If you are looking for two very durable types of wood that are hard and strong, then you have come to the right place, because we are about to compare two top contenders. We are here today to discuss ash and oak, both of which are renowned for their great strength. Let’s pit these two materials against each other based on a variety of factors, such as hardness, density, water resistance, and more.
What Is Ash?
Let’s start by talking about the ash tree, and for today’s purposes, we are talking about the white ash variety. There are over half a dozen different types of ash trees out there, but white ash is one of the most commonly found in North America, and one of the most popular options for construction. Many other types of ash also share similarities with this tree, so this will be our focus.
This is a deciduous hardwood tree that is found in eastern Canada and all throughout eastern North America that can grow up to 80’ in height. The ash tree features a fairly regular and straight grain, although it may at times have some moderate curls or figured boards.
This tree features a medium to coarse texture, with the wood sometimes having knots. Ash features medium brown heartwood along with beige to light brown sapwood. As for durability, ash is a fairly hard type of wood that is quite strong, although it’s not overly resistant to insects, pests, rotting, or moisture.
Therefore, this material is a good option for interior purposes, but not so much for outdoor use. Ash is also easy to work with as it bends easily with steam, it takes on stain and paint well, and it is easy to saw, screw, and nail. Ash is one of the more inexpensive types of hardwood around, and is generally used for utilitarian purposes, such as for basic flooring, millwork, crates, boxes, baseball bats, and turned objects.
What Is Oak?
Then, we have the oak, which is also a deciduous type of hardwood tree that can be found all throughout the northern hemisphere, particularly in North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Just in North America alone, there are well over 160 varieties of this tree.
keep in mind that oak is a very heavy, dense, and hard type of wood, which allows for great durability, especially in terms of physical damage. This wood does also contain some natural resin and oils, which when combined with its hardness and density, do also allow for great moisture, fungus, and insect resistance.
Because of this, oak is a good option for both interior and exterior applications, and for many different purposes in general. This material can be used for exterior and interior doors, flooring, furniture, and more.
Oak usually has a straight and tight grain, although it can have an uneven or coarse texture. It is usually beige to brownish-red in color, and it usually has a lot of knots and gaps. Keep in mind that today specifically, we are talking about the red oak tree.
Ash vs. Oak: What Are the Differences
Now that we know what both ash and oak are, let’s figure out what makes the two different from each other.
What is interesting to note is that both of these two types of wood are fairly similar when it comes to hardness, with oak coming in at 1,220 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, and ash at 1,320 lbf. This means that while ash is slightly harder than oak, both are very resistant to physical forms of damage, such as denting and scratching.
What is interesting to note is that ash comes in at roughly 42 lbs per cubic foot. On the other hand, although oak is slightly softer than ash, it is actually a bit heavier, coming in at 43.8 lbs per cubic foot. Although the difference is small, this means that oak is slightly denser on this front, and therefore also a bit harder to work with due to its heavier weight.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
One thing that needs to be said here is that ash is not known for being very resistant to pests, mold, fungus, moisture, or decay. It’s actually a rather poor choice to go with when it comes to outdoor applications. On the other hand, oak is much more resilient to the elements. If properly treated, this wood is an absolutely fantastic option for exterior purposes.
so, ash is a bit harder than oak, plus it also has a higher modulus of rupture and a higher compressive strength. However, what is important to note is that ash also has a higher modulus of elasticity than oak. What this means is that ash is a bit more flexible and more resistant to breaking due to bending.
Which of these two is easier to work with is really up in the air. On one hand, oak is heavier than ash, but on the other hand, it’s also much harder. When it comes down to it, both are fairly hard and heavy, so they’re both moderately hard to work with as far as sawing is concerned, although ash does tend to take on stain and paint a bit easier than oak.
Appearance – Color and Grain
In terms of appearance, ash and oak are fairly similar when it comes to texture, as both are fairly coarse. As for the grain, both typically have a fairly straight grain. The biggest difference here is in color, as oak tends to have a reddish-brown color, whereas ash has a lighter brown color. Most people would agree that oak is the better-looking of the two.
Ash is usually going to cost you between $8 and $10 per board foot. On the other hand, oak is going to be more expensive, up to $25 per board foot.
When to Use Ash?
If you need a relatively inexpensive type of wood that is ideal for indoor purposes, then ash is always a good choice, especially if your project is fairly basic or utilitarian in nature.
When to Use Oak?
If you need wood that looks good, is moisture resistant, and durable too, and can be used for both interior and exterior purposes, and you’re willing to pay a good bit of money for it, then oak does make for a good option.
Alternatives to Ash and Oak
If you would rather use some fairly soft and inexpensive types of softwood, options such as spruce, Douglas fir, and pine all make for good options.
As you can see, if you need some really nice types of hardwood that are ideal for various purposes, both ash and oak make for prime options to consider.