White Oak Vs Red Oak Flooring: Which Hardwood Species To Choose?

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When choosing hardwood flooring, the decision for white oak vs red oak is significant due to their distinct characteristics.

White oak flooring has tighter grain and better water resistance than red oak, ideal for moisture-prone areas. Red oak stands out with its prominent grain pattern and warmer tones, often more budget-friendly for homeowners. White oak’s harder surface ensures greater scratch and dent resistance.

Difference between white oak and red oak flooring: detailed comparison
What To Choose Between White Oak And Red Oak Hardwood Floors?

I’ve lived with both white oak and red oak floors, so the advice you’ll find here comes from real-life experience, not just specs. Count on my firsthand knowledge to help you pick the flooring that feels right for your home.

Wait, wait! If you are a fan of maple floors, but also confused to choose them, I have written a detailed comparison on maple vs oak floors that I do encourage you to go through before making your final choice!

What Is White Oak Flooring?

White oak flooring is a hardwood grain made from the white oak tree. It’s known for being tougher against water than other kinds of wood floors.

Research indicates that the robustness, hardness, and long-lasting nature of white oak, combined with its abundant presence, have established its wood as a key hardwood in both the US and Iowa (1).

White oak flooring: Hardwood species
White oak flooring: Hardwood species

This makes it a solid option for rooms that might get a little wet, like kitchens and small bathrooms. It’s not 100% waterproof, but it can stand up to moisture better than other woods.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of White Oak Flooring

Durable and long-lastingHigher cost compared to some materials
Resistant to water and rotRequires regular maintenance
Aesthetic appeal (attractive grain)Can fade with excessive sun exposure
Wide variety of finishes availableNot suitable for all decor styles
Adds value to a homeMay require professional installation
Can be refinished multiple timesPotential for squeaks and creaks over time
Suitable for radiant heating systems
Less prone to scratches and dents

What Is Red Oak Flooring?

Red oak flooring is a popular type of hardwood floor in the United States, renowned for its natural beauty and durability.

Data from the FIA indicates that the U.S. contains 2.62 billion cubic meters of red oak, 18% of its hardwood reserves. Each year, American red oak grows by 60.6 million cubic meters and 31.9 million cubic meters are harvested, leading to a net increase of 28.7 million cubic meters. Except for Texas, red oak growth in the U.S. is sustainable, with annual growth meeting or exceeding harvest rates (2).

Red oak flooring: Hardwood grain choice
Red oak flooring: Hardwood grain choice

When selecting hardwood floors, it’s important to choose the right wood species to match your requirements, and red oak is often the go-to choice for its classic appeal and status as the benchmark for hardwood flooring options.

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Advantages And Disadvantages Of Red Oak Flooring

More affordableProne to color changes with UV exposure
Prominent grain pattern hides scratchesLess water-resistant than white oak
Warmer tones add cozinessMore prone to scratches and dents
Matches existing oak woodworkNot as hard as white oak
Abundant and widely availableRequires regular maintenance
Stains well due to open poresNot ideal for outdoor use
Suitable for radiant heating systemsPotential for squeaks and creaks over time
Can be refinished to update lookMay not suit all decor styles

White Oak Vs Red Oak Flooring: An In-depth Comparison

White Oak Flooring Is Harder Than Red Oak

As per the Janka Hardness Scale, white oak stands at 1360, slightly outperforming red oak’s 1290 in toughness. Despite this, the similarity in their hardness means both woods provide similar levels of durability once installed and sealed.

Red Oak Has Stronger Graining Than White Oak

White Oak tends to have moderate and smoother graining patterns, while red oak grain has usually stronger and more striking patterns.

It means that the grain patterns in Red Oak flooring may make dents and scratches more easily hidden, even though White Oak flooring is slightly harder.

White Oak Color Is Darker Than Red Oak

White Oak is usually a bit darker, with more of a brownish color, while Red Oak has a lighter, kind of pinkish-red shade.

But here’s the thing: when you stain them, especially with a darker color, they both end up looking almost the same. So, your stain choice can really change the game for either wood.

