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Red oak vs. White Oak hardwood flooring – what’s the difference?

What is the difference between red oak and white oak hardwood?

red oak vs white oak hardwoodOak flooring is the most popular species of hardwood here in Westchester County NY and the northeast in general. Oak is a very practical wood, is readily available (grown and made in the US), very affordable and very easy to stain so you can find the color you prefer. But many consumers don’t realize that there are 2 species of oak – red oak and white oak flooring.

 

If you are installing new hardwood flooring everywhere, either red oak hardwood or white oak hardwood will work, and your choice will probably be dependent on which look/color you prefer as well as the price (the prices of red oak/white oak fluctuate, so in general there is not usually a major price difference, but this can vary slightly at any given time frame or based on the brand/grade/width of hardwood you are choosing.

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

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  • Bona hardwood floor cleaner
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  • Office chair mat
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    If you already have oak flooring, and are adding additional oak flooring, you will want to match what you already have…that way, you will have a consistent look and wood will absorb the stain colors the same way. I’ve seen it happen too often where a customer (or contractor) has mismatched the wood with red oak in some areas and white oak in others. This means that your wood will never completely match – the graining will be different and the stain color will be different.

    What’s the difference between red oak flooring and white oak flooring?

    Red Oak – select grade                             White Oak – select grade

    Red oak hardwood floors westchester countyWhite oak hardwood flooring - Westchester NY - Select grade

     

     

     

     

    1.  Color – red oak has a bit of a pinkish tint is a little bit lighter than white oak. White oak tends to be a bit browner, darker and more yellow. As they start out with different colors and have different densities, red oak and white oak absorb stains differently.  When you stain them, the difference between the 2 species decreases, especially the darker you go. With lighter stains, the red oak tends to have a bit of red undertone in the color.

     

    2.  Graining red oak tends to have stronger graining than white oak hardwood. White oak has a bit of a smoother look. Some people prefer the strong graining of red oak – both because they like the look and because the strong graining helps hide the scratches and dents; other prefer the slightly smoother grain of white oak and feel it’s a less busy look. 

     

    White oak has more mineral streaks (and this gives it a bit more of a contemporary look).  Also, the rays are a bit longer on white oak vs red oak.

     

    Red oak vs white oak hardwood floors westchester county3. Hardness – white oak flooring is a bit harder than red oak. On the Janka hardness scale, White oak is 1360 and red oak is 1290. But, as I mentioned above, even though red oak is a bit less hard, it tends to show the dents a bit less.

     

    4.  Compatibility with stair treads and accessoriesRed oak is more common in stair treads, saddles, banisters and other transitions. If you have oak stair treads already in your home, chances are, they are red oak, so you may be better served matching that. If you need to get new stair treads or other transitions, they are usually more readily available (and hence lower priced) in red oak.

     

    red oak vs white oak hardwood flooring5.  White oak is more resistant to water than red oak.  Because white oak is a closed grain wood, it more impervious to water.  Many of pores are plugged with tyloses making it more resistant to decay and rot.  This is why it’s used more often in boat building.  And, it’s also why it’s better to use white oak on front door jambs as well as other areas that may be more exposed to water and nature’s elements. 

     

    You can see a great demonstration on the porousity of red oak and white on this ship building video.  It’s amazing to see how much faster the red oak absorbs the water.  It’s quite amazing.

     

    red oak compared to white oak flooring6.  Price – In general, there is not a major price difference between red oak and white flooring. Because unfinished hardwood is a commodity item, the price tends to fluctuate weekly. At times, red oak costs more; at other times, white oak costs more. the price will often vary based on width and grade. And, very often, I have the red oak in 1 size as more expensive and white oak of another size is more expensive, and it literally changes all the time. 

     

    red oak vs white oak - what's the differenceThat being said when looking at wider planks, especially 5″ and wider, white oak tends to be a bit more expensive. That is most like due to most red oak trees grow taller and have a wider diameter, as well as the fact that red oak is more abundant vs. white oak (at least in the US).

     

    Please note that matching hardwood is a bit more complex than simply matching red oak vs. white oak. Also, there are differences in grades of hardwood flooring (e.g. select grade vs No 1 vs. No 2 vs quarter-sawn). If you are unsure what type of flooring you have, it’s best to call in an hardwood flooring expert.

     

    Also, bear in mind that you can stain both red oak and white oak flooring to be darker.  They both accept the stain colors a bit different, so it’s important to test them on your floors.  White oak tends to come out a bit darker and browner while red oak tends to come out a bit lighter and has a bit of red undertones.  You tend to notice the red undertones more in red oak with lighter stains; the darker you go, the more it drowns out the pink/red.  Below are all examples of oak with stains.

