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The Difference between Red oak vs. White Oak Hardwood Flooring

What exactly is the difference between red oak and white oak hardwood?

In Westchester County NY and the northeast in general, oak flooring is the most frequently chosen type of hardwood. Oak is a great choice of wood as it is practical, and readily available as it is grown in the USA.  This wood is affordable and easy to stain to get the right color you prefer. But did you know that there are two different types of oak? You have a choice between red oak and white oak flooring.
Red oak hardwood or white oak hardwood are both ideal when you are considering a hardwood floor installation everywhere in your home. Your choice between the two will most likely depend on your color preference and price. The pricing of the two different types fluctuates therefore there is usually not much of a price difference between them. What does however influence the price, is the brand/grade/width of your chosen hardwood.
When adding additional oak flooring, you will want to match with your existing type of wood flooring. You want to ensure that your floors are consistent and uniform. Keep in mind that by using the same type of wood, the stain colors will be absorbed by the wood in the same way. It has happened several times in the past where a customer or contractor has mismatched the red oak with white oak and vice versa. The result of this is that colors will never match perfectly and there is a visible difference in the graining.

The difference between red oak flooring and white oak flooring:

1. Color difference – red oak is a little lighter in color and has a pinkish red tint to it. White oak leans more to brown, is slightly darker with a yellow tint. Red oak and white oak absorb stains differently as they have different colors and densities from the start of their growth. The darker the stain that is applied, the less difference between the two types are visible. The red undertone of the red oak is more noticeable when the stain is lighter.

2. Graining – graining is more pronounced in red oak as in white oak. White oak can be described as having a smoother look. Some customers prefer the look of the stronger graining of the red oak and an added advantage is that it tends to hide the scratches and dents that accumulate over time, quite nicely.
White oak has a more contemporary look, it has more mineral streaks and when comparing red to white oak, white oak’s rays are a bit longer.

3. Hardness comparison – white oak flooring is slightly stronger compared to red oak. The Janka hardness scale shows that white oak is 1360 and red oak is 1290. Even though white oak is a little harder, red oak hides the floor’s wear and tear a bit better, as mentioned previously.

4. Stair treads and accessory compatibility – you will find that red oak is more commonly used in wooden stairs and stair treads, saddles, banisters and other transitions. Existing stair treads in your home are most likely red oak, therefore it is advisable that you match with that. For new stair treads or other transitions, these are commonly available in red oak and therefore also more affordable.

5. When considering water resistance, white oak is more resistant to water compared to red oak. The reason for this is that white oak is a closed grain wood. White oak is more resistant to decay and rot because most of the pores are filled with tyloses. This makes it a better choice for use in boat building for instance. White oak is also better suited in areas that are often exposed to water and natural elements, like front door jambs.

6. Pricing – there is not a huge difference in price between red and white oak flooring. Unfinished hardwood is a commodity item which is why the price fluctuates weekly. There are times when red oak is more expensive and then other times white oak is the more expensive of the two.  The price can also vary based on width and grade. The pricing of red oak in a certain size and the price of white oak in another size, varies all the time. White oak does tend to remain consistently more expensive when looking at the wider planks, specifically the 5” size or wider, but not by much. The reason for this is most likely due to the red oak trees being taller and wider compared to the white oak trees. In the US, the white oak trees are less abundant compared to the red oak trees.
We would like to make it clear that matching red and white oak hardwood may be a little more complicated than stated above and we recommend that you call on hardwood flooring contractors, like PETER Hardwood Flooring, if you are unsure of exactly which type of flooring you have.
A tip – when deciding to choose gray as your preferred flooring color, the white oak is the better option. As gray is a cool tone, the white oak’s natural color and graining will work much better. The red oak has a subtle red undertone and therefore the stain needs to be a darker gray in order to overshadow the natural tint of the red oak.

In conclusion – Red oak and white oak are both great options. It really comes down to your own personal preference to choose between the two, when you start out with a new installation. When it comes to adding additional flooring, it is advisable to match.

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