Is Red Oak Good For Outdoor Use? Here’s The Truth!

With indoor furniture, there are countless options available to you when choosing timber. Whether softwood or hardwood, most types of wood are suitable for use indoors. However, some kinds of wood perform significantly better than others when it comes to the outdoors.

Red oak is not considered a good timber for outdoor use. This is primarily due to a lack of tyloses. Resultantly, red oak will suck up any moisture in its vicinity and decay rapidly if left outdoors. The lack of tyloses also leaves red oak vulnerable to destructive insects.

While white oak is considered an excellent timber for outdoor use, red oak is hugely different. Red oak is not at all suitable for outdoor use. Even when treated or sealed, red oak is susceptible to rotting as well as damage caused by insects. The main difference between red and white oak is the presence of tyloses.

Is Red Oak Good For Outdoor Use? Here’s The Truth

To the naked, untrained eye, it may seem like there is very little difference between red oak and white oak. These two timber types can easily be mistaken for one another, so it is imperative to know their differences. This will ensure that you can use each variety to its full potential.

Is Red Oak Good For Outdoor Use? Here’s The Truth!

White oak is generally water-tight due to its structure. Its “pores” are filled with tyloses. These tyloses essentially plug up the vessels of the timber. This prevents the wood from wicking up water and rotting.

The presence of tyloses is also beneficial for protecting the timber from insects and other destructive organisms that would otherwise cause havoc. 

While similar in aesthetics to white oak, red oak contains no tyloses in its structure. This means that the pores are open, allowing the timber to soak up water. This wicking up of water quickly causes rotting, and as a result, red oak will decay rapidly outdoors.

Because tyloses can block and prevent insects and organisms, a lack of tyloses will also leave the red oak vulnerable. As a result, destructive organisms such as carpenter ants and wood bees will attack the unprotected timber. 

These insects are attracted to timber such as red oak. Its inability to protect itself makes it an easy target. Naturally, white oak is better able to defend itself in this regard thanks to the presence of the tyloses.

Red oak used in outdoor applications will decay rapidly, irrespective of how it’s coated and protected. As the protective coatings on the end grain start to break down, moisture will quickly find its way into the timber and start causing it to rot from the inside. 

Red oak also creates dark stains as it ages, potentially staining any surface it comes into contact with. This becomes especially apparent in outdoor applications where the aging red oak comes into contact with surfaces such as concrete.

Alternative Timbers For Outdoor Use

Other than white oak, which has been mentioned previously as an excellent option for outdoor furniture, several different types of timber are equally suitable for outdoor furniture.

Teak is one such option that generally outperforms all other timber types. Teak is exceptionally resistant to rot and insects and has a dense structure and a straight grain. Resultantly, Teak will not crack or warp as it ages. Teak contains natural oils that allow it to repel water.

Redwood is another good alternative that is naturally resistant to insects and moisture. Redwood can also easily hold any finishes that are applied to it. Remember that redwood is expensive due to its limited supply and slow-growing nature.

Cypress is a brilliant timber with natural oils that help resist insects and rot. If left untreated, cypress will eventually weather to a silver-gray color that can be highly appealing. Its light color and attractive grain pattern make cypress a popular choice among timber furniture enthusiasts.

How To Maintain Wooden Outdoor Furniture

While it may seem like a pretty overwhelming task to keep your outdoor furniture in good condition throughout the year, the job is somewhat more straightforward than you might imagine. 

Is Red Oak Good For Outdoor Use? Here’s The Truth!

To begin with, you should clean your outdoor furniture thoroughly at the beginning of spring using good old soapy water. If the timber is particularly dirty, a light general sanding should clean the surface enough to continue the job.

Once the furniture has been cleaned thoroughly, you need to protect it from the elements and potentially harmful insects that could otherwise destroy the timber. This type of protection is created by using timber stain or paint.

Suppose the timber used in making your outdoor furniture is able to age naturally. In that case, it can be left to do so while achieving a highly desirable aged effect. The resultant hue is usually an attractive silver that has become extremely popular in contemporary design.

Alternatively, you can opt for an all-weather varnish. This only needs to be re-applied every two to three years. Two coats with each re-application will ensure sufficient protection for the timber, sealing it up entirely and protecting it from the effects of UV, wind, rain, and snow.

Irrespective of the timber used for your outdoor furniture and its inherent lifespan, proper maintenance will go a far in ensuring the longevity of any of your outdoor furniture items. A general clean should be done regularly to avoid a build-up of dirt and grim.

A good suggestion would be to have a moisture barrier between any outdoor wooden furniture and the ground. This will ensure that the wood parts in contact with the earth do not start to wick up water directly from the soil below.


Generally speaking, red oak is not suitable for outdoor use. This is because it is prone to absorbing any moisture in its vicinity, causing it to decay from the inside out quickly. Certain coatings can be applied to prolong the life of red oak used outdoors. Still, a better alternative is to use a different timber altogether.


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