Oak flooring has been a standard flooring option in the United States for years, and for good reason. Oak is attractive, durable, and versatile enough to be used in almost any room. Both red oak and white oak are popular wood flooring options, but what are the differences between the two, exactly? Is there a more suitable variety for a dining room? How about a bedroom? Is one variety more durable than the other?

The following article examines both red oak flooring and white oak flooring in four major categories: strength and durability, appearance, movement in service and maintenance, and compares the results side by side. If you have a project that involves oak flooring and you can’t decide between red or white, consider the following information before making a decision. You will be glad you did.

Strength and durability

Strength and durability are determined by two main factors: Janka’s hardness and density. The Janka hardness rating is a measure of the resistance of a piece of hardwood to indentation. Janka’s hardness is measured in pounds, and the higher the rating, the stronger the wood. Density is a measure of how much wood is actually packed into one cubic meter. The combination of hardness and density can tell you how well a particular hardwood species will withstand daily wear and tear.

The Janka hardness rating for red oak is 1.2900 lbs and the density is 780 KG / m3. For white oak, the hardness is 1360 pounds and the density is 900 KG / m3. While both varieties definitely live up to the “hardwood” name, white is definitely the stronger of the two oaks. White oak floors will better withstand heavy furniture and heavy traffic, but only slightly. If strength and durability are not a major concern to you, any of the hardwood varieties would work very well.


For most homeowners, the appearance of hardwood floors is very important. Both red and white have complex, tight grain patterns and light, warm tones. Red oak tends to have a more reddish-brown heartwood and warm, bright tones, while white has pale undertones and a contrasting dark grain. Red oak is a bit more colorful, so if you are looking for a more exotic looking flooring option, red oak is the best option. However, if your design scheme calls for a more neutral and versatile flooring, it would be wise to choose white.

Movement in service

Movement in service refers to the probability that a hardwood species will contract or expand during shipment or after installation. This is measured in tangential and radial shrinkage and is expressed as a percentage. The lower the percentage, the less likely it is that the wood will shrink. Also, the smaller the difference between tangential and radial shrinkage, the less likely floors are to sag over time.

The tangential and radial shrinkage of red oak soils is 8.6% and 4.0%, respectively. In the case of white oak floors, the figures are 7.2% and 4.2%. Note that not only is the tangential shrinkage of white oak much less than that of red oak, but the differential of white oak is also less. This means that in similar environments, white oak would resist buckling, bending, and warping better than red oak.


The maintenance requirements for red and white oak floors are practically the same. If treated with a high-quality sealer or stain, both varieties will resist wear and tear quite well and require very little maintenance. Regular sweeping and mopping will help your floors look good, and the occasional repaint should bring them back to their original glory. Unless you have marching band practice in your home every day, both red oak and white oak will retain their beauty for years and years.

Red and white oak floors are great options for homeowners – they will increase the home’s value while adding an air of elegance and sophistication. When it comes to which is a better wood, white oak tends to score slightly higher in terms of strength and movement in service. However, the two species are quite similar and the final decision is usually based on an aesthetic factor. Regardless of which species you choose, rest assured that you are investing in attractive, solid wood flooring that you will enjoy for years to come.

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