Is Red Oak Good For Outdoor Use? (All You Need To Know!)

is red oak good for outdoor use

Red Oak is a popular wood for furniture, moldings, doors, and other construction purposes. We already know Red Oak is an excellent choice for indoor use.

But when it comes to the exterior applications, let’s see, Is Red Oak good for outdoor use?

Red Oak is not good for outdoor use because Red Oak is an open-pored wood that soaks up water like a sponge. This leads Red Oak to rot and decay quickly in outdoor use. Because of having a lot of tannins, Red Oak tends to turn black when get contact with dirt, water, or soil.

But that isn’t just a yes or no question especially because Red Oak is doing great indoors.

So, in this article, we’ll explore is Red Oak good for outdoor use, the advantages, and disadvantages of using Red Oak for outdoor use, and how to finish Red Oak for exterior use as well.

Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

Let’s dig in!

Can You use Red Oak for the Exterior?

Red Oak is not a good option for exterior use. It has an extremely porous structure that soaks up moisture from the outdoor environment.

But white oak has vessels called tyloses that prevent the absorption of water from the outside world and avoid wood rotting.

But in Red Oak, there are no tyloses to prevent water absorption. Therefore, it sucks up water from the atmosphere, and soil like a straw.

Because of the high moisture content inside of the Red Oak, it tends to rot and decay quickly.

Plus, tyloses help the wood to get protected from bugs, insects, and organisms. But because of not having a tyloses structure Red Oak is susceptible to insect and organism attacks.

Therefore, better not to use Red Oak for outdoor use.

Areas of Red Oak that get contacted with water or soil will turn into black color.

I’ve noticed Red Oak tables and chairs placed outside have legs with black tips where they touch the ground.

This is because the open pore structure of Red Oak wicks water into the table or chair and the legs will rot quickly.

But with proper finishing techniques, you’ll be able to seal the outer surface of the Red Oak and prevent it from soaking up moisture.

Sealers avoid wood from getting in contact with moisture, dirt, and soil and protect Red Oak from environmental elements.

But there’re some occasions, the sealer or finisher worn off the end grain due to high moisture levels and the water will get a chance to penetrate through the wood fibers to make them wet and rot.

Therefore, when you’re using Red Oak for outdoor use pay more attention to applying a quality sealing product that causes less trouble in the future.

Otherwise, your Red Oak furniture or woodwork will be ruined in a few months after keeping it outside.

Overall, Red Oak is a very poor choice for outdoor use unless you’re using a proper finishing technique.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Red Oak for Outdoor Use

As we already know Red Oak is not the best wood for outdoor use, it gives some pretty good benefits as well.

Here’re some of the best pros and cons of Red Oak,

Stains wellNo water resistance
LightweightProne to insect attacks
Easy to work withNo decay and rot resistance
Easy to sandPoor weather resistance
Beautiful appearanceExtremely porous wood

As you can see even though Red Oak has some significant benefits, it’s difficult to use outdoor due to poor resistance to environmental elements.

But most of the above disadvantages can be easily solved with proper finishing techniques.

Therefore, proper finishing is a must before keeping Red Oak outdoor.

So, let’s find out how to finish Red Oak for outdoor use with the best and simplest finishing techniques.

How To Finish Red Oak for Outdoor Use?

Red Oak takes stain so well. Because of having an open-porous structure the stain pigments easily get absorbed into the oak wood making a protective layer against environmental elements such as moisture, UV rays, climate changes, and many more.

Plus, Red Oak can be turned into any shade you want because of its excellent finishing properties.

By applying stain you’ll be able to make Red Oak suitable to use in an outdoor environment because it won’t get contacted with moisture, dirt, or soil that causes wood rotting.

If you applied wood stain correctly on Red Oak, you’ll be able to achieve a nice and smooth finish with a beautiful appearance for exterior use of Red Oak without any issues.

So, let’s see how to finish Red Oak using stain for outdoor use.

Supplies You Will Need

  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Wood stain product
  • Wood conditioner
  • Clean rags
  • Gloves
  • Paintbrush

Here’re the steps you need to follow when finishing Red Oak for outdoor use,

  1. Clean the wood
  2. Sand and remove sawdust
  3. Apply wood conditioner and let it dry
  4. Apply wood stain
  5. Let the wood dry completely

So, let’s explore each of the above steps separately to get a better idea about staining Red Oak for outdoor use.

1. Clean The Wood

Cleaning is an essential step in wood staining. It helps to remove dust, debris, and other residues that can cause issues when applying wood stains.

Because if dust gets trapped inside wood stain, the surface blotchiness can occur which is so difficult to fix.

Take the clean rags and wipe down the entire Red Oak surface to eliminate dust, debris, grease, and other residues.

Cleaning helps to unnecessary stuff on Red Oak and makes the wood ready to accept evenly.

2. Sand and Remove Sawdust

After cleaning the wood properly, and the entire Red Oak surface with 220 grit sandpaper.

Sanding helps Red Oak to eliminate any surface imperfections and make it smooth and nicer for better finishing.

Sand along the direction of the wood grain to avoid wood scratching and for better absorption of wood stain evenly.