    Hardwood flooring pollRed Oak - Shaw Eagle RidgeRed oak eagle ridge from Shawsomerset charcoal gray oak homestylered oak vs white oak floors

     

     

     

     

     

     

    For those looking to go gray, white oak works much better.  The color and the graining just work better with this cool tone. And, with red oak, there is an underlying pinkish tint, so you need to go darker with the gray to drown it out.  You can learn more about gray hardwood floors here.

     

    red oak vs white oak repairHere’s an example of where a contractor mismatched red oak and white oak in their repair.  This was either was probably an extension and the the white oak is on the bottom part of shot and red oak on the top part.  The mismatch is obvious (and it’s a sloppy repair job).  When you go darker in color, it camouflages a bit, but it still shows even with a dark walnut or ebony.  (For this customer, we stained the floors with true black (which is opaque and covered up the contractor’s mistake.

     

    Conclusion:  Both red and white oak are great options.  Some people prefer the look of red oak while others prefer white oak.  If you are starting from scratch, pick your favorite.  If you are adding to existing hardwood, it’s generally best to match.  Here are some tips on matching new and existing hardwood floors.

    color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.

     

    For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.

    6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook

    You may also find these hardwood flooring articles helpful:

     

    Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors

100 thoughts on “Red oak vs. White Oak hardwood flooring – what’s the difference?”

    1. Yes, generally white oak is a bit darker than red oak. However, there is color variation in the boards, so some pieces will lighter and others darker, but overall white oak is a bit darker than red oak, and you can see that when there is no stain on it.

  1. i’m deciding between White Oak Select or Better and Quarter Sawn, how much more per sq foot is quarter sawn? Is it worth it? What is your price for both. My floor is about 2100 sq ft.

  2. Thank you for this nice article. I have a question however. I have red oak floor downstairs (was told it was originally red oak #1) and I am thinking of choosing hardwood floor for upstairs using finished wood. The downstairs floor had yellowed a bit since my house is 19 years old. When I compared several floor samples with my existing floor, the Bruce Dundee Dune plank which is a white oak seem to match with the existing floor. Is this okay to mix the flooring type red oak downstairs with white oak upstairs or would you recommend that I look for the red oak planks only? Thank you in advance for your response.

    1. Amy – That’s a great question. First, let me explain what’s going on. Over time, wood darkens from light (just like our skin) and the polyurethane oxidizes and amberizes over time (turns a bit more yellow).

      You have 2 options. First, you could choose the white oak for 2nd floor as it currently is a better color match vs. your downstairs. Or, you could choose red oak…and over time, it will look more consistent with what you have downstairs. I think it’s ideal if you can have the same type of wood everywhere if you can. That way, it generally looks more consistent and when you stain the floors, it will be more consistent as it will absorb and show the stain similarly.

      If you put in new red oak upstairs, and then later refinish your first floor (which you will need to do eventually), they will be a closer match.

      I do not, though, think it is the end of the world if you have 2 different types on the different floors (and I’ve seen it done before). I think it’s most consistent that you are consistent on each floor.

      Also, not sure if you have oak treads on the steps, but most oak treads are red oak. I hope this helps.

  3. I have a (70 year old) white oak floors in my kitchen. When the old linolieunm was pulled up we found a section that was damaged and needs to be replace. Can I use a red oak to patch the floor here? Will it be a big difference in color once the entire floor is stained?

    1. Sissy – No, you should use white oak. If you use red oak, it won’t match. It will be a different color and the graining will be a bit different. White oak is very common and costs about the same as red oak, so your contractor should be able to get this.

      And, yes, the patch work will show. If you do a dark stain, it will be less obvious, but there shouldn’t be any reason you or your contractor can’t get this.

  4. Wood color changes with exposure to light. Which oak, red or white, is less photosensitive?

    Also, I have seen oak turn more yellow over time, is this a sign of white oak more than red.

    Thanks!

    1. I don’t think that either one is more or less sensitive to light, but yes they do tend to darken over time. Rather, it’s the polyurethane that has the bigger impact. The poly amberizes over time as it oxidizes. The way to reduce this is to use a water based poly rather than oil based poly. However, oil based poly lasts longer and has more depth.

  5. very informative site! qq – i have red oak natural bruce flooring sterling prestige planks installed on the first floor of my house. i recently installed an unfinished red oak set of stairs. I was wondering if i need to stain the stairs before putting polyurethene on them to get them to match the existing flooring? was also wondering what products you would recommend and what you think of the combined products with stain and polyurethene in one?

