American vs. European Oak for floors

Rod Lorenz

Oak is a versatile type of wood used in everything from furniture to renovation projects. It is often used as hardwood flooring due to its durability, beauty, and resilience.

There are two types of oak commonly used as hardwood flooring: European Oak and American Oak. While both are attractive and sturdy, they have distinct characteristics that distinguish them.


European Oak, also known as French Oak or English Oak, is a temperate hardwood native to most of Europe. It is commonly sourced from sustainably managed forests in France or Germany.

Like the European Oak, the American Oak is also a temperate hardwood predominantly found in Eastern North America.

American Oak and European Oak are both known to live for several hundred years. European Oak is classified as ‘white’ oak, while American Oak may come in ‘white’ or ‘red' oak varieties.


Although both are classified as 'white' oaks, European Oak usually appears darker in tone than its American counterpart. American Oak is slightly lighter with pinkish tones, while European Oak has warm golden tones.

In terms of color tone consistency between boards, European Oak has a more even color tone, whereas American Oak has more light and dark shades.


European Oak has distinct wavy grain patterns and a display of ribbon-like marks known as "medullary rays." On the other hand, American Oak has a more uniform appearance, with straighter and subtler grain patterns.


Fuming is a chemical finishing technique that uses ammonia to darken the wood and help the grain pattern stand out. Ammonia reacts with the tannin in the wood to give a deeper tone. European Oak has higher tannin content, which helps it react better to fuming compared to American Oak.

The higher tannin content of European Oak also allows it to absorb stains more consistently and withstand aging processes. Overall, European Oak reacts better to different finishing options than American Oak.


European Oak grows taller and wider than American Oak. It is thus ideal for spaces that require longer and wider hardwood planks.


European Oak is a heavy hardwood. Its wood cells are narrower than that of an American Oak. This makes European Oak less susceptible to moisture absorption, warping, movement, and cracking. It performs well in areas that are exposed to moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

In summary, oak flooring is a sturdy wood that ages well with time. American Oak has a lighter tone and cleaner, more uniform grain patterns. On the other hand, European Oak has more distinctive patterns and darker tones, evoking the great floors of historic castles. Regardless of which type of oak you choose, American and European Oak are excellent flooring options.

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