Oak is one of the most popular choices when it comes to hardwood flooring. It’s strong, long lasting, and beautiful.
Cinnamon-hued red oak and light, blondish white oak might look similar––so similar, in fact, that it’s difficult to tell the difference with the naked eye. But there are some important differences. If you’re looking into purchasing or installing either type of flooring, it’s important to know the facts and the differences between the two.
Of course, as the names tell you, the main difference between white oak and red oak is in the appearance of the wood. White oak will typically have beige hues, while red oak will have pink hues and undertones. Believe it or not, however, the difference is not always very noticeable to the naked eye. In fact, in some cases, contractors will have to utilize special test kits in order to tell the difference between white oak and red oak floors.
Want to stain your floors? White oak may be a more straightforward choice.
The choice is clear if you would like to customize the color of your floors––white oak will more readily accept a stain, especially if you’re going with a lighter stain like gray. However, this is not to say that you cannot stain red oak floors. If you’re going for a darker stain like dark walnut or molasses, red oak will be more likely to accept the color than with a lighter stain, as the pinkish hues of the red oak would be less likely to come through.
Difference in hardness
There’s a slight difference in the Janka hardness rating of white oak and red oak––white oak has a Janka hardness rating of 1360 compared to red oak’s slightly lower rating of 1290. This difference means that white oak is a little bit hardier and more durable in the face of potential damage like scratches and small dents. Learn more about Janka hardness ratings and other terms in our hardwood flooring glossary.
Keep in mind, however, that the finish you choose for your floors will also have an impact on the floor’s durability, so you can counteract this by ensuring your contractor selects a high-quality finish if you choose to go with red oak.
The graining patterns of white and red oak tend to be different. Red oak has a more prominent graining pattern than white oak, giving white oak a smoother look. However, the more prominent grain gives red oak more of a rustic, character look.
However, the graining pattern also depends on the grade of species you select. Character grade white oak, for example, will have a stronger graining pattern than a select grade white oak floor.
The choice is entirely yours, and no one species is inherently better than the other. Whether you select red oak or white oak wide plank floors will depend on your preferences in terms of color, graining patterns, and ability to accept stains. Either way, as long as you have a quality product and hire a quality contractor to install them, you’re sure to have a beautiful floor that you can enjoy for years to come!