White Oak Flooring Looks Better With lighter And Gray stains

White Oak takes light stains like gray and white really well, which is great since those colors are in style. Both White Oak and Red Oak are good at absorbing stain, but White Oak just looks better with the lighter shades.

If you’re going for a medium or dark stain though, Red Oak and White Oak will both look pretty much the same after staining.

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Red Oak Matches with Stairs And Transitions

Red Oak is great for a matchy-matchy look with your stair treads, banisters, handrails, and doorway saddles.

If your home already has oak on the stairs or in transition areas like doorways, it’s probably Red Oak; it’s just more common.

And if you’re thinking of getting new pieces like stair treads or saddles, you’ll find Red Oak is often easier to find and more wallet-friendly.

White Oak Flooring Is More Resistant To Water

White Oak is tougher against water and rot, making it a solid pick for both indoors and outdoors. On the flip side, Red Oak is more for indoor use since it’s not as resistant.

When it comes to staining, Red Oak’s open pores soak it up nicely, but White Oak’s tighter grain can make staining a bit more of a challenge.

Red Oak Often Tends To Be Less Expensive

When it comes to wood flooring, Red Oak is usually the more budget-friendly choice than white oak. This is because Red Oak trees are more common.

For the wider planks over 5 inches, White Oak might cost you a bit more. If you’re looking at the really high-quality floors, White Oak might go for about $11-13 for each square foot, and Red Oak will be a bit cheaper at $7-9 per square foot.

Still, there are deals out there where you could find either Red or White Oak flooring at prices as low as $3 to $5 per square foot.

White Oak Vs Red Oak Flooring: Which One To Choose?

For higher durability and water resistance, choose white oak; if you prefer a budget-friendly option with a prominent grain that can hide scratches, go for red oak flooring. If color matching with existing woodwork is a priority, and you’re looking for a cost-effective solution, red oak is also advantageous.

Final Thoughts

In the white oak vs red oak debate, your final decision should consider moisture exposure, budget, and the specific aesthetic you desire.

White oak offers superior water resistance and a harder surface, while red oak provides a warmer tone with a more distinctive grain at a potentially lower cost. Your choice will define the character and functionality of your space for years to come.

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Q. Is White Oak A Good Wood For Flooring?

Among all hardwood varieties, White Oak is an excellent wood for flooring because it’s tough, resists water and rot, and can handle a lot of foot traffic.

Its grain pattern is appealing and hides scratches well, plus it takes to staining beautifully, offering flexibility for different home styles.

Q. How To Distinguish Between White Oak And Red Oak Flooring?

Red Oak leaves typically have sharp, pointed ends and the bark is fairly smooth to the touch. White Oak, however, will display leaves with rounded edges and bark that is deeply grooved, giving it a rugged texture. These characteristics are key indicators to identify each type of oak.

Q. Is White Oak Flooring In Style?

White Oak flooring is in style, with trends favoring wide planks and unfinished textures for a modern look. Its neutral tones and adaptability to different stains make it a versatile choice for any interior design.

Q. What Colours Go With White Oak Flooring?

White Oak flooring pairs nicely with warm charcoal tones and trendy pastels like light blue and mauve, fitting the %currentyear% granny-chic style. These shades complement the wood’s natural look and offer design flexibility for both modern and classic spaces.

Q. Do White Oak Floors Scratch Easily?

White Oak floors don’t scratch easily due to their durability and a strong resistance to scratching thanks to their hardness. This makes them a good fit for busy homes and high-traffic areas.

Q. How Long Do White Oak Floors Last?

On average, White Oak engineered floors can last 40 to 80 years before they need to be refinished. The longevity doesn’t just come from the finish on top; it’s also about the quality of the engineered wood underneath. And the good news is, you can refinish it several times over its life.

Q. Does White Oak Flooring Turn Yellow?

White Oak flooring can darken and get a yellow tint over time due to UV ray exposure. While this can affect the floor’s original elegant appearance, there are effective methods to reduce the yellowing and restore the flooring’s beauty, which we’ll explore in upcoming tips.

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