Color: Heartwood and sapwood are similar, with sapwood lighter in color; most pieces have a reddish tone. Slightly redder than white oak.
Grain: Open, slightly coarser (more porous) than white oak. Plainsawn boards have a plumed or flared grain appearance; riftsawn has a tighter grain patter, low figuring; quartersawn has a flake patter, sometimes called tiger rays or butterflies.
Variations Within Species and Grades: More than 200 subspecies in North America; great variation in color and grain, depending on the origin of the wood and corresponding differences in growing seasons. Northern, Southern and Appalachian red oak can all be divided into upland and lowland species. Because the grow more slowly, upland species generally have a more uniform grain pattern than lowland species, with more growing rings per inch.
Hardness/Janka: Northern 1290 (benchmark).
Dimensional Stability: Average (change coefficient .00369)
Durability: Stiff and dense; resists wear, with high shock resistance, though less durable than white oak.
Sawing/Machining: Above average in all machining operations except shaping.
Sanding: Sands satisfactorily, better than white oak.
Nailing: Good resistance to splitting; excellent holding ability.
Finishing: Strong stain contrast because of large pores
Comments: Red oak generally works better than white for bleached floors, because it is more porous and accepts bleach better, and because tannins in white oak can discolor floor.