White and Red Oak Floors – What’s the difference?

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We professionally sand and finish a lot of solid hardwood floors in the Pensacola area, floors dating back into the early 1900’s, 1920’s, 30’s and the 50’s. The majority of these floors are Oak, but more than that there is White Oak and Red Oak. I thought I would take a minute and tell you the difference in case you have them already or you are thinking of going that way in the future.

Red Oak Floors

Solid 3/4”x 2-1/4” Red Oak Floor with a Natural Finish in a home in the Cordova area, time frame 1950’s era.

Oak Floors

Oak floors are very practical and very durable, often found in homes that are a century old. It never ceases to amaze me the houses that we go into and find wood floors under carpet or vinyl that were installed 50 to 100 years ago. A good sand and finish will many times bring these floors back to life.

White Oak Floors

So, there are two types of Domestic Oak predominate in the Pensacola area, White Oak which has fine graining with warm Gold to Brown tones. White Oak is a little harder than Red Oak, and also more resistant to water and rot. White is well suited for indoor or outdoor areas. White Oak has closed pores which makes the stain process a little bit more difficult opposed to Red Oak.

In the 20’s up through the late 1950’s, the type of wood installed in a home aligned with the income level, those who could afford White Oak would put it in their homes, others would select Red Oak, or some mix in between. Today, the pricing for these two woods are very close and Oak is plentiful in the United States.

Red Oak Floors

Red Oak has light golden wood with reddish or pink tones. Red Oak is more porous than the White oak making it more susceptible to water damage or rot. It is usually lighter weight than White Oak and not quite as dense. Red Oak is a wood selection that is more suitable to indoor use only.

Many times in older homes people assume that they have White Oak because the reddish tones are not present, however most times in older homes it is necessary to conduct a species test to know for sure. Over time the Pink tones in Red Oak tend to fade and take on a look more appropriate for White Oak. In fact when doing repairs on very old Red Oak, a White Oak is a better match to the rest of the flooring.

I am certainly not making a recommendation one way or the other. Red or White, they both make a beautiful solid wood flooring. If you are looking for a good solid product, White Oak and Red Oak are classic and they both deserve a look!

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