    1. Hi Bill. I’m not familiar with Sterling Prestige subline, but all that aside, I would ask you installer…you need to look at things visually to determine and I can’t see it. First, let me say that often, the stair treads are slightly different than the floors, as they are usually a slightly higher grade of wood. Second, when flooring is put in at separate times, the colors will be a bit off due to the wood aging/darkening as well as the poly oxidizing and amberizing.

      Talk to your installer to get their opinion. You may want to do a light stain (e.g. neutral or golden oak) or they may be able to put an amberizing agent in the poly. This may be your best bet to bring it the closest. I hope that helps.

  6. Does northern red oak have a different look than southern red oak. Does one look softer than the other, meaning that one have more pronounced grain than the other. Also , which stains darker?

    Thanks,
    Linda

    1. Hi Linda. Good question, and the first time I’ve been asked that. I had to do a bit of research. Apparently, Northern Red oak = red oak (they are synonymous). Southern Red Oak is sometimes called Spanish Oak. I couldn’t find info online to see the pictures of the wood, nor get any good descriptions to compare the two. But, my guess would be that southern red oak is softer (i.e. less hard) than northern red oak in the same way that southern maple is softer than northern maple.

  7. Hi Flooring girl!
    Over the last week I have had floor guys refinishing my oak floors and adding there was none (just a subfloor) and where some had been damaged. My understand is that my oak floors are #1 grade, not Select.

    Tomorrow they are supposed to put the final coat on the wood (they did a clear stain and one coat of satin polyuthane) but I am finding that ares are not really smooth, rough to the touch.

    I don’t believe this is a function of the wood grade as my living room and dining have 63 year old oak floors, they were very smooth when we bought the house in 1999.

    Do the guys just need to buff more? Or is this a function of the satin finish not being thick like the semi-gloss?

    I like the matte look of the satin but it also doesn’t feel so smooth.

    Advice please! Do I need to have my flooring guys take another buffing pass on the floors?
    Is semi-gloss a better produce long term, than satin finish?

    thx!

    1. Hi Leslie – First off, the floor will not seem smooth until they apply the 2nd coat of poly. They are supposed to buff the floors before this coat, and after that, they should be smooth, regardless of grade of wood. If they still are not smooth, they may need to do a 3rd coat of poly (which would prob. cost extra). This is not usually needed, but sometimes when the wood is old it could need it.

    1. Michael – Sometimes, it’s challenging to tell. You need to look at the color and graining. Sometimes, you can remove a piece and look at from the side (where there is no stain)…or if you have registers in the floor that you can pick up and look at it. If you’re not sure, take the piece to a local flooring store and ask them. I hope that helps.

  8. Replacing my red oak floors. My cabinets are also red oak but plan to stain them darker of would really like to just paint them white. My question is I have heard that white oak is the new trend. Can I do white oak with the cabinets until painted white. If my cabinets never get painted will things clash? HELP

    1. First, I wouldn’t really say that there is a trend towards white oak. Red oak is more abundant and installed in more homes. Some of my customers prefer the look of red oak, others white and others couldn’t care less. Choose whichever you PREFER.

      What does seem to be in style, though is very dark floors (or else very light). On the very dark side, many in my area love ebony and jacobean. For those that love the darker ebony, it often shows even better on the white oak floors as the white oak is a bit darker/more yellow whereas the red oak floors are a bit more red.

      White cabinets are very in style and by far the most popular and look amazing w/ dark hardwood, regardless of whether it is red oak or white oak. And yes, I think it’s fine to do the floors and then the cabinets a bit later. Think with the end goal in mind, even if you will do in phases. Hope that helps.

  9. Melissa Ralph

    When we moved in our home we had to replace the flooring in our family room in the back of the house and went with a wide plank hand scraped in a dark walnut color. Our foyer is the skinny 3″ oak. Not sure if it is white or red. How would you recommend staining them dark to be similar to the other room? We want to use the same hard wood throughout eventually but can’t swing it just yet. Thought staining the foyer a dark color and getting rid of the gold color would at least look better in the meantime. Thoughts??

    1. Melissa – Yes, in the meantime, I would try to sand and refinish the other existing colors with a similar stain. I’m not sure if the new handscraped wood is oak or not. If it is, it will be easier to make it a similar color. But, it will never be exact both as the prefinished hardwoods have proprietary blends of stains and the handscraped will give it a different effect as the stain pools in certain areas. But, see if you can call in a professional to get their opinion and hopefully they can come close on color, even if they need to blend 2 colors. I hope that helps.

  10. Kim in Pasadena CA

    Hi Flooring Girl. We’ve a 106 year old house with oak floors that need some patching (we pulled out the gravity heaters). How does one tell what kind of Oak our existing flooring is, so we can choose White or Red for the repair? The existing boards are quartersawn, so have lots grain character, and the patina is rather orange/yellow. It’s hard to tell if its Red or White Oak. Your opinion is very much appreciated!

