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Pros and Cons of Oak Flooring & White Oak vs. Red Oak


Oak is the king of hardwood floors for a reason. It’s an incredibly durable wood that only gets better with time. In fact, some of the most gorgeous hardwood oak floors are 200 years old. It has historically been used as a sign of opulence and can bring a sophisticated and prestigious look to a space. There are several reasons it is a favorite among homeowners, including its availability across the country and reasonable price.

Oak flooring also comes in a variety of natural shades, from limed white to natural to very dark, and can be easily stained to suit whatever room it will reside in. The new quick dry stains set within hours and can be coated with polyurethane the next day. Prime grades of oak are very cleanly cut and achieve a contemporary and clean look, while more rustic cuts of oak will have lots of knots and a variety of grain pattern for a more antique appearance.

Another attractive feature of oak is its stability and active grain patterns. The wood will perform well in summer humidity as well as winter dryness with minimal care. Dehumidifying basements in summer months and humidifying air in the winter is recommended. The active grain pattern in oak will hide small scratches and dents that occur with normal wear, which means fewer repair and maintenance bills.


Oak is the most popular choice of hardwood flooring in the United States in general. Oak is a very practical choice for hardwood flooring as it is a durable wood that can last well over 100 years, as well as being readily available – it is grown and milled in the USA and especially here in the Northeast region of the country. It is very affordable when compared to other species of wood that are used for hardwood flooring and quite versatile as it can be stained almost any color of the rainbow. So, what is the difference between Red Oak and White Oak, and which is better? Most obviously,

COLOR: Contrary to what the name suggests, White Oak is a darker wood than Red Oak. The color of White Oak is a mix of browns and tans ranging from dark brown to beige, while Red Oak is a lighter wood that ranges from almost white to a soft amber color. Red Oak has pinkish tones and red hues throughout. Either can be stained any color, and the visible differences between Red or White Oak diminish as you go darker with the stain color. Lighter stains and whitewashes on Red Oak will have a reddish or pinkish undertone to the color. Because White Oak is a darker wood, the same color stain applied to both Red and White Oak flooring will be darker on the White Oak floor than it is on the Red Oak floor.

HARDNESS: White Oak is a slightly harder wood than Red Oak. On the Janka hardness scale, White Oak flooring scores a 1360 and Red Oak flooring a 1290. White Oak is also very dense, which makes it more suitable for outdoor furniture and boat building. Some claim that the density of White Oak makes it a more stable species (less seasonal movement) than Red Oak, but both types of hardwood flooring will have some seasonal movement. Both Red and White Oak flooring are excellent choices for long-term durability for most homes.

GRAIN PATTERN: Red Oak grain patterns tend to be more unique or” wild” than the finer, less pronounced grain pattern common to White Oak. The grain in White Oak runs straighter and tighter than Red Oak, with fewer swirls, circles, or deviations. Red oak also has wider grain lines that can run in zigzag patterns, or subtle, wavy lines that are absent from White Oak. Another reason that Red Oak flooring displays a more prominent grain pattern than White Oak is because it is a lighter wood than White Oak. And on the other hand, the smoother look of White Oak can also be attributed to the fact that the dark grain is less noticeable against the darker wood.

MATCHING EXISTING ACCESSORIES: Red Oak is far more frequently used in stair treads, Newel posts, handrails, and banisters. If you have Oak stair treads already in your home that you need to match, chances are good that they are Red Oak. If you are installing new treads or railings in your home, White Oak will be slightly more costly since it is less commonly used, but not severely so.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: Both Red and White Oak are a “greener” use of a National natural resource because they are farmed and grown in the United States. The carbon footprint of both types of wood is lower than that of exotic wood species like Brazilian Cherry or Tigerwood, for example, and because of forestry protection programs, Oak trees are constantly being replanted here in the U.S.

PRICE: There is not a major difference between the price of Red and White Oak. Because unfinished hardwood flooring is a commodity item, the price fluctuates from week to week. At times, Red Oak is more expensive, and sometimes White Oak costs more. The price will also vary based on width of the boards and grade of the wood.

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