What Color is Walnut?

Published by Heritage Oak LLC on 1-16-2023

What Color is Walnut?

Walnut hardwoods are quite popular due to their unique color variations. Even the heartwood and sapwood from the same tree are vastly different. Walnut heartwood has rich colors varying from a pale brown to deep chocolaty browns. In addition, there can be subtle hues of purples, reds, grays, and golds. On the other hand, sapwood colors range from pale yellow and gray to almost white.

Walnut vs Oak Color

You can find some of the same shades of brown in both oak and walnut hardwoods. However, oak hardwoods are noticeably more uniform in their coloration and have a smaller color range. While oaks typically have light and medium browns, walnut hardwoods is a darker wood overall with varying highlights.

Furthermore, several species of hardwoods will become darker as they age. Although oak harwoods do this, walnut hardwood does not. In fact, walnut wood actually becomes slightly lighter over time. Even though the change isn’t significant, it can be prevented with proper finishing maintenance. 

Walnut Wood Grain

In terms of the wood grain, walnut mostly has very straight grain with occasional irregularities of fans, waves, or curls. Along with the beautiful coloration of walnut, these irregularities are highly prized and add a sense of personality. 

Is Walnut a Hardwood?

Just like hickory and oak, walnut is classified as a type of hardwood. What’s more, its for the same reason too! Oak, hickory, walnut, and poplar are deciduous trees that have flowering seeds and shed leaves annually. This classifies them as hardwoods while coniferous tree species are considered to be softwoods.

If you are wanting to know about walnut’s durability, you’ll want to look into its ranking on the Janka Scale.  Walnut wood has a Janka Rating of 1,010 Janka. This falls short of red oak at 1290, which is considered to be the industry standard for durability and impact resistance. This means that walnut hardwoods typically show dents, dings, and scratches more than hardwoods like oak or hickory. In addition, walnut’s darker colors will make dust and dirt show up more noticeably compared to the lighter colors of oak.

Walnut Wood Finish

The slight color variations of walnut is so much of its charm. So, many homeowners don’t use a stain finish and use other methods such as a type of clear coating. There are several types of clear coat finishes, such as a type of varnish, wax, oil, or lacquer. Keep in mind that most clear coat finishes generally don’t prevent walnut wood from lightening as it ages. Oil finishes, on the other hand, do help to preserve and even bring out more of walnut’s natural coloration. However, it will need a regular maintenance schedule to reapply the oil.

Walnut Wood Characteristics 

Overall, walnut’s distinctive characteristics make it very popular despite being less durable than oak. This beautiful hardwood has remarkable qualities such as:

  • Fine, straight grain with occasional irregularities
  • Broad range of rich color shades
  • Stable and durable with a Janka Rating of 1,010
  • Easy to work with as it nails and glues well
  • Supports a pleasing and smooth finish
  • Resistant to decay but susceptible to insect damage

Is Walnut Wood Expensive?

Walnut hardwood is prized for its unique combination of durability, coloration, and grain pattern. On top of that, the natural variations of colors are nearly impossible to mimic by using stains on other types of hardwoods. All of these factors are what makes walnut to be a premium hardwood option. Despite being a domestic species of wood, the price range of walnut is typically on the high end. If you are considering whether or not walnut is the right fit for your home, contact Heritage Oak! Looking for high quality hardwoods to use a staircase, moulding, or even trim? Regardless of the hardwood project, our hardwood experts are happy to help!