Oak flooring is the most popular hardwood floor species in use for hardwood flooring. And with good reason – oak is readily available, affordable, durable and beautiful. What many don’t realize is there are two different species of oak flooring commonly available – red oak and white oak.

If you are installing new hardwood flooring, either species will likely work for your application. Which wood you choose will likely depend on the style and color you are looking for. Both are durable and rank well on the Janka hardness chart. The exact difference between the prices on red oak flooring and white oak flooring vary with the markets but prices are typically close to the same – unless you are interested in rift or quarter-sawn flooring (learn more about rift and quarter-sawn wood).

So, what are the differences between red oak flooring and white oak flooring?

  1. Color. With a natural finish, red oak tends to have a pinkish tint and is a bit brighter than white oak. White oak is more of a warm brown tone and is darker. When stained, red oak will continue to have a red undertone with lighter stains, while white oak will maintain a brown undertone. Dark stains cause the differences between the 2 species to decrease.
  2. Grain. Red oak can have a stronger grain pattern, with more variation. White oak has a bit of a smoother, more uniform look. Some people prefer the strong graining of red oak – both for the look and because the strong graining helps hide scratches and dents. Others prefer the slightly less busy look of white oak.
  3. Matching Existing Stairs. If you are trying to match existing stairs, knowing what wood they are should be important to your decision. Typically, you want to match any flooring to the stairs they will be butted into. Red oak is more common in stair treads, saddles, banisters and other transitions. If you already have oak stairs, they may be red oak. If you are building or replacing your stair treads, choose whichever oak species appeals to you.

Red oak or white oak, they’re both beautiful. When you look at a piece of oak the warmth and beauty just draws you in.