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Red Oak vs. White Oak Flooring

When re-flooring your home, oak is always a good choice. It’s a timeless hardwood that gives a lot of character to your floors. There are two variations of oak available— white or red. What’s the difference and which will work best in your design? Consider their aesthetic and functional characteristics before finalizing your plan.


Generally, as a hardwood, all oak has a strong grain. Grain is the arrangement of fibers in the wood that can create lines and patterns. However, it can vary between types of oak. The easiest way to tell the difference between red and white oak is by looking at the strength of the grain.

Red oak has a more dramatic grain, giving a more textured look. This remains true even after applying a stain, although it’s a bit harder to tell if you choose a very dark stain.

White oak has a less prominent grain pattern. This gives a smoother look. If you want a more uniform color, white oak is the choice for you.


Unstained, it’s easy to see a difference in color between red and white oak. Red oak is lighter overall with pinkish undertones in the grain. However, the darker you stain the wood, the less you will notice the pink. Take advantage of the beautiful natural color of red oak with a light stain, or simply finish it with a coat of polyurethane.

Despite the name, white oak is darker in color than red oak. Rather than pink, it has brown and yellow undertones. White oak also has a lovely natural color if you wish to go with a natural finish.


As a hardwood, all oak has a relatively high hardness value. Hardness is measured using the Janka scale, developed in 1922 by Austrian wood researcher Gabriel Janka. The scale ranges from 0 to 4000, and the higher the number the harder the wood.

White oak is harder than red with a hardness value of 1360. Red oak comes in at 1290. This means that red oak is slightly more porous and will dent a little bit easier. However, due to the more prominent grain, it’s harder to see imperfections in red oak than in white.


Regardless of which type of oak you choose, you will also have to consider the grade of the wood when selecting your flooring. The grade refers to the quality of the wood and the cut. The grade FAS (“First and Seconds”) is the highest grade available but can get pricey. The grading goes down to No. 3B Common, the standard for wood pallets and crates.

FAS 1-Face and Select grades are commonly used in flooring, where one face is Select grade and the other Common grade. You only see one side, after all. The difference between these two grades is the size of the plank.


Consult with professionals to determine which type of oak works best in your home. They will be able to pinpoint your needs and make recommendations. Contact the experts at Hardwood Giant at (704) 251-7279, they can handle the process from start to finish. Flooring sets the tone of your entire home so get it done right the first time.