    1. Good question. It’s sometimes challenging. Probably your best way is to have a local flooring person over and ask them. You could also take pictures and take them to a local store. If there are any registers on the floor, you can pick them up and look at them from the side. Or, if there are edges in closets or something, sometimes that helps so you can see the wood from the side without the stain. Hope that helps.

  11. Hi, I have maple cabinets and am refinishing a red oak floor. I’d like to go darker on the floor stain but don’t want to go too dark where it clashes with the cabinets. Any suggestions on stains?

  12. Hello, I am putting down a white oak floor. I want to keep it light and accentuate the grain and knots. What shade and finish should I go with to bring the grain out?

    1. Hi Catherine. Sorry for the delayed response. First and foremost, I think you should go with the color you like and that you should test a few. Stay away from dark colors as that will hide the grain. I often find that mid toned colors show the grain the most (e.g. provincial, special walnut), but sometimes natural does the trick, too.

  13. Hello,
    I really want light or light -medium stained white oak floors for my new house and would also like to have all white kitchen but not sure if those go together. Do you think I have to go with darker floors with white kitchen? Are there any lighter stains that could work?
    Thank you a lot!

    1. I actually think that white cabinets go w/ virtually all hardwood floors. I have seen them next to natural and lightly stained oak, and they look god. The depth of the color will then be a matter of personal opinion, so do whatever color you like. Look at the color next to your cabinets. That should help. You can also look at other pictures online.

      Good luck with your project.

  14. I decided on using medium stain like “special walnut” on white oak and was wondering if I should go with “common 1” vs “select” grade ( trying to stick to the budget). I do NOT like color variations in common 1, but hoping it is not very noticeable with medium stain. What do you think?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Veronika – If you stain it darker, you won’t notice the color variation as much, but you still will have color variation. So, if you don’t like that look, I would upgrade to select grade, esp since it’s not usually a huge cost difference and also because it will give you more flexibility in the future when you refinish again.

  15. What is the difference between red oak 1 and red oak 2? If I plan on hand scraping and dark staining like a mahogney does it make a difference if it’s a 2? Thanks!

    1. Annemarie – No 2 will have a lot more color variation and knots. Also, No 2 tends to have more shorter lengths. The same would hold true with other species of woods such as mahogany. But, if you are doing a handscraped/distressed look, No 2 might work well for you and give you more of that old world look. Hope that helps.

  16. Hello, we are doing a remodel and decided in a white oak with a lighter stain. In the meantime, our general contractor was redoing our carpeted stairs with wood (he said he used oak for this). Now he is trying to stain the wood stairs to match the hardwood flooring we chose and it’s not looking good. First he out a clear stain on it and it brought out the red in the wood so after reading this article I think he must’ve used red oak. He then tried mixing in a greener stain to counteract the redness, but now it looks too green. Please help! After reading this article I’m concerned that we won’t be able to get the two woods to look similar enough to be complimentary.

    1. Hi Tricia. It is not uncommon to have red oak treads…most houses have that, even if white oak was installed on main floors at same time. The good news is that white oak is darker than red oak, so he should be able to darken it a bit to make it more consistent. Sometimes this can be done w/ tint on the last coat of poly. Another option is to do a light stain such as golden oak of ipswich pine or fruitwood. Unfortunately, since he’s added the green at this point, they will need to be resanded and start again.

      BTW, they will probably never match exactly. But, even w/ red oak, they never match exactly as they are often different cuts/grades of woods. Just strive for making them closer in color. Also, later, you can always add a carpet runner on top.

  17. I’ve had select white oak installed. Looks great and I’m leaving it natural. My question, is it normal for select to have some lighter boards?

  18. Just wondering if you kow how to repair red oak hardwood flooring. Bought unfinished, installed our selves and finished. Now it is cracking down the middle of the boards. Hate to rip it up.

    Thank You
    Kelly Oliver

    1. Generally, all you do is replace the wood/weave in, and then sand & refinish. It’s unusual for solid hardwood to crack like that, especially if it’s recently repaired. But, if you did yourselves, maybe you didn’t install correctly. You may need to call in a professional and redo (ie. replace the boards again and then refinish.

      or, it could be symptomatic of a larger structural issue. But, it’s more likely that it’s the former issue.

  19. I am having a new home built and builder is planning to use utility plank red oak. How will this hold up with a dog in the house. Thank you

    1. Chuck – I’ve never hear the term “Utility plank.” But, red oak holds up well for dogs, especially if it’s natural. Utility plank sounds like it’s a low grade…maybe it’s builder grade (or a euphemism for builder, which often means a lot of “shorts,” lots of color variation and knots. It would not be my first choice in terms of looks, but the knots and variation will help hide scratches and dents.

