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Hardwood Flooring Showdown: White Oak vs Red Oak Flooring

There are several types of oak flooring, but the two we get asked about the most are white oak vs red oak flooring. The two types of oak flooring are very similar in appearance, but it can sometimes be confusing when trying to determine which type of oak is right for your home.

When the differences do arise, however, most people find that their decision is easily made by weighing all factors and determining which option suits them best based on specific points.

Here, we’ll go over each of these two types. We’ll include pros and cons, color, grain pattern, hardness, how well it matches, water resistance, and costs so you can make the best decision for your home or business flooring needs.

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The Flooring Facts Of Red Oak

While both red oak and white oak are great flooring choices, there are some things that may make you want to choose one over the other. We’ll start with red oak.

Color

Red oak flooring is typically sold in two different colors: reddish-brown and grayish brown. The color of the wood is mostly uniform, but there can be small darker areas that are more commonly found in reddish-brown.

Grain Pattern

The grain pattern of red oak flooring is very distinct and usually has a larger variation in the shade of brown than white oak. The pattern is much more prevalent in grayish-brown red oak than in reddish-brown. Red oak also has a tendency to have a much more random pattern than white oak with a lot of variation throughout the planks.

Hardness

Red oak is not as hard as white oak and is known to dent slightly easier, especially when paired with high heels. It does maintain its durability and should not chip or scratch, though it can become damaged if enough force is applied.

According to the Janka scale, red oak is rated at 1,290. This scale is based on the force required to push a steel ball to half the depth of the wood’s width.

Matching Existing Wood

Red oak is a darker red/brown and has a more random grain pattern, so it can be difficult to match other woods. To get the best match possible, it’s recommended to get samples.

Water Resistance

Red oak is fairly resistant to water with the proper preparation, which makes it a great flooring choice for kitchens and powder rooms. However, it is not recommended to install red oak in a bathroom with a shower or tub, or over radiant heat as this may cause the wood to warp.

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The Flooring Facts Of White Oak

Now that we’ve gone over some of the red oak facts, let’s go over what makes white oak a good choice as well. Like red oak, white oak is a great flooring choice for those looking for something hard-wearing and durable.

Color

White oak flooring is usually sold in three different colors: light tan, medium brown, and grayish tan. The color of wood can vary greatly within the same planks, so it’s recommended to get samples if possible.

Grain Patterns

White oak has more subtle variations of color and the grain pattern is much more uniform. Instead of having a darker shade in certain areas, white oak has an earthy tone that can sometimes have a grayish hue.

The grain pattern is also more readily visible in the light tan, medium brown, and grayish tan shades of white oak.

Hardness

White oak is considered to be harder than red oak, so it can be less susceptible to denting than red oak. White oak rates 1,360 on the Janka scale, so just a bit higher than its red oak counterpart.

Matching Existing Wood

White oak is a lighter color and has a more uniform grain pattern, so it can be easier to match other woods. However, white oak may have more variation within the same planks than red oak does. As always, it’s best to get a sample.

Water Resistance

White oak is fairly resistant to water and can even be installed in areas with radiant heat, making it a solid choice for bathrooms and kitchens.

Recap: Pros And Cons of White Oak vs Red Oak Flooring

Hardness: Red oak flooring is known to be a bit softer than white oak flooring. Due to this, red oak is not as recommended for high traffic or other areas that are prone to damage. White oak flooring is better suited for those areas.

Coloring And Grain Patterns: While red oak has a tendency to show footprints, dust, and other abrasions more readily than its white oak counterpart because of the coloring, however, the more random grain also tends to hide any nicks or scratches a bit better.

Water Resistance: As far as water resistance goes, white oak flooring is slightly more resistant to water and has a tighter grain pattern than red oak, making these qualities desirable in areas where humidity or water could be present.

Takeaway

While some people choose hardwood flooring based solely on appearance, you should now have a better understanding of the real differences between red oak and white oak.

If you’re trying to decide which one to go with for your next hardwood flooring installation, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Which areas do you plan on installing the floors in?
  2. What is your budget?
  3. Do you need something that’s more resistant to water or humidity?
  4. What is the style of your home?

If you need help deciding, we’re happy to help. We also have a great supply of both red oak and white oak flooring for your needs. Get in touch with us today.