Difference Between Red Oak Vs. White Oak Hardwood Flooring

Whether you are building a new property or replacing the floor of your house, choosing the best hardwood flooring is critical. Oak has proven to be a very practical wood as it has become the most common choice of hardwood flooring in the US.

When discussing oak flooring, the two most popular types are red oak flooring and white oak flooring. To a layman, the only difference is color. But that notion is about to change, as this article seeks to point out the technical differences between the two.

Red Oak Flooring

Red oak hardwood is one of the most popular and exotic wood species available in the United States due to the demand for red oak flooring.

Red Oak Flooring

This is why most people use it for red oak hardwood floors, even in southern states, as opposed to white oak hardwood floors. A red oak floor blends perfectly due to lighter stains, especially in oak stair treads. Red Oak accounts for almost half of the hardwood trees in America, making it the most available, and by implication, cheaper. The price point also makes red oak flooring suitable for hardwood floors.

If you are looking for hardwood with patterned grains, you should go for red oak planks. Also, if you have a large household, a significant upside of the hardwood is that it helps cover dents and scratches that may occur. According to the Janka Hardness scale system, red oak has a rating of 1290. By implication, it is pretty durable; needless to say, it is the most used hardwood for flooring.

The Janka rating scale is how builders measure how easy or difficult it is to slice and drive nails into different wood species.

  • Highly durable
  • Dents and scratches are not visible due to its wider grain pattern
  • Affordable and cost-effective
  • It can dent more easily
  • Reacts to temperature
  • It is not noise-proof

White Oak Flooring

White oak is another of the most popular in North America and Canada. And it is no surprise, who doesn’t love white oak hardwood floors?

White Oak Flooring

This hardwood holds stains properly even as unfinished hardwood, making it a perfect color tolerant, hence in great demand. A few things look better than white oak hardwood floors. Going by the Janka hardwood rating system, white oak hardness scores 1360. With this hardness score, it is less likely to dent than other oaks flooring options.

White oak possesses tyloses that make the hardwood more resistant to rot. This is why white oaks are a preferable option for outdoor furniture. Also, white oak planks have closed and smooth grain patterns, making them absorb fluid less. This smooth surface allows the white oak to hold well in wet areas.

  • More moisture resistant
  • Suitable for outdoor furniture
  • Easy fit for many interior designs
  • It is not noise-proof

Similarities Between Red Oak and White Oak Flooring

The question about red and white oak comes up regularly. Is red and white oak the same? What is better between red and white oak? Can I use both red and white oak? Where can I get red and white oak?

Similarities between Red Oak and White Oak Flooring

You’ll get your answers, but first, let’s look at the similarities between red and white oak!

  • Availability: When talking of availability, either red oak wood or white are widely available options; they can be found throughout the US and Canada. In fact, oak, the most popular hardwood flooring option in the US, is the official American national tree. The availability of these hardwoods, therefore, makes them affordable.
  • Affordability: Both red oak and white oak are affordable and cost-effective alternatives. In terms of cost, there is no significant difference in that they are both affordable and available, largely. But at times, depending on the level of demand, prices fluctuate. In other words, red oak costs more than white oak sometimes, and vice versa.
  • Durability: Red oak and white oak flooring hold up pretty well, as they can last up to a hundred years if properly used. The Janka scale also proves that both hardwood species will stand the test of time.

Differences Between Red Oak and White Oak Flooring

  • Shade: The most significant difference between red oak and white oak is their color. The white oak, unlike its name, is a darker wood than the red oak. White oak is generally brown with a yellow tint, while red oak floors have lighter pinkish and reddish stains. However, the color difference between both flooring options is sometimes not noticeable when they hold a dark stain. The darker the stain color, the less distinguishable they become.
  • Hardness: White oak is a little harder than red oak. As mentioned earlier, the Janka hardness rating system scores white oak at 1360 and red oak at 1290. The difference in hardness is not so significant; therefore, red oak is almost as capable as white oak in terms of what good hardness comes with.
  • Grain Pattern: Red oak has wider grain lines and a more prominent grain pattern than white oak. However, the visible grain characteristic in red oak floors makes it easier to hide dents and scratches than white oak. So, if you are a fan of grain patterns, you should go for red oak planks.
  • Fluid Resistance: Damage by liquid is an issue of concern when opting for hardwood flooring. However, white oak flooring is an excellent option against water damage; this makes it a perfect choice for boat building. Unlike red oak, white oak is a closed-grain wood, making it less porous, hence less susceptible to damage by water. A less noticeable difference is the presence of tyloses in white oak, making it less likely to rot even in harsh conditions.

Our Pick

Which hardwood floors, red oak vs. white oak, are the better alternative in a showdown? The simple answer is that both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, we like the white oak hardwood floor more for one reason: its ability to resist rot better than red oak. Red oak has a more prominent grain pattern, while white oak is less porous. By implication, a white oak floor is not as susceptible to drought and rot as the red oak. This also means that white oak will do better than red oak when used for outdoor furnishings.

Furthermore, it has a cooler hue that perfectly fits more interior designs than the warm-colored red oak. Additionally, unlike red oak, white oak can accept more stain colors.


Raw oak wood is an excellent material for hardwood flooring, but engineered hardwood planks are not bad either. However, to make the right decision, we advise that you consult a hardwood flooring expert. An expert will guide you in selecting the hardwood and wood flooring pattern that best fits your home and personal aesthetic.