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The 5 Key Differences Between Red Oak and White Oak Flooring

Oak flooring is one of the most popular choices of hardwood flooring in the United States. Thanks to being grown in the U.S., oak wood is readily available, affordable, and practical. Oak flooring is very easy to stain, and oak wood is also used for the production of furniture, wine barrels, and even boats. 

There are dozens of oak tree varieties in the U.S. and Canada, but the varieties are divided into two main categories: red oaks and white oaks. 

Red oak vs white oak floors: Why professionals should know the difference

As professionals dealing with purchasing and installing hardwood flooring, we don’t necessarily need to know all the distinct characteristics of trees and their leaves to be able to differentiate red oak from white oak. However, we do need to have the ability to tell the difference between red oak and white oak lumber planks, especially if clients ask us and we have to give a detailed explanation.

Both white oak and red oak are favorites of interior designers and hardwood floor professionals because of their quality and longevity. The two wood types are durable, strong, and aesthetically pleasing, but picking between them can be confusing if you haven’t done a bit of research when it comes to textures, colors, and even price.

Whether you’re starting a new project, simply renovating, adding extra flooring for your clients, or looking to purchase from your favorite providers, knowing the key differences between red and white oak is a must. The most tricky part is with renovations, when the added hardwood floor has to match the existing one.

What are the top differences between red oak and white oak flooring?

There are several key distinguishing features of the two wood types. For example, red oak absorbs stains and finishes easily and more evenly, while white oak is more resistant to moisture, rot, and fungus, and has a less grainy pattern.

Here at First Atlanta Flooring, we decided to go over all the distinct differences between red and white oak, and have key information readily available for professionals looking to purchase hardwood flooring. We’ll be covering color differences, graining patterns, hardness level, water resistance, and more.

  1. Color

Judging by its name, most of us assume red oak is darker than white oak, but this assumption is wrong. The name “white oak” instinctively makes us think that the flooring is lighter in color, however, white oak flooring is a mix of brown and tan, while red oak has red and pink tones and undertones. To the untrained eye, the color difference is hardly noticeable, but depending on the type of stain you apply, color can become more distinct between the two.

  1. Graining

Another aspect that can visibly distinguish the two floor types is the wood’s grain pattern. Red oak has a much stronger and vibrant grain pattern than white oak, and its strong graining helps hide scratches and dents that may occur over time. This is perfect for busy households with kids and pets, or offices with high traffic. White oak flooring has smaller and tighter grain lines, making it appear smoother, thus offering a more modern design aesthetic.

  1. Hardness

Both hardwood floor types are durable, although white oak has a slightly higher hardness level. According to the Janka hardness scale, white oak’s rating is 1360, while red oak has a 1290 hardness rating. The difference is small, and even if white oak is harder, red oak may still be a better option for its visual appeal. Furthermore, white oak is more often used for outdoor settings like patios, as it can better withstand seasonal changes.

  1. Water resistance

Water damage is always a huge concern when it comes to hardwood floors. Essentially, no hardwood floor type is 100% waterproof, and all of them can be susceptible to water damage. Thanks to being a closed-grain type wood, white oak does slightly better when it comes to withstanding water, that’s why white oak is also used for beer and wine barrels, and boats. However, you can still confidently install red oak hardwood flooring in areas where water leaks won’t be an issue.

  1. Price

Both hardwood types are affordable, but red oak tends to be less expensive than white oak. Prices, however, do fluctuate, and red oak might become more expensive than white oak depending on lumber availability. Prices vary, and brands, retailers, wood grade, and even plank dimensions can influence pricing.

Red oak or white oak – Which one to choose?

Both types of oaks offer a beautiful and durable addition to a home, but it’s worth taking some time to consider which one would you rather buy or install for your clients. Both white oak and red oak have distinct features and qualities, which make it easy when a final decision has to be made, plus both hardwood floor planks come in an affordable price range.

Are you a professional looking to buy red or white oak in bulk? Make sure to check out our offerings on our website, and if you need any assistance or a special and personalized order, please don’t hesitate to reach out.