Red Oak Vs White Oak – What Flooring Should You Do?

Alex Mcil author
Alex Mcil

If you want to go for hardwood flooring, oak flooring is something that comes up quite a lot. If you decided that the oak tree is what you’ll have for your new flooring, you’re probably amid the red oak vs white oak flooring dilemma.

All oak species belong to the Quercus family, which is massive. But for practical purposes, American oak trees have been categorized in red and white.

In this article, you’ll find further information to help you with your oak flooring decision. Precisely, these are the topics that are waiting for you, just a quick scrolling away:

  • Some basic information considering red oak and white oak flooring.
  • What differences you should consider.
  • Some thoughts about what might be the right choice for you, as well as answers to some questions you probably have.

Let’s see what oak flooring is all about!

About Oak Trees And Functional Flooring

Before getting into the differences that red and white oak have, let’s see something more about these types of oak trees and how they perform in the form of a hardwood floor.

Quick Answer

The main difference between red oak and white oak is not the color, both have a similar hue and can be tinted easily. However, There is is a noticeable difference in grain pattern, hardness and pricing, being white oak a relatively more luxurious option.

Red Oak

Red oak flooring is an option that is often seen in the USA because the red oak itself is very highly common in the States.

Forests in the North and the South parts of the US are where this tree thrives the most, making up almost half of all hardwood trees in the country.

The fact that it is so widely spread also makes it a fairly inexpensive choice for hardwood flooring. The cost starts at $5 per piece.

Read oak is the most popular wood from North America and China is the biggest destination representing 70% of all red oak exports.

red oak tree autumn day

White Oak

As well as the red oak trees, white oaks are domestic hardwood found in North America.

Mostly, it’s found in the eastern parts of the USA, ranging between north parts of Florida up to the southern parts of Canada. It is also cheaper than other woods, starting at $7 per piece.

It’s a very good choice to go for when deciding on hardwood flooring.

massive oak tree on sunny day

How To Tell Apart Red Oak From White Oak

Red and white oak have some similarities, at first glance they probably have more of those than some distinct differences.

However, looking at those similarities won’t help you that much when you have to make your final decision, so let’s get into the exciting parts and see what kind of oak hardwood flooring is the best to go for.

Color Differences

When you look up pictures of white oak and red oak floor, the main difference that you will probably notice is the colors.

And while the logical assumption would be that the white oak is a very light-colored hardwood floor and that the red oak is of a dark color, it’s actually the opposite.

Red oak is a bit of a lighter wood with some pink and, obviously, red tones.

red oak wood floor

White oak is a bit of darker wood, with more distinctive browns and tans in it.

white oak wood floor

However, applying stain over the flooring diminishes these differences, and the colors look more or less the same.

That will almost disappear if the stain color is any darker than medium brown.

If the color is the main thing you’re looking for, maybe you should consider the red oak, as it’s more affordable, and the stain will give you the effect you want.

Lighter stains won’t give that effect, so if the original look of the hardwood is what you’re after, you should probably consider some other factors.

Grain Pattern

The grain pattern is the main difference between red oak and white oak, so when you’re deciding what look, you’d like to go for, thinking about the grain is very important.

Red oak grain has a solid grain pattern, which is a stylistic choice and a practical one as well, as the deeper and wider grain lines will help hide any future scratching from being visible.

If you’re after a more sleek and modern look, then the kind of grain that white oak flooring has is a better choice for you.

White oak flooring has a bit tighter and smaller lines, so it’s more uniform.

So, depending on what aesthetics you like, you can see which option is better for you.

Difference On The Janka Hardness Scale

Hardness is a crucial aspect that you should look into, as the floor’s durability depends on that.

Red oak and white oak flooring have very similar numbers on the hardness scale, with white oak being slightly harder with the score being at 1360, while the red oak is at 1290.

So, when it comes to flooring from oak species, you will get similar results whether you choose red or white oak.

Maybe something to consider is if you’re looking for an outdoor porch or outdoor furniture, going for white oak might be better as it can be slightly more durable when exposed to harsh weather conditions like exposure to the sun, rain and snow.

So, you can relax and focus on the aesthetics mainly, as both oaks will provide you with durable flooring.

Water Resistance

If water resistance is a big concern of yours, and you live somewhere with a lot of humidity, you will be very pleased when I tell you that white oak is extremely water-resistant and is also the type of wood often used for boat building.

Besides environmental conditions, you should also consider where you plan on placing your oaks.

If it’s in the kitchen, having your oaks be water-resistant is obviously very important, as you wouldn’t want random patches of rot and mold to appear in the corners.

This also goes for outdoor flooring as well as furniture, as white oak will be better for handling snow or rain.

So, when thinking about whether red or white oak is the way to go, make sure that you have this factor in mind.

Price Difference

Like I’ve said a few paragraphs above, red oaks tend to be way more widely spread throughout the USA, making them more available, and finally, making them more affordable than white oaks.

If your budget is a significant factor in your decision-making, the better decision for you will likely be to go with red oak.

The price fluctuates sometimes depending on many factors, as it does with most natural materials and resources, but the red oak bark tends to stay on the more affordable side when compared to white oak.

At the time of writing this article, the difference is around $2 being white oak the more expensive option.

A story of two trees

Overall, while very similar, these two groups of oak have some differences that can be the deal-breaker when you’re deciding which one to go for.

Maybe the most significant difference is the price between these different species, so one of my main tips would be to consider your budget thoroughly.

If the budget is a bit tighter, then going for the red oak will probably be your best bet.

As I’ve said, once a stain is applied, the difference becomes unnoticeable between these two.

However, flooring from white oaks has a bit higher score on the hardness scale and is also better when it comes to water resistance.

The look of white oak is also a bit more sleek compared to red oaks, so that can make it a bit easier to work with when you’re deciding on what your other interior DIY projects should look like.

Also, if you’re a fan of darker wood, white oak is the oak that will give you that.


Frequently Asked Questions
✓ How can you tell the difference between red oak and white oak?

When you look at them, it's not very hard to see the differences. When it comes to the color, white oak is a bit darker, with darker tan tones appearing more.

On the other hand, red oak is mainly beige, with pink and red undertones standing out.

Yes, red oak is slightly lighter than white oak, even though the names indicates differently. However, when you apply a stain on the flooring, it's not as noticeable.

The grains on these woods are also a tad different, as the red oak has more intense and deep patterns, while the white oak bark has tighter lines. With that in mind, you could quickly go around oak identification

✓ Which wood is harder red oak or white oak?

Red and white oaks tend to be very similar when it comes to hardness. On the Janka hardness scale, white oak is just slightly harder, with a score of 1330, and red oak flooring is at 1290. Overall, both will be pretty durable.

One suggestion that you might consider is that if you're looking for something that is going to be outdoors, maybe go with the white oaks instead of red oaks, simply because environmental changes might be easier for the white oak to handle.

✓ Is there a price difference between red oak and white oak?

There is a price difference between these two. As red oak is more prominent throughout the US forests, it's easier to find, and therefore it's more affordable.

And while white oak isn't particularly rare, it's less widely spread, so it's somewhat more expensive.

Prices can fluctuate, as they do with most natural resources, but this tends to be how it goes with red and white oaks.