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Red Oak vs White Oak: What is the Best Oak for Your Needs?

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What do you need to know about red oak and white oak?

Oak has become the go-to option for hardwood floors, as it is versatile and affordable. As one of the most common tree species in North America, oak comes in a large supply and is known to be more environmentally friendly than other wood options. While there are many types of oak to choose from, interior designers and flooring professionals often prefer red and white oak.

A common question that people make is whether they should choose red oak or white oak? Technically, there is no better option between the two since this will ultimately depend on your application and needs. Check out their differences below to understand which one will be most suitable for your use.

How to Choose Between Red Oak or White Oak for Your Projects

Distinguishing between red oak or white oak can be tricky, especially if you are not too familiar with lumber. That said, here are some key differences between the two that might help you with your decision.


Color is one of the main differences between red oak vs white oak. You might think that white oak is lighter based on its name, but it is actually darker since it tends to have shades of brown and tan. Red oak, on the other hand, has red and pinkish tones, which makes it lighter in nature.

The color differences become less evident when you stain the woods, especially when you go for darker stains. With lighter stains, you will see the underlying tones of the wood, so red oak will still have its pinkish hue.


Using the Janka hardness scale, white oak’s hardness is 1360, and red oak is 1290. Since white oak is slightly harder than red oak, it is commonly used for outdoor purposes to withstand external elements more effectively.

Both oak species are known for being relatively durable despite the difference in their hardness, so if you are choosing floors in your home, you need not worry too much about this aspect. Whether you choose red oak or white oak, you will get sturdy and strong wood. 


Grain pattern is another visible difference between red oak and white oak. Red oak usually consists of wide zigzagging and wavy lines, exhibiting a stronger and more dramatic pattern due to its light color. On the other hand, white oak has a subtler and smoother grain with smaller and more uniform lines.

Choosing based on the grain pattern may be a matter of preference, but some opt for red oak since its pattern is suitable for concealing dents and scratches.

Water Resistance

When installing hardwood floors at home, one of your main concerns will be possible water damage. Generally, white oak is more water-resistant since it is a closed-grain wood, so it is suitable for areas that are more exposed to natural elements.

Work with Professionals to Get Quality Oak

Whether you choose red oak or white oak, you can be assured that they will be a welcome addition to your home. However, if you still need help deciding on which one will be more suitable for your application, we can help you with that. As a lumber company in Tampa, Peninsular Lumber has high-quality wood for all construction and DIY needs. Contact us today at 813-875-8805 to learn more.