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As far as wood floors go, oak is the most common choice for hardwood flooring. It’s durable, resilient, takes stain easily, and is fairly affordable. But should you choose red oak or white oak flooring for your home? There’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions among homeowners about the differences between red oak and white oak. They’re both very good choices, but each has its own aesthetic value, and each works well in different situations. Let’s explain some of the key differences so you can make an informed decision about which flooring type is best for you.

It’s More About Tint than Color

One of the most common misconceptions (understandably so) is the idea that red oak is red and white oak is white. By extension, therefore, red must be dark while white is light. In fact, neither is entirely true. White oak isn’t really white—it has more yellow and brown undertones, and it’s actually darker than red oak. Red oak does have red undertones to it, but it typically shows up more pink than red in unstained wood. And as you can see in the image above, both red and white oak can be stained light or dark so they look very similar! (Red oak is on the left.) So when you’re choosing between them, you need to think more in terms of tints and hues than actual colors or light/dark. If you’re going with a natural, unstained look—or using a lighter stain—you’ll definitely notice the warmer yellows in the white oak versus the reddish highlights of the red oak. If you use a dark stain, red and white oak can actually look similar to each other.

White Oak Is Harder than Red Oak

White oak is dense and has a Janka hardness scale rating of 1360. Red oak is more porous and has a hardness rating of 1290. Thus, white oak holds up slightly better against heavy traffic and is a little more spill-resistant than red oak. That’s something worth considering if your home sees a lot of activity and foot traffic.

Red Oak Has a More Prominent Grain Pattern than White Oak

If you were to place a plank of red oak next to a plank of white oak and compare them, you’d see that the red oak has a pronounced grain pattern, while the white oak pattern is more subdued. Thus, white oak floors have a smoother, more uniform look, while red oak will show more texture and depth.

Which Oak Flooring Is Right for You?

Both red oak and white oak are excellent all-around flooring choices for most homes. The choice really comes down to your needs and your preferences. If you need the durability of hardwood, or if your space would look best with a more uniform look, white oak is probably the choice for you. If you prefer wood floors with stronger grain and texture, or if the reddish tint matches your home’s aesthetic better, you might go with the red oak. Whatever your choice, you want to get the best grade of wood your budget will allow—and you want it to be installed by trained experts to ensure beauty and longevity.

Still uncertain which flooring type you prefer? We’re always here to help. For a free in-home evaluation and quote, call Renaissance at 918-298-4477—or if you prefer, stop by our Glenpool showroom and let us show you some options.