Red Oak or White Oak Hardwood Flooring: Which is Superior?

In the world of hardwood flooring, domestic woods are going to be more widely available and more affordable than imported woods. They are also not as hard as imported wood. However, good quality domestic wood will stand up to any high heels or pet claws that a family can throw at it. One of the most popular species of domestic wood is oak. There are two basic kinds of oak, red oak and white oak. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. Red oak is popular if you plan to sand and refinish. White oak is popular for prefinished hardwood flooring. Here is why.


Hardness is rated on the Janka hardness scale. The harder a wood, the less likely it is to sustain damage. Softer wood can be scratched when you walk in high heels, move furniture, or when your pet walks on it. That could leave scratches and general cloudiness in the finish of your floor. A harder floor will last longer. So, in terms of hardness, white oak is slightly harder than red oak. White oak is a 1360 on the Janka hardness scale, and red oak is a 1290.

Seasonal Movement

As the temperature and humidity inside and outside of your home change, you’ll experience what is called seasonal movement. This is the expansion and contraction of the planks of hardwood on your floor. The changes are minuscule, but they can have a lasting effect. Denser wood is less prone to seasonal movement because it absorbs less moisture. White oak is more dense than red oak, but they will both move somewhat. Your best defense is a good subfloor and a healthy finish on your floor.

Wood Grain

For those who prize the grain pattern of the wood, red oak is far superior. Red oak has a deeper and more pronounced grain. It’s generally more irregular and dramatic. White oak has a faint grain that is straighter and more uniform. That means a white oak floor will look more modern and stylish. A red oak floor will look more dynamic and interesting. Red oak will also pop more when paired with a semi-gloss or glossy finish.

Matching the Décor

Red oak is commonly used in stairs, banisters, furniture, cabinets, and other types of hardwood around the house. That means that your red oak floor will be more likely to match your home’s décor than a white oak floor.