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Thread: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Placerville, CA
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    730

    Default White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    I haven't heard too much about using white oak for outdoor uses other than boatbuilding, like deck rails, or patio furniture. Redwood and cedar are traditional decking materials, and I've heard of and seen Ipe used for deck rails, but not white oak. Is it primarily cost?

    Ed

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Mountian lakes of Vermont
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    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    Oak tends to turn black when soaked for any length of time. No matter the finish, that finish will fail in some area and leave black spots that usually can't be removed. Oak does not paint well, either. So a painted finish is not an option. In boatbuilding uses, such as cockpit coamings, the finish must be lovingly looked after, something that is rarely done with deck rails, etc.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Durham, NC
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    116

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    I have a pair of white oak adirondack chairs that I made 6 or 7 years ago. I painted them with green enamel. Although I probably should refresh the paint every year, I have been averaging every other year. They still look good after sitting outside all that time. It does tend to develop surface checks that will show up as slight cracks in the paint, but nothing like flaking or pealing.

    The wood I used was air dried for 70+ years in a non-traditional way. I bought it from a farmer who was taking down his horse fencing. The oak had been cut into slats and posts in the 1930s and had been weathering until I bought it. At around 10 cents a BF, it was a double bargain as it also gave me much exercise with a scrub plane cleaning it up.

    Had I not had all this cheap lumber, I would have opted for local cypress or even yellow pine.

    -G
    - Anything you can't have fun with is not worth taking seriously.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2000
    Location
    New York, NY USA
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    939

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    I second #2 above. I maintained a varnished WO cap rail (rail cap?) that was about 4 inches wide and an inch thick for 15 years. It was rugged and durable but would turn black wherever the varnish would wear away. It was stepped on, run into piles, but it was the right material for the job. It isn't very stable so it would not be any good as decking as it will move. But for anything subject to abuse, e.g., door thresholds, it will last a long time.

  5. #5

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    The US Census Bureau headquarters building in Washington, DC has all heartwood white oak glued laminated "fins" or "blades" on the outside of the building. Eight story high building with 8 stories of these sun shades on the outside in front of all the windows. They are oriented vertically. Some are straight and some are squiggly with gentle curves.

    An illustrated article about it appears in the May 2007 issue of "Building Design+Construction" magazine. You might be able to find it online. The factual information about my father and the company is 90% WRONG.

    Andreas

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Woodland,Calif
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    12

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    White oak over time will turn black if you don’t finish it, (All four sides). Most of are customers want us to use redwood or cedar for their deck and exterior trim, (Purist in the Victorian homes). For me VG Douglas-fir rails and trims are nice when painted and off the ground. As far as decking goes Ipe or Jarrah lumber, (if you want to leave it natural). These both come in 5/4 x 4 and 6 width. They are both tuff on your saws blades and have to be drilled .Since you are in near Sacramento try berco redwood.

    NEVER PLASTIC DECKING remember the vinyl siding salesman now run.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Placerville, CA
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    730

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    Thanks for the replies. This is for a public project, so it has to be highly durable and look good. I was just trying to think of solutions that are more local than Ipe, so white oak, redwood, WRC, and doug fir are candidates. Sounds like white oak is out -- the client wouldn't be too happy with black rails, should the coating fail. Clear DF is too expensive, and they've already expressed a desire for Ipe over redwood or cedar. Sigh...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Woodland,Calif
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    12

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    There are no real west coast hardwoods that will do what you want. The best thing is to look for FSC Certification (The Forest Stewardship Council).
    Jarrah is type eucalyptus you can see if there is any small mill that are cutting eucalyptus in corning area. I believe Simpson forest product have some plantation trees they where growing there. Also try http://californiahardwood.com/lumber.html. but beware not all eucalyptus are the same.
    NO WOOD NO GLORY

  9. #9

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    There is no finish on the white oak fins on the US Census Bureau building. No sealer, stain, varnish, linsead oil... nothing. There is no expectation that the wood will turn black.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Placerville, CA
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    730

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    Just looked at some photos of the census building online. Interesting use of white oak to make the fins.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Plainfield, Massachusetts
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    16,504

    Default Re: White oak for outdoor use other than boatbuilding

    My guess is that if the oak is positioned such that the water never really has a chance to soak in and sit there then it never turns black. A finish probably compounds the problem because once there is a break in the finish the water gets under the finish and has a hard time getting back out, so it sits there and stews with the oak juices.

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