If you are planning to build something around your home, solid wood is always a great choice to consider. With that being said, there are many different types of wood to choose from. Two very popular hardwoods to consider include mahogany and oak. Although they do share some similarities, they do also have some major differences between them.
Today, we are going to compare mahogany and oak to see what they are both ideal for, as well as what makes them different from each other.
What Is Mahogany?
First, is mahogany, which is a specific type of deciduous hardwood tree that is native to the warmer parts of the Americas. Specifically, this is a tropical hardwood tree. Because it is deciduous in nature, the leaves do fall off during the colder seasons. In recent years, due to importation, the mahogany tree can also be found in various parts of Oceania and Asia.
Mahogany wood has a very straight and tight grain, it has virtually no voids, gaps, or knots, and its color is a very deep reddish-brown, which will also darken over time.
The wood itself is extremely dense, hard, fairly heavy, and also quite full of resin and sap. This leads to it being extremely long-lasting, rot-resistant, pest-resistant, and moisture-resistant. For this reason, it is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use.
Due to its high quality and popularity, this is a fairly expensive type of hardwood to consider. It is generally only used for very high-end applications, such as for making high-quality windows indoors, interior furniture, decorative dressers and cabinets, durable hardwood floors, and more. If you need wood that is both durable and good-looking, and you are willing to spend money on it, then mahogany is a great option to consider.
What Is Oak?
We then have the oak tree, which is another deciduous hardwood tree that can be found in the northern parts of the world. Various species of oak trees can be found all throughout the northern hemisphere, and in Europe, North Africa, North America, Asia, and more. In North America alone, there are over 160 different species of oak tree.
Oa is another type of wood that is quite heavy, dense, and hard, which does help make it extremely durable. On that note, it also has great insect, fungal, and water resistance. For this reason, it is a good type of wood to consider for both indoor and outdoor applications and can be used for a wide variety of projects.
Some of the most popular things to use oak wood for are flooring and furniture building, as well as exterior and interior doors. In terms of appearance, oak wood usually has a very straight grain with an uneven texture. The color of Oakwood may range anywhere from light beige to brownish-red. Keep in mind that you will likely find some knots and gaps in this wood.
Mahogany vs. Oak: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both mahogany and oak are, let’s take a closer look at the major differences between them.
One of the major differences between mahogany and oak is that mahogany has a Janka hardness rating of around 900 lbf, whereas oak has a Janka hardness rating of nearly 1,300 lbf.
This means that oak is technically the harder of the two woods. Therefore, oak tends to be a bit more resistant to impact, scratching, denting, and other such forms of physical damage.
In terms of hardness, oak is the better choice of the two.
Although there are some types of mahogany that can be as dense as 890 or 900 kg per cubic meter, most pieces will top out at around 650 to 700 kg per cubic meter. On the other hand, oak comes in at around 710 kg per cubic meter.
This means that oak is the heavier of the two woods, and much denser too. For this reason, it can be a bit harder to work with, due to its heavier weight. With that being said, this density does also lead to other benefits, such as increased durability when compared to mahogany, as well as some other things that we will discuss below.
Pest, Rot, and Moisture Resistance
Something that we do need to consider here is that both mahogany and oak are relatively hard, dense, and heavy, and both do also contain a good bit of sap and resin. What this means is that both of these types of hardwood are quite resistant to pests, rot, fungus, and moisture.
However, what does need to be said is that oak is likely the more pest, moisture, and rot-resistant of the two. It’s just a bit denser and harder, and it contains slightly more sap and resin than mahogany. Although both of these types of wood are more than ideal for both interior and exterior reviews, especially where moisture is involved, oak is the better of the two.
Based on everything that we have discussed so far, it is safe to assume that oak is the slightly more durable and long lasting of these two types of hardwood.
What we also want to compare here is how easy these two types of wood are to work with. First and foremost, when it comes to drying, mahogany is one of the best ones out there, as it is more or less immune to deformation and cracking during the drying process. On the other hand, oak is a bit more difficult to dry, as it must be dried at low temperatures and very slowly, or else it might crack.
We must then also consider how easy these woods are to assemble. First, mahogany does work well with both glue and screws but usually splits when you try to insert nails. On the other hand, oak works really well with glue, screws, and nails. In terms of finishing, both mahogany and oak are easy to glaze, stain, sand, and paint.
You then also have to consider the fact that oak is very easy to work with in terms of processing, planing, milling, drilling, and cutting. On the other hand, although mahogany is very easy to cut, finish, and assemble, it doesn’t do well with curvature, and planing may be an issue as well. When it comes down to it, oak is just much easier to work with.
Keeping in mind everything that has been said so far, one of the benefits that mahogany has over oak is the fact that most people think that it does look better. Mahogany really does not have any knots, gaps, or voids, and it has a very tight, uniform, smooth, and straight grain. This is all complemented by a very dark reddish-brown color.
On the other hand, while oak does also have a relatively straight and tight grain, it doesn’t look quite as smooth, and it might also have some knots, gaps, and holes in it. On that note, oak wood isn’t quite as dark or rich in color as mahogany. It’s not like oak looks bad, but most people would agree that it doesn’t look as good as mahogany.
The other thing to consider here is that oak is the more affordable of the two hardwoods. Generally speaking, you might pay up to 1,800 dollars per cubic meter of oak, whereas the same amount of mahogany may cost you up to 4,000 dollars. Therefore, mahogany can be up to twice as expensive as oak, if not more. This is generally due to its popularity, mainly due to its great appearance, and because it’s not quite as easy to find as oak.
When to Use Mahogany Wood?
If you are looking to make high-end furniture, both for outdoor and indoor use, as well as beautiful exterior doors, windows, high-end indoor cabinets, dressers, and more, then mahogany is a great option to consider.
Simply put, if you need something strong, durable, and moisture-resistant that also looks fantastic, and you are willing to pay for it, then mahogany is a fine choice to consider.
When to Use Oak Wood?
If you would rather have something that maybe doesn’t look quite as nice, but also doesn’t cost nearly as much, yet is extremely dense, strong, hard, durable, easy to work with, and resistant to the elements, then oak is the better choice to consider.
Alternatives to Mahogany and Oak Wood
If neither of these types of wood sound suitable to you, then there are some other options to consider. For instance, if you want some relatively inexpensive wood for indoor furniture and floors, then pine, fir, cedar, and redwood are all fine options to consider.
If you are looking for the hardest and strongest wood around, then black ironwood is a great type of lumber to consider.
On the other hand, if you want to use mahogany but cannot find it in your store, check my article about the best alternatives.
Now that you know what all of the major differences between oak and mahogany are, you can make a highly informed choice between them. When it comes down to it, these are both hard, dense, and resistant types of wood that work well for both interior and exterior use.