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Iroko vs. Oak: A Quick Hardwood Guide

Two stunning, high-performance hardwoods, both iroko and oak are a fine choice for almost any timber project. But what separates them? Let’s take a look.

Iroko vs. Oak: A Quick Summary

Iroko is a hardwood that comes from large trees native to the western coast of tropical Africa.

With a characteric golden-brown colour, alluring grain structure and superb outdoor durability, Iroko shares very close resemblance to Teak — indeed, it has even earned the nickname ‘African Teak’.

Oak is a term that can refer to a large number of species native to the northern hemisphere forests of France, Germany, Britain and North America. Some of the most commercially popular oaks are European Oak and American White Oak.

Like iroko, oak species are highly regarded for their beauty, durability and strength. Colours can vary from light to dark, but oak usually boasts a timeless pale-to-golden brown colour and straight grain.

Your preference between the two will usually depend on the aesthetic you have in mind. Which will match your project best — iroko’s richer, unique browns, or oak’s classic, natural beauty?

Both woods are strong, durable and suitable for a range of interior and exterior projects — decking, flooring, furniture and so on — and both tend to come in at a similar cost. Iroko is particularly suitable for exterior use in adverse conditions.

Iroko vs. Oak: Colour and appearance

Iroko starts life as a unique golden-yellow colour, deepening to a rich, bronze shade over time. Colour variance is to be expected, with some boards containing dark streaked markings.

Oak’s colour can vary depending on the species chosen. European Oak is celebrated for its golden medium-brown hues, whereas American White Oak has a paler, light-to-tan-brown colour.

Iroko has an interlocking grain, whereas many species of oak usually boast a straight grain. Both exhibit attractive textures, with variance making every piece of wood unique — a quality that draws many architects, woodworkers and project specifiers to these stunning species.

Example of iroko's typical colour.
Iroko typically boasts a beautiful, exotic golden yellow colour, slowly darkening over time
An example of the typical colour of an oak species.
Species of oak, such as European Oak, are famed for their timeless, versatile and natural golden hues.
Iroko exhibiting a darker brown shade as a result of age.
Over time, iroko can change colour to a rich, deeper bronze shade.

As with all timbers, both oak and iroko will slowly weather to a silvery-grey if left untreated and exposed to the outdoor elements. This can be drastically slowed down with the use of a quality preservative.

Iroko vs. Oak: Properties

Density

As a result of their slow growth and long-lived nature, both iroko and oak are hard-wearing timbers. European oak has an impressive dry density of 675kg/m³, compared with 660kg/m³ for iroko — both are exceptionally strong, scratch-resistant and stable species.

Durability

As well as being dense and strong, they’re also both resistant to a range of external threats.

With an abundance of naturally-occurring resins, iroko’s heartwood is highly resistant to rot and decay, repelling insect attack very effectively. Iroko is often used for joinery intended for harsh conditions, like boatbuilding and canal gates — a marker of its durability.

Species of oak have a similarly durable nature, with incredible density and natural oils affording the wood a high degree of resistance to fungal attack and decay.

Iroko vs. Oak: Uses

These two woods are both fine examples of extremely versatile, dynamic timbers, suitable for a wide range of interior and exterior applications.

When it comes to iroko, popular uses include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):

  • Decking
  • Flooring
  • Fencing
  • Interior furniture (chairs, tables, worktops, doors and so on)
  • Exterior furniture

Some of oak’s most common uses include:

  • Decking
  • Flooring
  • Cladding
  • Doors
  • Interior furniture (chairs, tables, worktops, doors and so on)
  • Exterior furniture
  • Outdoor structures (like pergolas, porches and garages)
A solid oak table top or counter top.
Solid oak provides clean, natural beauty for interior and exterior projects.
A deck featuring iroko boards.
Amongst many other uses, iroko is a popular choice for decking.

Iroko vs. Oak: Environmental impact

Generally speaking, wood is an extremely eco-friendly building material. During growth and harvest, timber stores carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — from the atmosphere, releasing it back without surplus over time.

To ensure the iroko or oak you choose is as ‘green’ and sustainable as possible, purchase from a timber importer and merchant with a clear, honest commitment to the planet.

It may be possible to argue that oak is more sympathetic to the environment than iroko, simply because it is a more abundant and widely-grown wood, but a responsible merchant will ensure all timber species within their wares are sustainably sourced.

In fact, iroko plays an important environmental role in that it is often seen as an excellent alternative to genuine teak, a wood currently subject to strict export laws as a result of unsustainable historic forestry management practices.

All of the wood we stock — including our iroko and oak — conforms to a rigorous environmental policy, all sourced from only responsibly-managed woodland. We’re also a leading supplier of FSC® and PEFC™ timber, an internationally-recognised certification that the wood meets the highest environmental standards.

A dense forest of oak trees.

Iroko vs. Oak: Costs and prices

Both iroko and oak tend to come in at a similar price point, although costs can always fluctuate and are dependent on the project you have in mind. For a quick iroko or oak quote, get in touch with our team of timber experts.

Many see iroko as an inexpensive alternative to teak, with which it shares many similarities in terms of appearance and physical performance.

Duffield Timber: Leading UK suppliers of oak and iroko

Whether it’s sawn timber, cladding, decking, designer fencing, flooring, doors or something else, we’re a leading UK stockist and supplier of Iroko and Oak.

Looking to get your hands on some iroko or oak? Didn’t find out exactly what you wanted from this blog? Drop us a message today to start your next Iroko or Oak project.

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