If you are looking for a new type of wood to use around your home, then you have come to the right place. Today, we want to do a comparison of two specific types of wood that are commonly used for a variety of construction purposes around the home.
The two types of wood we are here to talk about today are oak and cherry. Let’s get to it and figure out what makes these materials different from each other, to ultimately determine which one is best for your next big woodworking project.
What Is Oak?
First, we have oak. Here, we are talking specifically about the red oak tree. The reason for this is that it is one of the most commonly found types of oak in North America, and it’s also very popular for construction. That said, there are technically over 160 different species of oak trees in the world, with most of them being in the Northern Hemisphere.
Oak is a deciduous tree, which means that it loses its leaves during the winter, and it is a type of hardwood. This is a relatively hard, dense, and heavy type of wood, that is also structurally sound and resistant to a variety of types of physical damage, mainly denting and scratching.
Over the short run, if properly sealed and treated, oak may also be somewhat moisture-resistant. However, if not properly sealed and treated, oak really should not be used for outdoor purposes. At the same time, it is also not overly resistant to pests.
As for appearance, oak has a relatively tight and straight grain, combined with a coarse and uneven texture, and often contains a good deal of gaps, knots, and holes. Oak wood features a reddish-brown color, usually a bit darker brown than red. Furthermore, this wood is most often used for furniture making, cabinets, flooring, decorative pieces, and for other interior purposes.
What Is Cherry?
We then have the cherry tree, and yes, here we are talking about an actual fruit-bearing cherry tree. These are trees that can be found in Canada and the USA, generally in the northeastern parts, particularly in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York. Furthermore, this tree is deciduous in nature, so it does lose its leaves during the winter.
Cherry is also a type of hardwood and is actually one of the harder types that can be found all throughout North America. Cherry is a very durable and hard material that is difficult to damage, whether we’re talking about denting or scratching. However, it isn’t too dense or heavy, yet has a high level of strength. When using steam, it is also quite easy to bend.
What is impressive about cherry wood is that it has a good deal of natural resins and oils, which makes it very resistant to moisture, decay, mold, fungus, and pests. It is therefore a great type of wood to use for outdoor purposes, as it resists the elements very well.
In terms of appearance, cherry wood features a straight and tight grain, combined with a uniform and relatively fine texture. Cherry wood has a very rich reddish-brown color, usually slightly browner than red, although this can go in both directions depending on the exact specimen.
Because cherry wood is easy to work with, looks nice, and is durable, as well as moderately priced, it is used for a wide variety of both indoor and outdoor-related purposes.
It is often used for high-moisture areas, and even for marine-related applications. It may also be used for making high-end furniture, flooring, millwork, molding, musical instruments, decorative pieces, and more.
Oak vs. Cherry: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both oak and cherry wood are, let’s figure out what makes these two different from each other.
The red oak tree features a Janka hardness rating of 1,220 lbf, whereas the cherry tree comes in at just 950 lbf. Although cherry is quite hard in the grand scheme of things, oak is even harder.
This means that oak is more resistant to scratching, denting, and other types of physical damage. Because of this, oak is generally the better option for furniture, especially in high-traffic areas.
What is interesting is that although the cherry tree is quite hard, it is also fairly lightweight, as It weighs just 35 lbs per cubic foot. This is opposed to the red oak tree, which weighs around 43 lbs per cubic foot. As you can see, the red oak is significantly heavier than the cherry tree. Although this does make it more durable in some ways, it does also make it harder to work with.
Moisture and Pest Resistance
What can be said about the cherry tree is that due to its high level of natural resins and oils, it is very moisture-resistant. On that note, it is also resistant to pests, which makes it ideal for outdoor use. However, oak on the other hand is not very resistant to the elements.
If you had to choose one of these two types of wood for outdoor use, it would be cherry.
In terms of overall durability, although cherry does have a higher compressive strength than red oak, red oak has a higher modulus of rupture and a higher modulus of elasticity. Oak is also harder and heavier. In the grand scheme of things, oak is just the more structurally sound type of wood. As far as construction purposes are concerned, oak is the better option.
What can also be said here is that cherry is the much easier of these two types of wood to work with. It’s not as hard or heavy, plus it also doesn’t have as many gaps, knots, or holes. However, cherry does have more oils and resin, which can cause sawblades to get a bit sticky. That said, in the grand scheme of things, oak is the more difficult of the two to work with.
Appearance – Color and Grain
These two types of wood do look somewhat similar, although cherry tends to be a bit redder than oak, which tends to be a bit browner. On that note, cherry also has fewer gaps and knots, as well as a finer texture. Most people would agree that cherry is the better-looking of the two. That said, this is of course really subjective in nature and just comes down to your personal preference.
Cherry usually won’t cost you more than around $11 per board foot, whereas red oak can cost up to $25 per board foot.
When to Use Oak?
If you are looking for a very strong and structurally sound type of wood that is ideal for indoor purposes, then oak is always a good option to consider. If you are making things like indoor furniture, floors, walls, cabinets, or decorative pieces, oak is a fantastic option. It’s very hard, durable, structurally sound, and resistant to damage. That said, it’s just not the best choice for outdoor use, because it’s not very pest or moisture-resistant.
When to Use Cherry?
If you need something that is ideal for outdoor purposes, even for marine-related applications where great amounts of moisture are involved, cherry is always a good option. Cherry is just a very moisture and pest-resistant type of wood, therefore making it more than ideal for outdoor purposes.
Although it’s not quite as structurally sound or as durable as oak, it can still handle a good deal of punishment. It is a perfect option for outdoor furniture, fences, decks, and everything in between.
Alternatives to Oak and Cherry
Although both of these types of wood are relatively hard, neither is rock hard. There are much harder and more durable types of wood out there. Ones such as ebony, mahogany, teak, and ironwood are all much harder and more durable.
As you can see, the bottom line here is that both oak and cherry are ideal for their own specific purposes. Oak is best used for indoor purposes where you need durability and structural soundness, and cherry is best used for outdoor applications where pest and moisture resistance is called for.