Investing in a furniture set is exciting as you fill a new space or upgrade an old one. Many people turn to oak because it’s timeless and versatile until they see the price tag. The cost of oak furniture is enough to make anyone pause. Why is oak furniture so expensive?
The short answer is that oak is a hardwood. Typically, we separate wood into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Though the names suggest that one is hard and the other is soft, that’s not true. The categories refer to the wood’s density and weight; hardwoods are denser and heavier than their lighter counterparts.
To further complicate matters, oak is one of the most desirable options for furniture. It’s not easy to maintain enough supply to meet the demands of furniture manufacturers, who, in turn, need to satisfy customers.
Obviously, there’s far more to the story than this oversimplified answer. Read on to take a deep dive into why oak furniture is so expensive and find out whether or not it’s worth the price.
1. Oak Takes a Long Time to Grow
The top reason oak furniture costs so much is how long it takes to grow new trees. These trees can live for hundreds of years, which is good because it takes decades for oak trees to mature. Even the fastest-growing oak varieties take four to five years to become saplings.
Traditionally, nature took its course to repopulate oak trees. The massive oaks yielded acorns that wildlife scattered. If uneaten, the acorns could sprout and take root. Unfortunately, those sprouts faced multiple dangers that could prevent them from ever becoming saplings, let alone mature trees.
Further, oak trees typically don’t produce acorns for at least four decades. That means we can’t cut down every oak tree to make furniture because we need some to produce acorns for planting more trees. Since it takes so long to grow new trees, we need to plan to avoid wiping out any varieties before they reach commercial size.
Of course, furniture makers are also getting creative with sourcing oak these days. For example, the reclaimed oak movement allows woodworkers to recycle existing pieces and give them new life.
2. Oak Is Extremely Dense
Let’s talk about density and hardwoods. First, the term hardwood dates back to settlers who had to cut these trees down by hand. The trees that left them with sore muscles and damaged tools earned the nickname hardwood for obvious reasons.
While technology has come a long way from those days, we still use hardwood and softwood to describe density and specific gravity. There are more than two hundred oak species in North America, and the average weight is between 37 and 56 pounds per foot. In comparison, pine trees weigh between 22 and 37 pounds per foot.
Woodworkers can tell you that hardwoods like oak require more effort at every stage and typically use more tools. For example, unless you want a healthy amount of splinters with your new dining room set, the manufacturer needs to do a lot of extra sanding. It takes more time and effort, meaning manufacturers have to pay more to craft oak furniture and pass those costs on to you.
Of course, this denseness and weight are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, oak furniture is sturdy and durable. However, the density and weight make it tougher to cut, process, sand, and shape.
3. Oak Is In High Demand
Finally, the rules of supply and demand apply to oak furniture as much as any product. The law of supply and demand refers to the relationship between how desirable a product is, how much is available, and what people are willing to pay for it. As long as consumers are willing to fork over extra money to secure a product, dealers can raise the price.
Oak furniture is desirable for several reasons: many people want it, and dealers reflect that in pricing. Not only is there a finite supply of oak furniture due to the above reasons, but the demand for it also is not flagging, and people are willing to pay the price to get what they want.
Is Oak Furniture Worth the Money?
As you stand looking at that oak bedroom set or dining room table, you contemplate the craftsmanship and how it would look in your room against the price. It’s perfectly normal to ask if the piece or set is worth the cost. Only you can answer this question, but you might want to consider these factors before deciding.
- Oak is durable, so it lasts for years, and the furniture often becomes family heirlooms.
- While it’s more expensive than softwoods like pine or spruce, oak is one of the cheaper hardwoods.
- Oak is heavy, so moving furniture around can be a chore.
- Maintenance is minimal compared to other options. Dust it regularly and keep it dry and away from extreme heat and direct sunlight.
- Oak furniture is extremely versatile and fits many aesthetics, so it’s easy to mix and match with other pieces.
Aside from its weight and price, the only real drawback to oak furniture is the high tannin content that leaves it susceptible to some oils. However, keeping the furniture inside and following basic care instructions should do the trick.
Oak furniture has a lot to offer, and many people would argue that it’s worth the investment. If you really want an oak piece but are working with a tight budget, consider one piece instead of a set. Since oak furniture is so versatile, you can splurge on one beautiful piece that anchors your space and round out the room with less expensive pieces.
Why Is Oak Furniture So Expensive?
Oak furniture is so expensive for a few reasons. Trees grow slowly, meaning it takes a long time to replace every one that’s cut down. Further, oak is extremely dense and heavy, making it cumbersome to work with and craft into furniture. Finally, since wood is durable and versatile, it has become timeless furniture that remains in high demand.