Red Oak vs White Oak: Knowing the difference

Have you enviously been eyeing red oak or white oak floors? “Which is better” seems to be the million-dollar question for anyone having this internal debate with themselves. But have no fear! We’re here to help.

Together, we’ll look at the key differences each of these wood types possesses and how they may be of use to you and your future home or renovation needs. While each one has its own personal benefits, they won’t be perfect for every person seeking a new design in their home. After all, you want to know you’re making the right choice, and we want to provide you with the necessary information to make it.

So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of oak, shall we?

Let’s Define Red Vs. White

Before we get into too much detail, we first need to define the different unique hardwoods.

First, we’ll define red oak trees. This is a tree that is most commonly found in the northeast part of the United States. They happen to grow slowly, but their grains are always tight and consistent. This makes for great flooring that can be produced in a series of lengths and widths.

On the other hand, we have white oak trees. White oak trees can be harvested in the eastern part of the United States. Since it can be much colder weather on the east side of the country, tight rings are produced within the tree, creating a unique look in the hardwood itself. Aside from hardwood floors, white oak can be made into boats and wine barrels because it’s one of the wood types that are most resistant to moisture.

With both of these wood types defined, we can already start to see some of the major differences these two amazing woods possess regardless of nearly sharing the same name.

The Benefits Revealed

Now that we know what each type of hardwood is, we can effectively look at the benefits each type presents. Follow along and see how each one has its own unique twist that can be brought to a home or commercial space.

These are the benefits of having white oak floors:

  • White oak has a Janka score of 1360, which is harder than cherry or walnut wood.
  • White oak is moisture resistant.
  • It’s a wood that is versatile in coloring.
  • There is a clean grain, which fits most contemporary décor more.
  •  It’s more affordable than other woods due to its easy accessibility.

Now, let’s look at the benefits of having red oak floors:

  • The rich hues of red oak set a warm tone in the home’s coloring.
  • There are over 200 red oak species that all offer different coloring options.
  • Red oak floors stain well because they are more porous.
  • After years of wear and tear, red oak floors can easily be refinished.
  • Red oak is super affordable.

Now you have more to think about, right?

Toughness and Durability

When we look at toughness and durability, in particular, there’s actually very little difference between these two kinds of wood. In fact, both have a toughness that makes them great options for hardwood flooring.

While white oak is ranked at a 1360 on the Janka scale and is the most durable of the two, red oak actually isn’t that far behind, with a ranking of a 1290. This is great news because it means no matter which you choose, both of these will stand up to all of life’s twists and turns.

Onto Texture and Pattern

If you’re looking for some uniqueness in the patterns of your wood, then look no further! Red oak is the clear winner in this department. In fact, red oak has a much more intricate grain pattern than white oak, which adds more to the overall look of a room. This also creates a much more elaborate texture.

This isn’t to say that white oak doesn’t have any of this, but when both are placed next to each other, there really is no comparison.

Overall Characteristics

If there’s one key takeaway you need to take away from white oak, it’s that its resistance to moisture and rotting earns this wood major bonus points. Why? White oak is blessed with smaller pores, so it’s more closed off and protected against moisture.

 However, red oak having bigger pores has its perks too. Red oak actually stains much better with bigger pores because it can retain the color much better.

Think about how both of these characteristics (while different) can make a big impact on the lifestyle you choose. For instance, if you live in an area that is a little rainier than other parts of the country, then white oak hardwood may be your best bet.

But if you’re looking for hardwood with a rich color and can retain that rich color for years to come, then red oak may be the better option.

It’s details such as these that will ultimately help in deciding which option is best for you at the end of the day. If neither of these happens to be the one, then that’s perfectly fine too. Now you’ve been able to narrow down the search to your dream hardwood flooring. 

Red, White, and New

Have you decided which wood type will work best for you and the floors in your home? We find that by comparing these similar types closely, we can help facilitate some answers that will hopefully end in a decision that works best for you.

Let us know how you plan on renovating your home or what your ideal home looks like to you. If red and white oak both aren’t in your vision either, then we’d love to know that too. After all, a big job such as renovating or purchasing a home should have everything you desire, including the flooring of your dreams.


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Red Oak Tree Guide | Gardening Channel

White Oak | Natural Resource Stewardship | Iowa State University 

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