McGee Lumber Company
2339 N. Graham St.
Charlotte, NC 28206-2505
Oak Lumber Oak Wood Buying Tips
Lets talk briefly about oak lumber. Tackling this subject is a little like tackling the Internet—the subject is extraordinarily wide and unbelievably long and talking about oak like any wood can make those of us that love wood, chat all day. But, here's some basic information about Oak Lumber and buying Oak Lumber that should get you started.
To start, the first question that demands a response is, “What are we trying to accomplish in purchasing oak for a given project?” Is appearance the reason that we are exploring an oak option? Or do we need the wonderful strength properties that oak delivers?
Lets break it down a little:
Oak Lumber Beauty
Red or white oak is beautiful. There's not much question here. When you look at a piece of clear oak the warmth and beauty just draws you to the wood. Now, lets get practical—if you want this grade of wood and you are using it for an interior application always use kiln dried oak.
Those questions need to be first on the list for anyone buying oak—what grade is it? And is it kiln dried.
Price? Oak isn't cheap. But then like other things of beauty, strength, and character, you get exactly what you pay for.
Oak Lumber Strength
Oak is strong. There are other hardwoods that are stronger, but oak will deliver more than adequate strength for just about any project.
In industrial applications, oak is often the wood of choice because of its wonderful strength. Usually, for this application, a customer doesn’t need to pay the premium price that kiln drying brings.
In industrial applications, appearance of the oak isn't the issue — just the muscle that oak delivers.
Other Oak Lumber Applications
Now for the surprise…this brawny muscular wood will occasionally be called for in an upscale home where the ‘distressed look’ is the desired appearance. Rough and green (not kiln dried) oak will definitely say… distressed yet brawny.
Choosing Oak Lumber
Now lets get a little picky as we go to the lumberyard to buy some oak. Lets assume we are buying good grade Oak Lumber product for our home. What do we want to see and how do we choose quality oak lumber? Other than the basics (straightness of the wood, splits in the ends, etc), what do we want in our wood?
Two things to consider: First, can we live with knots in the oak wood? Knots are one of the ‘flaws’ in any wood so, if we can live with knots, we can save a little money. Think about that issue beforehand, then look at the wood your lumberyard offers—are the knots OK for us?
If you are a little unsure about the knots then look at the ‘clear’ oak lumber—no knots. How does that look? What is the price differential between clear and knotty? Check to see if the knots go all the way through. Full-size knots that go all way through the lumber could potentially pop out of your oak.
Also be sure to ask if the oak lumber is kiln-dried. Many people including the stock clerk or the fellow from the water-heater department might just assume so. Check it out for sure.
Visual Clues To Buying Oak Lumber
Second, lets look at grain patterns.
There are two basic types—vertical grain (also known as quarter sawn or rift sawn) and flat grain. Vertical grain is the premium grain. You know you are looking at a piece of vertical grain if the growth rings on the board are straight and parallel with each other.
It looks very uniform. By the way, why is vertical grain the premium priced grain pattern? When the log is sawed if it sawed for vertical grain there is less lumber yield out of the log than you can get if you saw the log for flat grain boards.
Therefore, the mill sells each board for a premium price. Look at both vertical and flat grain—which do you like? Again, what is the price differential between the two grain patterns? Now you are in a better position to decide.
Oak—a wonderful wood for so many applications from the most beautiful and dainty of applications all the way to the tough and dirty jobs that require the biggest of muscles. Enjoy the possibilities.