  20. I’m having a difficult time finding med brown with grey overtones. I prefer white oak or even ash in a normal texture (not wire brushed or wave). Reps keep pushing me towards engineered flooring, which I understand to get my colour, but I strongly prefer solid hardwood. Should stick to white oak in my search? I hate anything with red/ pink tones.
    Thanks

    1. Rachel – The color and type (solid vs engineered) are 2 independent options. Personally, I prefer solid as well (when it’s possible). When it comes to prefinished woods, you are at the mercy of the manufacturers and it is possible that it’s more challenging to find your desired color in solid. You may need to keep looking (i.e. look at OTHER brands) or you may want to consider doing unfinished wood and customize the blend to your taste.

    1. Kay – I’m not sure why you would think your floor would look greenish. But, if you are going for darker floors, white oak is probably a bit better since it’s a bit darker and browner.

      1. My designer told me that ebony stain tends to look greenish on oak, especially white oak. Two web sites suggest red oak is lighter but less green and one site said red oak looks greener. I am guessing you haven’t seen that as a problem. That is good news. I do want a darker floor, but I don’t want yellow or red to show through. Would you still do white oak?
        Thanks!

        1. Right, I’ve never seen that as an issue – at least not with ebony and darker stains. I’ve seen some odd things with gray stains and have had people across the country call me about this. Sometimes it may have some green in it but more often bluish (at least from the calls). And, there is a minwax gray stain (I think classic gray) which as green undertones…and it seems to look this way on red oak.

  21. We just had some of our 65-year old red oak floors refinished, as well as new red oak floor laid in a new area. We didn’t refinish all of the old floors, so we have those as a basis of comparison.

    The old floors with old finish (oil based poly haven’t been refinished in at least 20 years) are very smooth — you feel the grain of the wood only slightly.

    In contrast, the new water based poly finish on old oak and the newly installed/finished oak are both somewhat rough. You can really feel the grain, and it is more difficult to wipe them clean, because stuff sticks in the grain of the wood rather than just wiping off the surface. When I run my hand perpendicular to the grain from the old to the new finish, the difference is striking.

    What can we expect with red oak and a water based finish?

    1. Yes, oil based poly is thicker than water based so I’m not surprised. This is another reason I often recommend oil based poly. Are you doing the work yourself or is a professional doing it? I’d highly recommend a professional as that will have a HUGE impact on how smooth the floors are (they have better machines, do a better job and sand 3 times). Also, things smooth our when you buff the floor (after 2 coats have been put down). With water borne poly, you may consider doing an additional buffing and additional coat of poly.

      I hope that helps.

  22. Hi, I’m going to replace my vinyl kitchen floor with hardwood to match the existing hardwood on other area. I still can’t figure it out what kind of hardwood that I have now. Is it red or white oak. Could you please help? I took some pictures, but I don’t know how to post pics. Thank you!

  23. We have 20 year-old oak flooring (2-1/4″ planks) in our entry and kitchen. We are adding hardwood to the rest of the rooms on the first floor which butt up to the original floor. We were told we have White Oak common, so they added the same White Oak common. The new wood has a lot more knots than our original, and quite a few “black boards”. We wanted a natural stain, so they didn’t put any stain, but rather just polyurethane. The old and new looks completely different. The original has a more yellow tint (which is what we wanted), while the new wood looks rather brown and darker. Look terrible right next to each other. Now we are trying to figure out how to fix it. When we discussed, we had decided to put in Select. But apparently when they put the order in, the hardwood supplier told them they shouldn’t put in Select if the current is Common. Do you agree with that, or do you think putting in Select would still have looked nice. In my opinion, the new Common has many more knots (which are now unfilled holes) and more black boards and looks inferior to our original. If they were going to look different anyway, I would have rather the new look better than worse. I sure wish they would have consulted with us to give us the choice before just arbitrarily putting in Common when we had told them we wanted the Select. Any thoughts on putting down Select next to 20-year old common? Also, any thoughts on why the clear poly looks so much different on the original wood than on the new wood? Note that after the new wood was installed, the entire floor (old and new) was completely sanded and 2 coats of polyurethane over the entire floor.

    1. Rick – Oh gosh, I’m so sorry to hear this. Yes, they should have consulted with you. I’m with you and would tend to trade up rather than down. It’s also possible that they didn’t get the grade right. It sounds like they gave you white oak #2 (rather than #1) if you have so many knots. The 2 woods, if they aren’t matched, won’t match (obviously) and the difference in time can have an impact, too. I generally explain this to my customers and ask which way they would like me to go.

