Red & White Oak Hardwood Floor Installations

Unsealed Red Oak 

Unsealed White Oak 

The most common type of hardwood flooring is oak hardwood floor. Chances are good that when you think of a hardwood floor, your mind instantly creates an image of an oak hardwood floor. Oak is the number one choice for most builders and it is estimated that over 50% of hardwood that is sold for floors in North America is oak. Why is oak so popular? One of the reasons that oak is the wood of choice is because it is accessible. It is available and therefore it is less expensive than other options.

Oak flooring is typically a light red-brown color with an open grain that provides plenty of dimension and texture in the floor. Red oak is the most common type of oak hardwood floor; however white oak is becoming increasingly popular as well. White oak provides a much lighter look with a creamy white color. Oak is a strong choice however, white oak is a stronger wood that red oak. The grains in the wood provide a nice contrast once it is stained.

Oak hardwood floor is a nice choice for most homes. The warm color blends with most decors and personal tastes. However, because it has become so popular, more and more people are beginning to steer away from oak and go for something that is more unique in order to get a different look.

How to Tell the Difference?

Look at the Endgrain

Red Oak Endgrain

The pores found in the growth rings on red oak are very open and porous, and should be easily identifiable. White oak, however, has its pores plugged with tyloses, which help make white oak suitable for water-tight vessels, and give it increased resistance to rot and decay. The presence of tyloses is perhaps the best and most reliable way to distinguish the two oaks

 White Oak Endgrain

White Oak on Left

Red Oak on Right

How else to Tell the Difference?

Look at the Rays

When looking at the face of the board, especially in the flat-sawn areas, you may notice little dark brown streaks running with the grain, sometimes referred to as rays

 

Look closely at the picture above, (click on it to enlarge it if you have to), and note the length of the rays in both types of wood. Red oak will almost always have very short rays, usually between 1/8″ to 1/2″ long, rarely ever more than 3/4″ to 1″ in length. (Pictured above on the right.)

White oak, on the other hand, will have much longer rays, frequently exceeding 3/4″ on most boards. (Pictured above on the left.)

This method is probably the most reliable under normal circumstances, and is useful in situations where the wood is in a finished product where the endgrain is not exposed.