American oak vs European oak

What’s The Difference Between American Oak vs European Oak?

Oak trees have been used in the US for hundreds of years. Now, we’re seeing more and more varieties popping up across the states. Some folks may be curious about the difference between American oak vs European oak? Well, it all depends on where you reside!

Knowing the type of oak tree to plant is critical since they develop differently. Learn how differing varieties produce distinct characteristics in this post!

European Oak vs American Oak

Common or European oak (Quercus petraea/Robur) is a temperate hardwood native to Great Britain and Europe. Usually from sustainably managed forests in France, England and Germany. People use it for furniture and flooring because of its endurance and gorgeous darker texture.

European oak tree
A specimen from Europe

Red and white oaks are the two main varieties, both have several subspecies, but we will focus on the two most commonplace. American white oak (Quercus Alba) is a hardwood found in Eastern North America. Additionally, other species such as red oak ( Q. garryana ) grow in Western North America.

Both oak species are known to live for hundreds of years. They are similar in appearance but differ in hardness and lifespan.

Grain patterns

The grain pattern is the arrangement of wood fibres. This can be seen on the woods surface and can distinguish between different sorts. Figure patterns are divided into two categories: radial and tangential. Radial patterns are when the fibres run perpendicular to the face of the board. While tangential or straight patterns are when the fibres run parallel to the board face.

An open grain pattern, indicating the cells are wider apart, distinguishes American oak. Its robust texture is often utilised in bookcases and engineered flooring. European oak is favoured for its tight grain and subtle colouration.

Colour Differences

The tone of the European is darker with a golden brown colour. This is due to the different climates in which they are grown. Colour can also vary depending on where it is cultivated. For example, oak from France will have a lighter hue than planks from Germany.

On the other hand, the American is more modern and sleek that typically has a pinkish hue. It has a lighter tone and is often seen in cabinets with growing popularity in European oak flooring.


To darken the color, oak fuming exposes the wood to ammonia fumes in a sealed chamber. The reaction of the ammonia with the naturally rich tannins produces a controlled darkening. Because it does not conceal the grain, this method is superior. This technique is often applied because it results in a very noticeable darkening of the wood.

But the American oak trees produce less consistent results when fumed. French Oak gives a lovely, dark, almost walnut color when fumed.

What Is Tannic Acids

Tannic acid is found in bark, plants, leaves. The most prevalent use for this compound is to tan leather. Russian oak does not have as much tannic acid as the others, so it is not often sourced for these purposes.

Tannic acid can cause damage to the skin and eyes, and it can also be harmful if ingested.

Strength Of Timber

The hardwood is prized for its strength and durability, though they differ in several ways; the most notable is the American oak texture. European oak is ideal for the outdoors because it doesn’t require waterproof chemicals. It also contains tannin, which makes it highly resistant to attack by insects or fungi.

American white oak
US example

External Use

Because it is robust and does not warp or shrink easily, it is a popular choice for doors and window frames. Kiln-dried oak is ideal for external use as it is durable and resistant to moisture. When placed outside, it will require treating to seal it and keep water out. This will help minimize warping, which can cause damage over time.

While American species can be utilized outdoors, it has larger cells, so it can cause problems. Moisture is more likely to get in and warp the timber more easily. When exposed to the elements, the wood discolours and turns black.

Oak timbers have been used in framing wooden structures for centuries throughout Europe. The natural properties, sturdiness and decay resistance- make an excellent construction material.

english floor boards
Engineered floor boards

Internal Use

European wood is a popular choice for interior design projects. It has a beautiful look and polishes to a high sheen. It is also very strong and durable, suitable for oak wood flooring, furniture and worktops. It should not be placed in high levels of moisture without sealing first, such as in bathrooms, as it can warp or rot.

An American oak floor is often favoured because it has more figure and color variation. It takes oil finishes well, which makes it suitable for flooring and cabinetry as it is dense and durable. It is perfect for house trim like skirting and architrave as it accepts nails and screws.

American vs English oak barrels

When creating whiskey, the kind of cask matters, as it affects the flavour profile. American wood imparts vanilla and caramel notes, while the European imparts a smokiness. The porous nature of these casks allows the bourbon to age faster than in a European barrel.

After three refills, the cask loses its flavour and effect on the whisky.

They are both commonly deployed in the wine-making process. The two types have differing flavours and qualities due to the area where they are grown. White oak is sweeter, while European oak is spicier and more woody.

oak samples
Sample variations

Typically, both are employed, although so are other hardwoods. Each has its unique flavour profile that will influence the taste of the whiskey.

Summing Up Which Is Best For You

Which sort is best for you will depend on what you are using it for. However, if you want to use solid oak in your home, either will suffice. European oak boards are a more expensive option but offer a uniqueness that will last a lifetime.

European oak is considered the best quality, but the other is cheaper.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *