Not All Red Oaks Are Created Equal

Red Oak Cabinet DoorRed Oak is one of the most popular woods for cabinets and it’s reliable, it’s durable, and it’s beautiful when used for cabinet doors. But, not all of the Red Oaks are equally beautiful.

There are many varieties within the Red Oak families and this discussion is limited to those more commonly used in the manufacture of Cabinet Doors.

Red Oak is divided into three main growing regions, Southern, Appalachian, and Northern. Each of these regions can be further sub-divided based on the color and quality of the Red Oak that grows within the sub-regions.

As a broad overview, Oak from the southern regions has a faster growth rate and tends to have the widest color range of the regions. Oak from the Appalachian regions grows slower than the Southern Oaks with a color range somewhat more consistent than the Southern Oaks.

The Northern Oaks are generally considered to be the highest quality. The Northern Oaks have a shorter growing season and therefore have a slower growth rate. The color is much more consistent, and the mill prices are higher than the Appalachian or Southern Oaks.

The best of the best is a sub-group of the Northern Oaks which grows in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Red Oaks from this region are commonly referred to as Glacial Northern Red Oak. The growth rings tend to be very tight indicating the very slow growth rate, and the color consistency is exceptional. The color is a Light Wheat Color.

I’ve visited many mills in each region and most mills can supply limited quantities of Wheat Colored Red Oak by performing a color sort, but the wide color spectrum of Red Oak from the Appalachian and Southern regions makes color sorting labor intensive.

Red Oak sorts from the Glacial sub-region of Northern Oak are easy as the majority of those Oaks are naturally Wheat Color, so the pricing tends to reflect the Grading Rules more than the color sort labor constraints.

Cabinets used in higher-end housing tend to be made by local Custom Cabinet Shops while cabinets used in more affordable housing is more likely to be “Modular Cabinets”. The Modular Cabinet industry, for the last decade, has been hard pressed to match the costs of Chinese manufacturers and many have moved their operations to China, or started using the lower cost southern oaks.
Those Custom Cabinet Shops that supply custom home builders are expected to supply a product that is noticeably superior to the Modular Cabinets, and part of that “superior” requirement applies to a very uniform and consistent color in the Red Oak doors.

That is why CabinetDoors.Com uses Glacial Northern Red Oak in every one of the Red Oak doors we make.

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