Red Oak vs. White Oak Flooring: Which Should You Choose?

Red Oak vs. White Oak Flooring: Which Should You Choose?

So, you decided on oak wood for your hardwood flooring. Besides its traditional timeless look that goes well with any décor, most people believe it adds value to their home. Not to mention, it’s durable, easy to maintain, and eco-friendly.

There are two species of oak used to make hardwood floors, white oak, and red oak. On the Janka hardness scale for wood, white oak is an impressive 1335, and red oak is slightly softer at 1220. What really sets red and white oak apart is the color, but it’s not the only difference. 

Which oak should you choose for your hardwood flooring? Of course, deciding which wood is “better,” red vs. white oak flooring, is subjective. Choose based on personal taste and the design you want to achieve. Let’s dive in and highlight the essential differences between these two oak species to help you make the right choice. 

What Are The Differences Between Red Oak and White Oak Hardwood Flooring?

Of the 90 or so oak species in North America, manufacturers only use red and white oak for hardwood flooring. These two species grow large enough and have straight, knot-free wood to be commercially viable. If you want to know how to tell them apart, there are two areas; grain and color. 

Color of the Wood

Red oak didn’t get the name from the color of the wood. Instead, the moniker refers to the color of the leaves in the fall. They turn a bright red, depending on soil conditions. 

However, the wood does have a slightly reddish tinge, especially the heartwood in the center. On the other hand, white oak’s shade tends to be a golden tan. 

unfinished red oak vs white oak flooring

Using a natural finish will enhance the color of each type of oak. The red will become more pink or reddish, while the white oak will get darker and more honey blonde. Both floors accept stains well. Red oak tends to get a deeper reddish tone when stained and white oak becomes a darker shade of brown.

finished white oak vs red oak flooring

Red Oak vs. White Oak Grain

If you place red and white oak side by side, you can see a definite difference in the grain of red oak vs. white oak flooring. When perfectly quartersawn, white oak has longer and more pronounced rays. Rays are the small dark lines in the wood grain which give oak its unique character. White oak has a smaller and tighter grain, giving it a much straighter and more uniform appearance.

Red Oak’s grain has more variations, swirls, deviations, and sometimes wavy or zigzag in appearance. These characteristics can hide dents and scratches more easily. Its grain is a bit wider than white oak, and red oak’s grain tends to be more visible because the wood is lighter.

This video describes the difference between the two types of lumber. You’ll see a demonstration of the three different looks depending on how a board gets cut, flat, rift, or quarter sawn.



Other Features

White oak is highly water and rot-resistant, so many builders use it for external door thresholds. If you plan to install a solid hardwood floor where there are lots of wet feet or dog traffic, white oak is the better choice. Here are two fun facts about white oak.

  • Antique furniture builders preferred white oak for its tight, straight grain. 
  • The U.S.S. Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” still floats in the Boston harbor since it launched in 1797, thanks to its massive white oak timbers.

U.S.S. Constitution

Is white oak harder than red oak? Yes, white oak is slightly denser and harder, but both species are ideal for creating durable and beautiful solid hardwood floors.

Red Oak vs. White Oak Cost

When it comes to red oak vs. white oak hardwood flooring cost, is white oak more expensive than red oak?

Typically, white oak tends to be slightly more expensive than red oak. However, both are affordable choices for a new solid hardwood floor. You can expect to pay between $3-$6 per square foot. For example, you can find thin, ½-inch oak hardwood flooring online for just over $3, but you’ll need to purchase the tools and hardware to install it or pay someone to install it. 

On the other hand, a pre-finished, solid, 3/4-inch white oak solid hardwood flooring made by Easiklip runs $6-8 per sq ft. The price includes all the installation hardware, which is quite a savings. There are no glue or nails because it just clips together, making it a perfect choice for any DIY flooring project.

Mixing Red Oak and White Oak Hardwood Flooring

Red and white oak are not interchangeable. If you need to finish out a room because you don’t have enough of the same boards, you need to keep looking for the same type of hardwood flooring to continue the floor. They just don’t match. But, it can happen. 

The situation of mixing red oak and white oak hardwood flooring happened to a professional installer, Dennis. Here is how he corrected the problem:

"If you try to feather in or stagger red and white oak boards together, it will stick out like a sore thumb. If you run out of suitable oak and have no other choice, you can always try the fix mentioned above, paint the floor, or use a big carpet. 

Otherwise, you could make a decorative border using one type and finish the main part of the floor with the other."

Which Oak Should You Choose, Red or White?

As always, red oak vs. white oak hardwood flooring comes down to design and personal preference. White oak is the more popular option because of its simple and elegant wood grain. The colors range from beige to medium brown, and it works with all neutral colors of wall paint, kitchen cabinets, and accent pieces. White oak hardwood flooring is excellent for modern or contemporary homes.

Red oak’s subtle red or rose-tinted undertones and wavy grains make it stand out. It adds a touch of color to rooms that are white or primarily muted earth tones. 

If you plan to stain the hardwood floor in a white or gray hue, you will be better off with white oak. For medium to dark stain colors, either one will work. 

Ultimately, when choosing between red oak vs. white oak solid hardwood flooring, use your design instinct. Choose the species of oak that has the tint and grain pattern that most appeals to you.

The Easiest White Oak Hardwood Floor to Install

Before you purchase any hardwood flooring, you should consider all of your options and the costs involved. Finding a “great deal” online for oak hardwood flooring doesn’t mean that it’s the right choice. Is there enough of that style to complete your project? Sometimes manufacturers close out a style or color, and you won’t have enough. 

Will you install the floor yourself, or will you hire someone? You must factor in the price of shipping, labor, and materials. 

If you plan to install a white oak hardwood flooring yourself, look at Easiklip solid hardwood flooring. Each board is a full 3/4-inch thick and comes pre-finished in one of five colors.

With Easiklip hardwood flooring you don’t need special tools, glue, screws, or nails. The boards simply clip together. To see the colors and learn more, visit Easiklip here.



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