Birch and oak are two distinct types of hardwood. The seasoned material from these two common trees not only differ in color and grain but also in their uses.
Color of Wood
Birch and oak are light-colored hardwoods that are of major importance to woodworkers. Each has a different type of grain, which often affects how each wood is used.
Birch is a popular choice for a veneer surface or as the exposed layer of plywood. Oak can also be used for veneer or in plywood but is less preferred because of its cost and open grain.
Oak is highly prized for use in furniture making and is particularly popular for kitchen cabinets. The wood is heavy, strong and durable. Its open grain readily takes a stain, thus making it a prime choice for many woodworkers. However, birch can serve as a very good--and cheaper--alternative.
Today, oak is the more common flooring material, but, over the years, birch (especially yellow birch) has been used very successfully as an attractive and durable floor material, especially in the parts of the country where it naturally grows.
In the Fireplace or Wood Stove
Birch and oak both are choice woods for generating heat on a cold winter's night. Oak probably has a slight edge because it's denser. It burns more slowly and releases a bit more heat than birch.
Birches range from the northern United States into Canada and Alaska and also southward into the central United States. Oaks are more often found in the southern portions of the United States and do not range as far north as birches.