How to Calculate the Hardness and Density of Oak Beams - The Blean
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How to Calculate the Hardness and Density of Oak Beams

Why do people use oak beams

Oak has many advantages over other timbers, including hardness, density, UV resistance, and insect and decay-resistant properties. To understand why people choose oak as their building material, consider a few common characteristics. Read on to discover more about these properties and their uses for homes. Below we’ll outline some of the most common oak beam types. For more information, check out the Wikipedia page on oak. We also cover the construction process.


When discussing the hardness of oak beams, you may be asking about white oak versus red oak wood. While both woods are solid, white oak is significantly harder than red oak. Hardness is a very important concept when talking about hardwoods, but it’s important to remember that it’s not the same as strength, which is based on a variety of other properties. The following guide will explain how to calculate the hardness of a single oak beam for your project.


Freshly cut oak is about 60 – 80% water. Once felled, the tree stops taking in water from the surrounding environment. The highest proportion of water is in the sapwood, which also experiences the most shrinkage and water loss. As a result, the timber always shrinks tangentially around its core. Drying fissures cause splits along the length of the wood. While compensating for these fissures can help to achieve a more even beam structure, there are different approaches to achieving the desired effect.

Resistant to insect attack

Although oak beams are naturally resistant to insect attack, they are sometimes susceptible to damage from deathwatch beetles. These insects feed on dead logs and sometimes bore into fresh oak. The larvae can damage up to 50% of an oak beam and can leave behind ‘frass’ similar to sawdust. Fortunately, these beetles rarely infest freshly-cut oak. The following are three common types of insect damage to oak beams and other building materials.

UV resistance

When exposed to ultraviolet radiation, wood quickly loses its aesthetic value. The high levels of UV radiation cause complex chemical reactions, which weaken the adhesion between coatings and wood. UV-resistant materials have to be applied to protect against these adverse effects. These wood-treatment products are typically clear, but can contain a biocide to combat wood disease. Other wood-treatment products include tung oil and a combination of the two.


Oak beams are among the most durable wood structures available. These beams are still supporting the upper floors of buildings across Europe. The high content of tannins in oak wood makes it extremely resistant to attack and decay. This property helps oak trees maintain their structural integrity over many centuries. To determine how durable oak beams are, researchers carried out a series of tests on the wood. The study also analyzed moisture content, size of defects, and density.