      The best way to “blend” things (now that’s it’s already installed) is to go very dark so the differences are less noticeable. BTW, you should never do natural w/ just 2 coats poly. It should be 3. That’s an easy fix, but doesn’t solve the bigger issue. Oh, and if you want a more yellow look on the newer part, they could add a bit of a tint on the next coat to help with that.

      I hope this helps a bit. It’s hard once the wood is already installed.

  24. Flooring Girl, thanks for your response. I think they probably installed #1 (at least that’s what the delivery slip stated), but I think it just has some more knots than our existing. Probably also looks worse, because they haven’t filled any of the knot holes. They were planning to come back at the end of our big remodel and put a third coat of poly on after all the other work (cabinets, painting, etc) is done.

    Going dark is not an option. This would completely ruin our big remodel for my wife. She is already regretting replacing the three rooms with hardwood, and wishes we had just left it carpeted, because of how it now looks. She wanted a very light stain to go with our new cherry cabinets. I think she would tell them to just rip out the new wood before she would put a dark stain on it.

    The flooring contractor was out this weekend and agreed it has to be fixed. If that means resanding the whole thing, then that is what they are going to have to do. The finishers are supposed to come out with him today or tomorrow to discuss the best way to fix this. We are willing to put some stain, but still want to go light. I am thinking maybe Ipswitch Pine, instead of the Natural. Or do you think putting the MinWax Natural “stain” on it would at least help even things out more than just using the Polyurethane?

    Thanks for your input on using Select with Common. That still makes us very upset that they didn’t consult with us before making that change. Sounds like you think that wouldn’t have necessarily looked bad to add the Select next to our existing Common?

    1. Rick – Yes, I hear you on the dark stain vs. light, but I’m just trying to give you an alternative solution. This solution doesn’t sound like it will work well for you and your cabinets. I would definitely be discussing things with your contractor to see what they can do. Regarding other light stains, you are on the right track. You will just need to have them test these as they turn out different on different woods.

      And, yes, personally, I would have upgraded to select, but now that it’s down, you’ll have to work things out somehow with the company. I believe the “grades” have shifted over time due to different standards. No one’s fault, but not a fun situation for anyone involved.

  25. Hello – great article and very informative! Have been reading your blog all morning and find it very educational.

    We just had new unfinished red oak flooring laid throughout our house and love the color of the unfinished floor. We are worried about any sort of stain or finish bringing out more red-tones because we really like the light and neutral color that the wood currently has. Do you have any advice about how to finish the floors to maintain their current natural look? We are also hoping to do a satin finish, but aren’t sure if that would be compatible with our “natural stain” desires. I read that water-based is better than oil-based for that reason, but am not really sure if that impacts long-term durability / is the best choice for a growing family.

    Any advice you can offer is much appreciated!

    1. Hi Katherine. Thank you so much for your kind words. If you want to go as light and natural as possible, I would do Bona traffic. It will give you the lightest look and it will hold up the best. It’s the most durable of all of the water bases. It’s also has more of a matte finish. I would either use Satin finish or Semi gloss in Bona. Semigloss in Bona will look like satin in oil; satin finish in Bona will look more like Matte in oil (or maybe in between matte and satin.

  26. Hi flooring girl- came across this website when looking for help (sorry I know this is an old thread!) we just had our floors completely redone and parts replaced, but I think perhaps the contractor mismatched our red oak with white? Is there a way I can send you a picture?? Desperately need a professional opinion as I think it looks horrible!! Trying to figure out what to do next…

    1. Jamie – It’s best for someone to look at this in person. I will also tell you that when you put new wood in, it’s usually lighter than the existing wood that has aged and it will never match exactly. I’m sorry that I don’t have a way to upload pictures on here.

  27. i live in the philippines and would like your opinion whether to use poly in water on my wood on the ceiling 2×2.my beams.also i have the same situation on my covered terrace open tho. what would i do with new fllofigs oil or water based poly. thanks

    1. Hector – I don’t have experience with ceilings, but they obviously don’t get the foot traffic that you get on the floors, so durability really isn’t an issue. It’s more about color (and odor). So if you want to go as light as possible, use water borne poly, if you want more of a golden glow or a very dark stain, use oil. Water will cost a bit more, but you don’t need to have a high grade one on the ceiling. For outdoor, I’d do a marine finish. I think those are typically oil based, but you’ll want to do some research on the best ones. Typically outdoor areas need to be redone much faster (e.g. every 2-3 years). I don’t know what flofigs is.

  28. I always had a preference for oak flooring but never knew that there are two kinds of oaks-red and white. My wife also read this blog and we both feel that the information provided in this blog is wonderful and will serve very useful.