Make sure not to use higher-grade sandpapers because Red Oak is softwood, and it can get damaged.

Plus, sand with even pressure all over the wood to avoid getting blotchy or splotchy surface.

After sanding the wood uniformly, clean and eliminate sawdust using rags.

Make sure not to miss any spots during cleaning because sawdust can cause lots of trouble if they get into the stain layer.

3. Apply Wood Conditioner

Wood conditioner helps Red Oak to take on stain uniformly without making any wood stain mistakes like bubbles, blotches, and streaks.

Therefore, applying a wood conditioner is necessary before staining Red Oak for better finishing.

After cleaning the wood properly, apply a pre-stain wood conditioner all over the wood without missing any spots.

Apply with even pressure on the paintbrush to avoid any randomness and brush along the direction of the wood grain for better acceptance.

Because of being an open porous wood Red Oak absorb stain so well and most stains tend to penetrate through Red Oak fibers rather than making a stain coating around the outer surface of the wood.

In order to save unnecessary usage of stains from getting inside the wood, apply a wood conditioner.

Wood conditioner limits the absorption rate of Red Oak and controls the stain absorption.

This will save the wood stain and able to make the top layer with less amount of stain.


To avoid any incompatibility issues, I highly recommend you purchase both wood stain and wood conditioner from the same manufacturer.

After applying the pre-stain wood conditioner, let it settle on the wood for about 30 minutes, and then wipe off the excess stain with a damp cloth for better acceptance of stain.

4. Apply Wood Stain

When the wood is completely dry after applying wood conditioner, you’re good to go for the next and most important step, wood staining. Take the paintbrush and dip just the tip of it into the stain.

Then the stain will run up through the fibers and make them soaked.

Then apply stain all over the wood with gentle strokes.

Apply along the direction of the wood grain to avoid blotches and crossing with grain and brush strokes.

Distribute stain evenly throughout the wood with even pressure.

After applying the stain for 2 – 3 minutes wipe off the excess stain with rag cloths to get a thin efficient stain layer.

This coat of stain dries faster and causes less wood stain mistakes.

Red Oak can be stained with pretty much any shade you want.

But you have to be wise to select the best one that matches your outdoor environment without ruining the natural look of Red Oak.

Apply wood stain in a well-ventilated area with good air circulation because wood stain may cause breathing issues.

5. Let the Wood Dry Completely

After applying stain all over the wood, let it dry for about 24 hours before heading into the next coat of stain.

One coat of stain is probably not enough for a highly porous wood like Red Oak.

Wait until the previous coat of stain dried completely before applying the next coat of stain.

Never apply stain when the surface is wet and tacky which can lead to surface blotchiness.

Surface blotchiness is hard to remove, and you’ll have to take down stain and wood conditioner layers and start the process from the very beginning.

Therefore, drying is so much impotent when it comes to finishing Red Oak for outdoor use.

That’s all about how to finish Red Oak for exterior use.

Hope you have gained an answer to the hot question, Is Red Oak good for outdoor use? The answer is Yes, but only with proper finishing.

So, let’s find answers to the frequently asked questions about using Red Oak for exterior applications.

Is Red Oak Rot Resistant?

No, Red Oak is not rot-resistant. It has no natural resistance against rotting and decaying because Red Oak doesn’t have tyloses as white oak does to prevent moisture from getting inside of the wood.

Red Oak sucks up moisture like a sponge and its wood fibers get soaked quickly, therefore the wood will rot and decay faster.

You can reduce Red Oak from rotting by sealing the wood properly before keeping it outside.

Outdoor Applications of Red Oak

Even though Red Oak is not the best choice for outdoor use, with proper finishing you can use Red Oak for exterior applications without any fear.

Here’re some popular outdoor applications of Red Oak,

  • Barn siding
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Exterior door thresholds
  • Fenceposts
  • Veneer

How Long Will Red Oak Last Outside?

Red Oak lasts outside for about 3 – 5 years with proper finishing.

You can increase the lifetime of Red Oak with regular maintenance and not keep Red Oak woodworks or furniture in harsh weather conditions.

Without proper finishing or keeping Red Oak in bad climates, it won’t last for years.

The wood will start to rot and decay eventually because of the high moisture content and insect and fungi attacks.

Because of having tyloses white oak lasts outside much longer than Red Oak.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Red Oak Good for Outdoor Use?

In his article, we have deeply discussed is Red Oak good for outdoor use, the advantages, and disadvantages you’ll get by using Red Oak for exterior applications, and how to finish Red Oak before keeping them outside with proper simple finishing methods as well.

Red Oak is not good for outdoor use. It gets easily attacked by moisture and dirt. The wood tends to rot and decay quickly due to poor weather resistance. Plus, it is susceptible to insect attacks as well. But with proper finishing, you’ll be able to use Red Oak for outdoor applications for a much longer time.

Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions about using Red Oak for outdoor use as well.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about is Red Oak good for outdoor use with proven facts.

Make sure to do a proper finishing before keeping Red Oak outside for better protection. Keep learning and be a pro at woodworking.

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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