Red Oak vs. White Oak: 6 Key Differences

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Red Oak vs. White Oak: 6 Key Differences

Red Oak and White Oak are two of the most popular choices for wide plank floors today as well as hardwood floors in general. So, when consulting with customers, we often get the question: “What’s the difference between Red Oak vs. White Oak – and which one is better?”

Of course, deciding whether Red Oak vs. White Oak is “better” for your project is a personal decision, but here are a few facts that can help guide you toward the hardwood that is best suited to your needs.

First off, a little background about Red and White Oak.

Red Oak is commonly found in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. At Carlisle, we harvest Red Oak timbers exclusively from the ample forests of New Hampshire and Vermont, where cold winters make for slow-growing trees that produce tight, consistent grain within the floorboards, allowing for exceptional widths and lengths.

White Oak is also found in the Eastern US, though not as abundantly as Red Oak. We harvest White Oak from the best regions in the world – the Ohio River Valley and Western New York – where colder climates nurture tight growth rings. More impervious to moisture and rot, White Oak is often used to make boats and wine barrels in addition to stunning hardwood floors.

So what are the differences in Red Oak vs. White Oak?

Red Oak color is lighter than White Oak

The most significant difference between Red Oak and White Oak flooring is in their color. Surprisingly, White Oak tends to be a bit darker and has more beige and brownish hues, while Red Oak color has more salmon and pink undertones.

White Oak is better with gray and lighter stains

When it comes to staining Red Oak vs. White Oak, both kinds of wood take stain easily. However, stain colors in lighter white and gray are quite popular today and White Oak is better suited to these hues. However, when it comes to using a medium to dark color, Red Oak vs White Oak staining will look virtually the same.White Oak with Gray Stain

Red Oak is slightly softer than White Oak

Red Oak has a Janka hardness rating of 1290, while White Oak’s rating is 1360, making it slightly more impervious to dents and scratches. However, these numbers are so close that both hardwoods will tend to perform equally well once they’ve been installed, finished and sealed.

White Oak has a smoother grain

White Oak grain patterns tend to be more moderate, while Red Oak grain is often stronger and more dramatic. That means, even though White Oak is slightly harder, dents and scratches may be more easily hidden by the grain patterns in a Red Oak floor.

Both are affordable, but Red Oak is less expensive

The popularity of both Red Oak and White Oak are due in part to their affordability. And while prices fluctuate, Red Oak tends to be less costly on the whole.

The main appeal of White Oak: it isn’t Red Oak

Red Oak has long been the most widely used species for commodity hardwood floors. Consequently, many people choosing a wide plank hardwood floor will go with White Oak simply because it isn’t Red Oak.

In the end, when choosing between Red Oak vs. White Oak, it really comes down to your instinct about which species of hardwood has the color and grain pattern that most appeal to you.


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