Many homeowners are unaware of the two types of oak wood flooring: red oak vs white oak flooring.

In the northeast, oak wood flooring is the most common hardwood type. Oak is a reasonable choice that is available readily (grown and developed in the United States), inexpensive, and easy for staining to your desired color.

If you’re replacing all of your hardwood floors, your choice of white oak vs red oak will likely be based on your preference for the look/color along with the cost.

However, the cost of white oak and red oak fluctuate, so there isn’t usually a significant cost difference, but it can vary a little bit at a given time and depend on the grade/brand/width of the wood.

If you have oak floors already and want to add more, make sure the new flooring matches the old. You’ll get a more uniform look, and the wood will hold the stain colors in a similar manner.

Red Oak vs White Oak Flooring

1. Hardness

Red oak flooring is a little easier to work with than white oak. Red oak has a Janka hardness of 1290 and white oak has a Janka hardness of 1360. Although red oak is a little less hard than white oak, it shows fewer dents and scratches.

2. Water Resistance

Red oak is less water-resistant than white oak.

White oak flooring is more water-resistant because the wood is closed grain. Tyloses clog many of the pores, rendering them more impervious to rot and decay.

This is one of the reasons for using it in the construction of boats. It’s also why white oak is preferable for door jambs in the front of the house and other places that are more vulnerable to damage by water and nature’s elements.

3. Graining

The floors with red oak have a more pronounced grain compared to white oak. The white ones have a polished look.

Some homeowners like red oak’s heavy graining because they prefer the natural look and the graining helps mask dents and scratches; others prefer white oak’s slightly polished grain because it appears to be less busy.

Mineral stripes are more prominent in white oak (and this results in a little more of a modern look). Often, the rays on red oak are a little shorter than on white oak.

4. Color

The floors with red oak have a pinkish hue to them and are a bit lighter compared to white oak. The ones with white oak are darker, browner, and yellower than red oak.

White oak and red oak absorb staining differently since they start out with different densities and colors.

The distinction between the two species shrinks as you stain them, particularly when you get darker. The color of red oak has a red undertone with lighter stains.

5. Cost

There isn’t much of a cost difference between red oak vs. white oak flooring. Since unfinished hardwood remains a commodity, its price fluctuates on a weekly basis.

Red oak is more expensive at times, and white oak is more expensive at other times. The price varies a lot depending on the grade and width.

And, on a regular basis, it can be seen that white oak in one size is more pricey. Sometimes red oak in another size could be the same way, and this fluctuates constantly.

White oak, on the other hand, tends to be more expensive when shopping for wider planks, particularly 5′′ and wider.

This is most likely due to the fact that red oak trees tend to grow bigger and have a larger diameter than white oak trees. Also, red oak trees are more prevalent than white oak (especially in the United States).

6. Stair Treads And Attachments

Red oak is most commonly used in saddles, stair treads, banisters, and other accessories.

If you already have oak-based stair treads in your house, they’re probably red oak, and you’d be better off matching them.

If you require new treads or other attachments, red oak is easily accessible (and therefore less expensive).

Other Factors To Consider For Red Oak vs White Oak Flooring

It’s important to note that coordinating hardwood is a more complex process than simply pairing red oak vs white oak flooring.

Complementary items that will help your hardwood floor last longer:

1. Floor effects felt pads

2. Bona floor cleaner

3. Harfkoko dog and cat socks

4. ProSource chair mat

There are also different grades for hardwood flooring (e.g. select grade, Number 1 common, and Number 2 common).

It’s best to hire a hardwood flooring professional if you’re not sure what kind of hardwood flooring is there in your home.

Also, remember that both white and red oak flooring can be stained to make them darker. Both types react differently to stain colors, so it’s crucial to test the floors first to be sure.

White oak has a browner and darker appearance, whereas red oak has a lighter appearance with red undertones.

The presence of red undertones in red oak is more noticeable with the ones having lighter stains; however, the darker the stain, the more the red/pink is drowned out.

White oak is a great option for those who choose to go grey. With this nice tone, the paint and graining tend to go well. And, since red oak has an underlying pink hue, you’ll need to use a darker grey to cover it up.


Having discussed the differences between red oak vs white oak flooring, both are favorable choices. Some homeowners prefer the appearance of white oak, while others like red oak.

Too often, we’ve seen homeowners (or contractors) mismatch the wood, using white oak in some places and red oak in others. This results in the wood never looking identical – the graining would differ, and the stain colors would vary.

Choose your favorite if you are starting a project or replacing floors. It’s better to match if you are working with existing hardwood.

You might also be interested in checking out the comparison guide for planer vs jointer.

By Robin M

Robin remains an active participant in the skilled trades community. His hands-on involvement in projects, coupled with a genuine enthusiasm for helping others succeed in their home improvement pursuits, reflects his commitment to empowering readers with the knowledge they need to tackle projects confidently.

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