. Most of the reclaimed red oak is going into flooring production. I think for our company, customers like it because it has a very unique look. A lot of people like the grain and the character of ours because it’s reclaimed. And oak is also a recognized name which is associated with being very durable, very strong, which is great for flooring.”

The retail price for 4/4 red oak is about $3/bf.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue.

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