Samples of oak flooring planks.

Have you ever stepped into a house, restaurant or store with stunning flooring that seemed to radiate warmth throughout the space? Chances are, you were standing on oak flooring. Did you happen to notice whether it was white oak or red oak? If you’re considering bringing this beautiful flooring into your own space, understanding this difference is crucial.

Photo above via Eko Flooring

Oak hardwood floors are both exquisite and popular, yet white oak and red oak each offer distinct characteristics and advantages. But which is the better choice? The knowledgeable team at Eko Flooring is here to help us find an answer. They’ve provided insights into hue variations, hardness levels, grain patterns, and everything you should know before deciding between white oak and red oak for your residential or commercial space.

Charming restaurant with hardwod floors and lush vegetation.

Understanding Red and White Oak Flooring

The differences between red and white wood floors impact their appearance, durability and suitability for various décor styles. If you are undecided, it’s good to know that combining both red and white oak in the same building can be beneficial and is possible with either solid hardwood or engineered flooring.

Oak flooring in elegant restaurant with intimate ambiance.


Even though there is little variation in color to the untrained eye, there is a simple way to visually distinguish red oak flooring from white oak flooring.

White oak often appears more brownish or yellow, whereas red oak has a faint pink undertone. However, after staining, you may or may not notice a difference in color depending on the stain you select. The pinkish color of red oak may still be visible with lighter stains, but darker stains tend to mask the pink or yellow undertones.

As a side note, when repairing or expanding your existing white or red oak hardwood floors, it is advisable to match the color and stain consistency of your existing floors in order to avoind an uneven appearance.

White oak flooring plank.

Bergamo Oak Turin from Eko Flooring

Grain Patterns

Many refer to the grain pattern as “nature’s hardwood design” since it greatly influences the appearance of wood floors. Red oak is known for its larger and more varied grain lines, sometimes described as a bit wild. In contrast, white oak has more closely spaced grain lines, giving it a smoother look to the untrained eye.

The strong graining of red oak helps conceal scratches, making it valuable in busy homes or areas with a lot of foot traffic. Therefore, choosing red oak over white oak can be a great option if you want beautiful flooring that effectively conceals minor wear and tear.

Dark oak flooring plank.

Reward Euro Oak Diano from Eko Flooring

Hardness Level

Compared to red oak, white oak flooring is somewhat tougher. Red oak has a Janka hardness rating of 1290, while white oak is rated at 1360. Although white oak is slightly denser, the difference is not significant. Therefore, if you prefer the look of red oak, it might still be the better choice for you. Eko Flooring offers high-quality installation services at competitive prices for both options.

Rustic restaurant with light oak hardwood flooring.


Durability is a vital factor to consider when choosing a hardwood floor, and white oak has an advantage over red oak. White oak hardwood is more resistant to dents and impact damage, even though red oak hides dents better due to its grain pattern. However, the quality and polish of the wood dictate how resilient white oak is to scratches. In contrast, red oak is softer and less resistant to dents than white oak. Both types are resilient and, with proper care, may last for many years.

Dark hardwood floors in spacious cafe.

Water Resistance

White oak is water-resistant due to its tight grain and pores. Conversely, red oak has larger pores and open grains that readily absorb water. When choosing hardwood flooring for a basement prone to moisture and mold growth, it is important to consider these characteristics. Red oak is better suited for places like living rooms and bedrooms that are not exposed to the outdoors or moisture. White oak would be perfect for areas prone to moisture, such as basements.

Cozy restaurant with warm hardwood floors.


The natural colors of both red and white oak are not the only factors that define the final appearance of your hardwood floor; staining options are also crucial. If you choose to stain the wood with deeper colors, the differences between red and white oak will become less noticeable. However, even with both light and dark stains, hints of the original color will still be visible beneath the finish.

Here is an interesting and surprising fact to keep in mind: While you may think that graining doesn’t have anything to do with color differences, it actually does influence the way you see the wood’s color. Red oak has more pronounced graining, which can make color contrasts more obvious. Conversely, white oak can have a more uniform appearance due to its straighter grain lines.

Thus, while staining choices are excellent for both types of wood flooring, your preference for a smooth or more pronounced grain finish may ultimately determine which type is best for you.

Modern and hip cafe with oak flooring.

Other Features

White oak is the best material for outdoor furniture and flooring because it resists decay and water better than red oak. Red oak has larger pores than white oak, which is sturdier, denser, and has narrower, more closed pores. However, the larger pores in red oak make it easier to dye deeply and consistently.

For optimal stability, both red oak and white oak boards should be installed after allowing them time to adapt to their new environment.

Quaint cafe corner with turquoise furniture and hardwood floors.

In Summary

Oak is a sustainable resource and the most commonly used species for hardwood floors. Red and white oak are the two primary varieties of oak flooring available. The differences between red and white oak include weight, color, hardness, price and moisture resistance.

Red oak is generally more affordable, resists dents and scratches better, and has a reddish color. White oak, on the other hand, responds well to high humidity levels and has a warmer, more refined appearance.

Both oak varieties take well to staining, but the final appearance heavily depends on the stain color chosen, so it’s important to have a clear purpose in mind before starting the staining process. Ultimately, your preference and budget constraints will determine whether you opt for white or red oak flooring.

Rustic-looking floor planks in cafe interior design.

If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

See our Small Store Design Extravaganza: Commercial Interior Design and Branding 01 book about branding small businesses from logo design to construction, with colorful images, offering insightful explanations every step of the way.

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