Choosing White Oak vs. Red Oak Flooring: Their Differences

By Samuel N •  Updated: 07/10/23 • 

Oak flooring is one of the most common hardwood flooring for most homeowners in the USA. It is readily available, cheaper than other hardwood and durable flooring. There are two species of oak flooring you come across – red oak and white oak.

You can choose from red and white oak flooring options as a homeowner. However, they come with their difference, particularly in appearance and graining patterns. In this article, we’ll look at their differences to help you decide which is better for you between these two oak species.

Color Difference

The color difference between red and white oak is one of the obvious differences you can spot. White oak is not white or lighter in color compared to red oak. White oak is a little darker compared to red oak flooring. White oak has a darker brown or tan, which makes it darker than red oak.

White Oak vs Red Oak Color Differences

White Oak vs Red Oak Color Differences

Red oak has a pinkish and reddish color tone. The differences between the two oak floorings become more noticeable when you stain them. White oak will get darker and have a honey-blonde color, while red oak will become more pink or reddish. However, with darker stains, spotting their differences would be almost impossible.

Grain Pattern

Their grain pattern is also distinguishable from each other. White oak has a more uniform and tight grain compared to red oak. When stained, the grain pattern of white oak also tends to be smoother.

White Oak vs Red Oak Grain Difference

White Oak vs Red Oak Grain Difference

The grain pattern of red oak is more varied or dramatic, with many swirls, changes, and sometimes can look wavy or zigzag in appearance. The wood’s lighter appearance makes the wavy grain pattern more visible. This makes it better for hiding dents, scratches, and other surface marks.

Hardness & Durability

With a Janka hardness rating of 1360, white oak is slightly harder than red oak’s rating of 1290. Because the overall hardness of the wood determines the durability of any flooring, white oak would win the durability fight between the two.

Red Oak Natural Flooring

Red Oak Natural Flooring

This makes white oak better and able to stand up against high foot traffic, dents, scratches, and other elements. White oak is also used outdoors because it can better cope with seasonal changes.

Although red oak has a slightly lower Janka hardness, it is still a durable flooring compared to many other hardwood options, like cherry, maple floorings, and walnut. The wavy and dramatic grain also helps hide dents, scratches, and other surface marks.

Cost Difference

The cost is a major factor When looking at a significant home improvement project like installing new flooring. Both white oak and red oak flooring are very affordable, which is why they are very popular. However, red oak tends to be less costly compared to white oak. It is also a more common hardwood in the USA, so you’ll find it in most American homes.

White Oak in Living Room

White Oak in Living Room

Although red oak tends to be more affordable, other factors will determine the flooring cost. These factors include the grade and width of the flooring.

Choosing Red or White Oak Flooring?

If you’re looking to install new flooring in your home, red and white oak are good options. White oak is slightly more durable and offers a more attractive finish compared to red oak. However, red oak is more affordable and also durable.

I hope this article will help you decide whether to pick red or white oak. If you have any other questions, please use the contact us page to ask anything about flooring and get expert advice.

Samuel N

Samuel N is the founder of Improve Floor and has been in the flooring industry since 2005. Since then, his mission has been to make flooring easier for everyone. He helps countless people with flooring installation, finishing, maintenance, and repairs each year.