If you don’t know what type of wood to use for your next woodworking project, there are some good options you have at your disposal. Two very popular choices when it comes to lumber include oak and teak.
Today, we want to take a closer look at both of these types of wood to figure out which of them is better used for a variety of purposes. As you will see, both have their own strengths and weaknesses that you will need to consider.
What Is Oak?
First, we have the oak tree, and here we are referring specifically to the red oak tree, as this is one of the most commonly found types in North America, as well as one of the most popular for construction and building purposes.
However, there are technically over 160 different types of this tree, all throughout the Northern Hemisphere, such as in North America, Northern Europe, North Africa, and Northern Asia.
Oak is a deciduous hardwood tree that is quite hard, heavy, and dense, has great structural soundness, and is quite resistant to most forms of physical damage.
It does also contain a limited amount of resins and natural oils, which make it somewhat resistant to moisture and fungi, although not overly so. Without properly treating and sealing it, this is not the type of wood that you want to use for outdoor purposes, especially because it’s not very resistant to pests.
As for appearance, oak has a very straight and tight grain, combined with an uneven and coarse texture, and a good deal of knots and gaps. This wood usually has a brownish-red color that is fairly dark and is most often used for purposes such as flooring, cabinets, furniture, decorative pieces, and doors.
What Is Teak?
We then have teak, which is a hardwood tree that is found in many tropical climates, mainly in mixed hardwood forests. It is most commonly found in Southeast Asia, mainly in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, and, as well as in some parts of the Caribbean and Africa.
There are a few different types of teak out there, but one of the most durable and popular types for construction is Brazilian teak, so this is what we will be focusing on today.
The teak tree has a wood that is fairly straight-grained, quite smooth and has a limited amount of gaps, knots, and holes. It also has a very beautiful golden color, sometimes a little darker brown than gold. However, the color usually gets lighter as it dries.
What really stands out about teak is that it is very strong, hard, and durable, making it extremely resistant to most forms of physical damage. It is also excellent for outdoor purposes, as it is very resistant to pests, fungus, moisture, mold, warping, cracking, rotting, and everything in between.
In fact, teak is one of the most durable types of wood out there. It is often used for various purposes, such as flooring, walling, trim, paneling, and furniture, and it works well for indoor and outdoor use.
Oak vs. Teak: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both oak and teak are, let’s figure out what makes these two types of wood different from each other.
In terms of hardness, oak features a Janka hardness rating of 1,220 lbf. On the other hand, Brazilian teak comes in at over 3,000 lbf. This means that teak is nearly three times harder than red oak. it is therefore much more resilient to many forms of physical damage, mainly denting and scratching. This is one of the reasons it makes such a good option for high-end furniture.
Teak is also much heavier than oak. Red oak features a density of 43 lbs per cubic foot, whereas Brazilian teak weighs 68 lbs per cubic foot. As you can see from those figures, teak is extremely heavy, which does lend to its extreme durability, but it does also make it much harder to maneuver and work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
One thing that can be said about oak is that it’s just not ideal for outdoor purposes. Sure, if you seal it properly, it will last for a few years outside, but it’s still not the best option. On its own, oak is not very resistant to moisture, and it’s certainly not resistant to pests either.
We wrote more about water resistance of oak here.
On the other hand, Brazilian teak is the exact opposite. It is extremely resistant to moisture, pests, fungus, and everything in between. There is a reason this wood is often used for outdoor furniture, as it is one of the most resilient types of wood out there when it comes to the elements.
In terms of overall strength, whether we are talking about the modulus of rupture, the modulus of elasticity, or compressive strength, teak is much stronger than oak on all of these fronts, therefore making it much more structurally sound. If you need a type of wood that can really take a beating, teak is it.
As for workability, one of the big bonuses that you get with oak is that it is much easier to work with, mainly because it’s not nearly as hard or dense as teak. It also takes on paint and stain a bit better.
Appearance – Grain and Color
Most people would say that Brazilian teak is the better looking of these two types of wood, as it has a light golden color as opposed to the reddish-brown color that oak features, as well as a much smoother appearance.
That said, if you’d rather have reddish-brown wood as opposed to gold, then oak is what you will want. Of course, this all comes down to a matter of personal preference.
Oak will usually cost you around $25 per board foot, whereas Brazilian teak might cost you about the same, although usually a little less. It really depends on the exact retailer.
When to Use Oak?
If you are looking for a nice type of wood with a reddish-brown appearance, and you want something that is ideal for indoor furniture and other indoor pieces, then oak is a good option to go with.
When to Use Teak?
What can be said here is that teak is stronger than oak, it is more resilient to the elements, and most people would say that it looks better too, mainly because of its beautiful color. Therefore, whatever oak can do, teak can do better. Whether you need something for indoor furniture or outdoor patio decking, this wood is going to be the better option.
Alternatives to Oak and Teak
If you want something that is a bit more affordable and works well for basic indoor purposes, options such as spruce, pine, cedar, and Douglas fir all make for great options.
Now that you know what makes oak and teak different from each other, you can make an informed decision as to which one to use for your next woodworking project. When it comes down to it, teak is one of the best types of wood out there for many different applications.