Elm vs Oak Wood – What’s the difference?

Both Elm and Oak are popular choices when it comes to sourcing wood for construction. Both these woods are popularly in use since ancient times.

While both are hardwood trees , they have unique characteristics which make them ideal for specific purposes. It is very important to know their relevant characteristics to select the suitable type of wood.

So, let us discuss the characteristics of elm and oak wood.

Elm vs Oak Wood – Difference

Elm Wood

The heartwood of the elm wood is dull brown to reddish-brown in color, and its sapwood has a pale white complexion. It has a unique and beautiful appearance and is prized for its exquisite grain pattern that looks naturally pleasing.

With a Janka rating of 810, it is much softer than other hardwoods like oak wood. Which means they are not as strong as oak wood and also much less durable. While elm, in general, is prone to rot and decay, it becomes resistant when permanently wet. Thus, elm wood was widely used as water pipes during the medieval era.

Elm wood is also a high-density wood weighing around 560 kg/m3 with interlocking grains. This property makes it split-resistant and ideal for nailing.

Elm wood is also highly bendable in nature. Due to this, it has long been used for making bows in the ancient ages. This property is today used to make modern-day hockey sticks.

Elm wood, due to its wide availability, makes it an affordable choice. However, mature elm trees can be expensive as their availability is considerably reduced due its susceptibility to the Dutch Elm Disease.

However, due to its soft nature, elm wood is not ideal for large constructions. It is generally used in making simple furniture, boxes, baskets, veneer, and paper-making.

Oak Wood

Oak wood is an attractive wood with prominent graining and a pleasant golden color that often displays silver or amber tones when aged. It is prized for its rustic appearance due to its unique grain pattern. It is also very easily stained.

Oak wood is extremely durable due to its dense constitution. It is also resistant to rot and tends to survive for a longer time than other woods like elm due to its dense and non-porous texture. This makes oak wood ideal for making doors and window panes as it is resilient to warping due to its dense constitution.

Oak wood also consists of natural tannins that make it resistant to insect and pest attacks, thus adding longevity to the wood and ensuring that the quality does not degrade over time.

With a Janka rating of 1360, oak wood is also considerably hard and ideal for large constructions. Due to its height, it also requires fewer trees, thus increasing the yield per tree. Further, oak trees tend to grow abundantly, which makes oak wood as affordable as elm wood.

With elegant finish and durability, oak wood is extensively used for paneling, making furniture, cabinets, cupboards, flooring.


Therefore we can see that both oak and elm wood have unique features. While Oak is ideal for larger constructions with rustic looks, elm is suitable for smaller constructions seeking elasticity and lightness. Hence, the respective features of both types of wood must be analyzed before selecting the right wood for your purpose.

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