White Oak vs. Red Oak Hardwood Floors: What’s the Difference?

Cortney Lindquist

Oak is one of the most common North American tree species that’s found its way into countless homes thanks to its longevity and wonderful properties. It’s also a frequently encountered crop tree. Though part of the beech family, it doesn’t resemble them much. Appearance-wise, oak is in its own category, with many different types. The most prominent ones are white oak and red oak, both a favorite of interior designers and hardwood floor professionals.

However, sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between red oak and white oak. Furthermore, their characteristics are an important aspect of deciding between the two. So what is the difference between white oak and red oak, and which one should you choose if you’re torn between them?

Telling White Oak from Red Oak in Nature

The differences between white and red oak are easy to spot in nature if you know what you’re looking for. You can tell them apart by leaf shape, as well as bark color and texture. Leaf shapes vary depending on the oak group, but white oaks typically have rounded-ended lobes. There is more variation among the red oaks — pointed lobes with bristled tips, smooth edges, and spiny-teethed margins are all possible varieties of leaf shape.

When it comes to bark color and texture, white oaks tend to have a grayish bark that feels like scales when touched. Red oak’s bark is significantly darker, sometimes even black and full of deep ridges and furrows.

Differences Between Red Oak and White Oak Hardwood Floors

Depending on the stain and final color of the floor, as well as other factors, you can decide between white oak and red oak. Color-wise, red oak is naturally redder and lighter than white oak, which appears darker, as well as more brown or yellow. With lighter stains, the differences between their natural color are more visible, but if you go with a dark stain, white and red oak can appear almost the same. If you’re looking to install gray hardwood floors, white oak will work better because it won’t have a reddish tint.

Furthermore, white oak is more water-resistant and slightly harder than red oak, which makes it a more family-friendly option. However, red oak has an advantage if you prefer stronger graining, as that can hide any dents and scratches quite well. Homeowners who prefer a smoother look might still opt for white oak, as its graining is less pronounced.

Both white oak and red oak have their merits for homeowners who have a clear vision of what their home should look like. However, the most important thing any homeowner should keep in mind is that hardwood floors must be a good fit for their lifestyle first and foremost.

Here at Ralph’s, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have about different hardwood species and help you decide which one would be the right option for your lifestyle. Visit our showroom to see what we can offer!

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