  29. i want to put hardwood floors in three bedrooms. I have oak, I think red, in my great room. this room is in no way connected to any of the bedrooms. They all connect to a tile floors. Is it important for me to match to great room?

    1. Nancy – In general, when you can, yes I think it’s better to match because then you home looks more cohesive, and later of you sand and refinish and change the color all hardwood areas can match. And, then, if you, or a future owner converts the tile areas to wood, they can all match. That being said, if you dislike what’s there already and want to make a change, you can. It’s your home and it’s your call. I also see people put in new wood in new areas and later replace the wood in the existing area, especially if they upgrade to wider widths.

  30. Great article! I am planning to remove the carpets in my home and have the original white oak flooring sanded/finished. I am aiming for a lighter stain, kind of like a light Nordic style. Do you have any suggestions on what stain/finish I should use? Thanks!

  31. Hi Debbie, we are going to replace ceramic flooring with wood. We have hickory cabinets and wanted a less busy floor. We are wanting to down play the ambering (cabinets are lightly stained and 15 years old) and don’t want an all one color scheme. I had picked a solid yellow birch in 4 1/4 width planks, stain color medium dark (cappuccino). We have a 60 pound yellow lab. Granted I will definitely notice the dog hair, but do you think I should scrap the birch choice? After reading about oak, I am wondering if you think staining a select grade of white oak, darker, would achieve a less grain look and be a MUCH better choice considering the dog? Thanks, Sheryl

    1. Hi Sheryl. Birch is a bit softer, it doesn’t stain well (turns out blotchy) and will show scratches more. I think oak is a better option. Be sure to do 3 coats poly. If you are going darker, you don’t need to worry about the yellowing. Alternatively, if you want very light, you could do select maple natural with water borne bona traffic – that’s the lightest you can do. (I don’t know the color of the cabinets. 2nd option would be more expensive due to the wood species and poly. Be sure to keep the dog off the floors for a min of 2 weeks.

    2. Hi Sheryl. Birch is a bit softer, it doesn’t stain well (turns out blotchy) and will show scratches more. I think oak is a better option. Be sure to do 3 coats poly. If you are going darker, you don’t need to worry about the yellowing. Alternatively, if you want very light, you could do select maple natural with water borne bona traffic – that’s the lightest you can do. (I don’t know the color of the cabinets. 2nd option would be more expensive due to the wood species and poly. Be sure to keep the dog off the floors for a min of 2 weeks.

  32. I am getting new oak floors installed soon and am having a difficult time choosing between natural color white or red. My excising cabinets are medium (honey oak). Should I continue with red oak for floors or can you do white oak for a nice contrast? Floor guy recommends white and the interior designer lady said red. Suggestions please.

    1. You can use either as it’s cabinets vs. floors. Truthfully, you should go with what you love – lookwise. Personally, I prefer white oak over red as it’s less grainy and less busy. It also looks a bit more up to date and it’s easier often easier to get your desired stain color as it’s more neutral/doesn’t have the reddish/pinkish undertones.

      White oak is a bit more resilient to water and that’s helpful in kitchens.

      The challenge is the mid tone honey cabinets you have…as it’s hard to get a good contrast with that. If you are going light, then natural is will give you the most contrast and be the lightest and if you use waterborne Bona Traffic, it will be even lighter, so that’s probably your best bet regardless of species.

      Red Oak will be a bit lighter, but grainer, and a bit pinkier. White oak will be a bit darker, but less grainy. It will be a bit more yellow and less pink.

      I think it fundamentally comes down to which grain you prefer. But, I think I’d do natural bona traffic regardless of the species you choose. I hope that helps.

  33. Hi – We live in Colorado and are planning to put hardwood in our kitchen, dining and living room. We prefer the look of white oak (we’re looking at a beautiful R&Q natural engineered white oak from Lauzon.) Do you recommend any particular brands? We probably want a matte or satin finish and a 5 inch wide plank. Any advice you have is greatly appreciated!

    1. Alison – First, nice choice in wood selection. And, Lauzon is a great brand. The key thing you want to look for (since it’s engineered wood) is the thickness of the wear layer.

      It’s extremely rare to find specific cuts (e.g. rift & quartersawn) in any prefinished wood and even rarer in engineered wood. If Lauzon has it, they are probably one of the very few that does. It is a specialty brand.

      1. Thanks so much for your swift reply, Debbie! We are also looking at Mirage White Oak (R&Q), a Somerset White Oak, and a Superior White Oak R&Q (this is the only solid hardwood we’re considering.) Do you have any strong feelings, recommendations or hesitations regarding any of these brands that might help us to choose? Thank you so much for your help!

