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Red or White Oak Flooring: Which is Right for You?

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When it comes to installing new hardwood flooring, one of the first choices for many homeowners is oak. What you may not realize is there are two species of oak, red and white.

To further complicate matters, there are quite a few differences between these wood species, which begs the question, which oak flooring is right for you?

As experienced hardwood flooring installers, we’ve compiled a list of some of the key differences to help you decide which oak flooring will pair well with your living space.

The Differences Between Red and White Oak Flooring

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The best way to help you identify which oak flooring is best for your style preference is first to decide your needs, then match your needs to either red or white oak, and you’ve found the best option for your space!


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The most noticeable difference between oak species is their colour.

  • Red Oak: As the name suggests, red oak has red or pink hues and is actually lighter than white oak. Staining red oak is a good option, so long as you avoid using light-coloured stains as the signature red hue will show through the stain.
  • White Oak: White oak is known for its medley of browns and tans, as well as a yellow undertone. When it comes to staining your white oak floors, if you plan to use a lighter or grey stain, white oak is the perfect option for you.


Another visible difference is the grain pattern.

  • Red Oak: If you’re considering having hardwood floors installed, red oak has a stronger, more wild graining making it ideal for hiding scratches. The grains are widely distributed; this can be off-putting to some homeowners as this can make your flooring look busy.
  • White Oak: White oak has tighter and more even graining for the homeowners who prefer a more uniform look.


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Thanks to the different grain patterns, there is also a difference in flooring hardness. However, even though white oak is “harder,” it is important to understand that they perform nearly the same.

  • Red Oak: Red oak graining is wider, so it scores lower on the Janka hardness scale with a 1290.
  • White Oak: White oak scores a 1360 on the hardness scale, thus offering better protection against dents and scratches.

Water Resistance

Again, the difference in grain pattern — white oak having a tighter graining — makes it more water-resistant. 

  • Red Oak: Red oak is not nearly as water-resistant as white oak due to the wide loose graining.
  • White Oak: White oak is a closed-grain wood due to the tighter grain pattern, making it naturally more water-resistant and better in areas that may encounter moisture or the elements. 


Interestingly, the cost of red and white oak flooring fluctuates; however, on the whole, red oak tends to be the cheaper hardwood flooring option.

  • Red Oak: Part of what makes red oak more affordable is that it is more abundant, and it grows wider and taller than its counterpart. 
  • White Oak: White oak flooring can be more expensive than red because there are fewer trees, and they tend to be smaller than red oaks, thus less harvestable wood.

Which is Best for You: Red or White Oak Flooring?

Ultimately, when it comes to deciding on which hardwood flooring to have installed in your living space, it comes down to pairing your style preferences to the unique characteristics of red or white oak flooring. 

And remember, if you are having a difficult time deciding which oak flooring is best for your space, don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer free consultations, so you can confidently select the right oak flooring!

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