Oak vs. Chestnut: Which One to Use?

Oak vs. Chestnut: Which One to Use?

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If you are looking to build something out of solid wood, choosing the right type is essential, as different types of wood have different characteristics. Today, we are here to compare two very popular types of wood, which are oak and chestnut.

We’re going to compare these two on a side-by-side basis to figure out which one is best used for a variety of projects.

What Is Oak?

First, we have the oak tree. Here, we are talking about the red oak tree. This is one of the most common types that can be found in North America, and it’s very popular for building and construction purposes. However, there are over 160 types of oak trees across the world, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in North America, Northern Europe, Northern Africa, and Northern Asia.

Oak is a deciduous hardwood tree that is quite hard, heavy, and dense, as well as structurally sound and resilient towards many types of physical damage, such as scratching and denting.

It is also somewhat resistant to moisture over the short run, especially when properly treated and sealed. That said, if not treated properly, it does not resist moisture very well and should not be used for outdoor purposes, which is also true because of its limited pest resistance.

In terms of appearance, oak has a fairly straight and tight grain, combined with an uneven and coarse texture, and quite a few knots, gaps, and holes. This wood has a brownish-red color, often a bit darker brown than red. Oak is often used for a variety of purposes including making furniture, decorative pieces, cabinets, flooring, and many other interior applications.

What Is Chestnut?

We then have the chestnut tree, specifically the American chestnut tree, which is native to North America. Although there are also Chinese chestnut trees, that is not what we are talking about today.

The chestnut tree is a deciduous hardwood tree, although it is actually fairly soft. It’s one of the softer types of wood found in North America, so its durability is somewhat limited. It’s not overly dense or heavy, and it’s not very hard either.

However, the big selling point of chestnut is that it has a lot of oil and resin in it, which makes it very resistant to moisture, pests, and fungus. Due to this, it makes for an excellent choice for outdoor use.

In terms of appearance, chestnut features a straight grain that may at times be wavy or interlocked. It also has a medium to coarse texture, a good deal of gaps, knots, and holes, and a moderate brown color that usually gets darker over time.

Chestnut is actually a fairly expensive type of wood, which is why it is usually used for small-scale applications. It may be used for smaller pieces of furniture, doors, windows, and decorative pieces. You could, of course, use it for larger purposes, although it will cost you a lot.

Oak vs. Chestnut: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both oak and chestnut are, let’s figure out what makes these two types of wood different from each other.


Oak is a fairly hard type of wood, as it features a Janka hardness rating of 1,220 lbf. Chestnut on the other hand is fairly soft and comes in at just 540 lbf. This means that oak is more than twice as hard as chestnut, and therefore much more resilient to denting, scratching, and other forms of physical damage.


Chestnut features a density of 30 lbs per cubic foot, while oak features a density of 43 lbs per cubic foot. As you can see, oak is substantially heavier. This does lend to its increased durability and structural soundness, although its weight does make it harder to work with.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

One thing that can be said about chestnut is that, because it has such a high quantity of natural oils and resins in it, it is extremely resistant to the elements. It does really well against moisture and decay, and it can handle pests easily as well. Chestnut is a fantastic option for outdoor use. On the other hand, oak is not ideal for the outdoors, as it is resistant to neither moisture nor pests, and is really only ideal for indoor purposes.

Overall Strength

In terms of overall strength, when it comes to factors such as the modulus of rupture, the modulus of elasticity, and compressive strength, oak is the much stronger and more structurally sound of these two types of wood.


Because chestnut is much lighter and softer than oak, it is also much easier to work with, which is true on virtually all fronts.

Appearance – Grain and Color

Oak usually has a straight and tight grain, a good number of knots and gaps, and a fairly coarse texture, combined with a reddish-brown color, whereas chestnut also features a straight grain, although it may be interlocked at times, combined with a medium coarse texture and a fairly moderate to dark brown color. What it really comes down to here is what you prefer in terms of color.


You can expect red oak to cost up to $25 per board foot, whereas chestnut can cost up to $30 per board foot, or even more.

When to Use Oak?

If you need a good type of wood for indoor purposes that is going to last for a very long time, oak is the better option. Oak is much more structurally sound and therefore better for basic construction use. It’s also much harder and more durable, therefore making it the better option for things like furniture and other basic items. Just don’t use it outdoors, as it is not resistant to the elements.

When to Use Chestnut?

If you need a type of wood that is resistant to the elements and ideal for outdoor purposes, then it is chestnut that you want to use.

Alternatives to Oak and Chestnut

If you are looking for various types of wood that are even harder and more durable than both oak and chestnut, options such as sugar maple, mahogany, teak, ebony, and ironwood all make for fantastic choices.


Now that you know what makes oak and chestnut different, you can make an informed decision between the two. Generally speaking, if you need structural soundness and durability, oak is the better option, while chestnut is the better option for outdoor use.