        1. Alison – I’m not familiar with Superior. That may be a regional brand, but I can’t comment on it (I’ve seen it, but haven’t used it). Somerset is a good brand. Mirage is an better brand (and costs more). Rifted and quarter sawn costs more (obviously). I don’t believe Somerset has Rifted and quartersawn, but it’s also possible that they recently introduced one.

          1. Thank you for all your help, Debbie. I think we have narrowed it down to the Lauzon R&Q White Oak and a Mirage R&Q White Oak (both engineered 5 inch planks.) If it’s between those two, do you have a strong feeling about one brand or the other? Living in a dry climate (Colorado) is there any advantage to engineered vs. solid hardwood? Thanks for your advice!

          2. Alison – Those are both excellent brands and you won’t go wrong with either of them. I’d say that you should choose the one you prefer. Re: engineered, that may be better for your environment. I’ve heard that more use engineered out there than here, but honestly, you should speak to someone local who installs hardwood to get their opinion as they know the environment and what holds up better there.

  34. Hi Debbie,
    First off, excellent feedback! We just installed select white oak 6” floors. We are close to the beach and are going for a light/coastal modern design look for our house. We absolutely love the light natural look of the sanded white oak. What water based polyurethane products would you recommend. We’ve tried Dura Seal clear satin, which had a yellow/ darker tone & also tried Bona Traffic HD; which had an amber/orange tone. Neither looked anything like the natural light color we want. Any help would be greatly appreciated. JC / CA

    1. Courtenay – I would highly recommend Bona Traffic HD. It’s the least yellow…BUT, they have 5 types of sealers nows and it sounds like you may have inadvertantly used amber seal with does have an amber tone (that is meant to simulate look of oil based poly).

      So, if you are going natural, use Bona Traffic Nordic Seal (new). This will give you the lightest look, least yellow with a tad of whitish/grayish undertone.

      OR, if you are doing a whitewash stain, then no sealer (you don’t put sealer on top of the stain) and then 3 coats Bona traffic. Same if you do a gray or gray/white, etc. That’s the least yellow you can go and most durable finish. (note: the wood has some yellow in it).

      If the nordic seal doesn’t work work you, you will want to compensate with stain.

      I hope that helps.

  35. Working on the 5/16” narrow strip oak floor in a 60 year old house in Northern CA. The original flooring has a great variety of grain and color. I have read that in that time period, Mills mixed red and white oak in bundles. As I crawl over the floor, that looks to be the case. Any experience with this (it does make questions about matching for repairs irrelevant)?

    1. Bob – That does happen occasionally, but it is unusual. The 5/16″ “solid is even more unusual and you’ll have to see if it’s sandable still. We’ve rarely come across that here in New York. I’ve seen it all the time where contractors made mistakes and did it, and I’ve seen it with some prefinished wood. But, I have not personally come across it with site finished wood. But, perhaps that was common in your area or in that thickness.

      BTW, I probably would not install new 5/16″…unless you need to. I’d try to go with regular 3/4” solid so that it lasts much longer.

      1. Hello

        My kitchen cabinets are in mapple mocha , countertop and tiles are in lighter color , furniture in dark at family room and dinning . Dont have. Sofa yet in living room .

        Installer suggested to choose RedOak Natural with somerset or Mullican brands .but i heard bad reviews with these brands.
        Can you please let me best puck for me.

        Thank you in advance.

        1. Ven – Of the 2 brands, I prefer Somerset over Mullican as it looks nicer/has better milling, is less shiny and has better colos. That aside, if you can do white oak over red oak, I prefer that. the red oak will be a bit busier and the white oak will hold up better in the kitchen. Given the colors you described, I would be more inclined to either go very dark (look at metro brown) or do unfinished wood – do white oak w/ Bona Traffic. I think those will go better with your colors.

  36. I wish I read your article a week ago as I just purchased Red Oak flooring instead of White which looks more modern and durable.

    1. Joe – Sorry you didn’t find this sooner. but, if the wood hasn’t been delivered, you may be able to go from red oak to white oak. It never hurts to ask. That aside, they are both great woods.

  37. I am not sure, but I just bought a house and we are having the floors refinished. The previous owners had some carpet replaced with hard wood and tried to blend it in. I am not sure, but now I think that they may have used a different oak than the original floor. Now I am panicking. They started sanding them today. we didnt plan on going too dark, I wish I had found this website previously. Sigh… Any help would be great. I can provide a picture if it would help.

    1. Dave – Oh gosh that stinks. But if you have professional sanders there, they should be able to tell the difference, so then you know if you have a problem or not. If you do have different species, a darker color will help camouflage it. Or you can try an area rug.

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