5 Piece Quarter Sawn Oak Door in Truffle; Kitchen Design Partners, Inc. - IL | Photographer: Mike Kaskel

Oak Cabinetry


Holiday Kitchens uses Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) for its Oak cabinetry.  Holiday Kitchens specifies only northern red oak in its oak cabinetry due to the superior nature of this wood in comparison with other available oaks, such as southern red oak, scrub oak, or black oak.  Northern red oak is a deciduous broadleaf hardwood.  The northern red oak is native to Eastern North America, and is easily recognizable by its distinctive leaves.  The leaves of the red oak are described as alternate, elliptic with shallow wavy lobes with few irregular bristle-tipped teeth.  The leaves are generally 3-10 inches long and 3-6 inches wide.  The red oak is named due to both the reddish color of its wood and the brilliant red color of its leaves during autumn.  The bark of the northern red oak is dark gray to black, shallowly furrowed into broad, hard, scaly ridges.  Oaks are also distinctive for their fruit, the acorn. 



Northern Red Oak Leaves & Acorns
Northern Red Oak Bark
Northern Red Oak Tree


The natural range of the Northern Red Oak stretches from southeastern Canada south to Georgia and Alabama, from the east coast west to the eastern edge of Nebraska and Kansas.  It is found as a dominant species in many northern hardwood and mixed forests, though it does not establish well beneath its own canopy and is often replaced by more shade tolerant trees in older forests.  It is an important species ecologically as it provides browse for many animals, its acorns especially important.  In fact, in most years up to 80% of the acorns produced by an oak are eaten by birds, mammals, and insects. 

Natural Range of Northern Red Oak


Northern red oaks generally first bear acorns at about 20-25 years, although most do not produce abundant amounts until 40-50 years.  Under optimal conditions, that is lots of sun in well-drained soil, oaks are fast growing and can reach 15-20 feet in height after only 10 years.  Red oaks are relatively long-lived and may live up to 500 years.  Mature red oak trees can grow to 90-140 feet tall with trunks as large as 3-4 feet in diameter.  If grown in the open, oaks do not grow as tall, but are stouter with trunks up to 6 feet in diameter.  One of the largest red oaks on record is the Ashford Oak in Ashford, Connecticut which has a trunk 26 feet across!  Oak stands are generally thinned every 10-20 years to allow for maximum growth and sustainability.

Northern red oak is an important source of hardwood lumber.  It has heavy, hard, strong, coarse-grained, and durable wood.  In addition to furniture and cabinetry, red oak has been used to make railroad ties, fence posts, flooring, paneling, ships, and kegs. 

Wood and Grain Characteristics

Oak is a durable, stiff, strong hardwood with a distinctive coarse grain and texture.  Oak has good workability and excellent fastener holding ability.  It is prized for its hard, dense wood that resists damage and wear.  Oak sands reasonably well, producing a smooth surface, but with deep grain pores.  The deep pores of oak are more noticeable on shaped profiles and edges than on flat surfaces.  This may result in a slightly different appearance on these shaped profiles.                

Oak can produce distinctly different grain patterns based upon how the lumber is sawn from the log.  Quarter sawing oak produces a very distinctive straight-grain pattern.  Form more information on quarter-sawn oak, please see Holiday Kitchens’ Quarter-Sawn Oak Product Awareness.

Sanded Oak Panel

Natural Wood Color

Northern red oak produces a wood with a rich autumn wheat color ranging from light brown to a reddish brown.  Some red oak will have a slightly greenish cast to it, based upon environmental conditions during its growth.  There is a slight difference in color between the heartwood and the sapwood, with the sapwood generally being lighter in overall color.  Holiday Kitchens carefully sorts its red oak to keep the range of color as tight as possible on the reddish brown side.  However, some natural variation in color is to be expected.

Oak changes only slightly over time in response to exposure to sunlight.  It does tend to fade in color slightly, sometimes taking on a creamy, slightly yellow tint.  This effect is greatly reduced once it is finished, but natural mellowing of the wood cannot be completely prevented.

Finishing Characteristics

The characteristic grain and deep pores of oak take stain very well.  Poorly applied stains have a tendency to fill the pores of the grain and then seep back out during drying, creating dark drips and spots on the surface of the wood (a process referred to as bleed-out).  Holiday Kitchens employs careful application of specially-formulated stains and thorough hand-wiping to help eliminate bleed-out. 

Oak is an interesting choice for applying paints or primers.  The deep grain shows through the paint, allowing for the opaque finish of the paint while still retaining the pattern of the wood underneath.  Holiday Kitchens offers all of its paint and primers on oak for those customers looking for a beautiful painted wood look.

Glazes also produce a striking appearance on oak.  Glazes tend to bite heavily into the deep grain, adding extra highlights and depth to the wood.  Glazes are available on either stained or primed oak.

Vintage Artistry is also available on oak.  The density and hard surface of the wood minimize the depth of some options, like distressing.  Still, the antique look of many Vintage Artistry options is a natural fit for oak.

Wood Quality

Oak typically has few knots, but they are still present throughout the lumber.  Knots tend to be dark and conspicuous, and are often framed by wide swirls of grain.  Holiday Kitchens sorts its oak to exclude any knots that are greater than 1/2” across on the front of any solid wood components.  Knots up to 1” across are allowed on the backs.  All knots will be sound (that is, they do not move) and solid (that is, flush across the surface).  On the fronts of solid wood oak parts, you should find no more than 2 knots per square foot of material.  Knots may be clustered, but the overall number should not exceed the amount allowed for the total square footage of the component.  There is not limit on the number of knots allowed on the backs of components.

Red oak typically has pin knots.  These are small knots (less than 1/8” across) that can be found singly or in tight clusters.  Holiday Kitchens doesn’t exclude any lumber based upon pin knots, as they are normal and expected in oak.

Mineral streaks are commonly found in red oak.  In general, mineral streaks are small (only a few inches in length for the longest) and narrow.  Mineral streaks can be obtrusive if they are too large or if there are multiple occurrences.  Holiday Kitchens sorts out any mineral streaks that are larger than 4 inches in length or 1/4” in width.  Additionally, no more than 1 mineral streak greater than 1/2” in length will be allowed per 4 square feet.  Bark pockets, soft spots, decay, wormholes, and excessive grain stain are all considered defects and are sorted out by Holiday Kitchens.

Holiday Kitchens takes great care in selecting high quality red oak.



Typical Sound Oak Knot

Typical Oak Pin Knots

Typical Acceptable Mineral Streak

Cabinetry and Furniture

Oak was once a very popular choice in cabinetry and furniture, due to its strength, durability, and distinctive appearance.  Oak is now less popular, as it is often perceived as not fitting the contemporary styling many homeowners and designers are seeking.  Oak remains an affordable, reliable species for cabinetry.  Holiday Kitchens offers multiple options that can keep oak a refreshing option.


5 Piece Quarter Sawn Oak Door in Truffle; Kitchen Design Partners, Inc. - IL | Photographer: Mike Kaskel