Both white and red oak trees are capable of flourishing in a variety of habitats, and are two of the most popular hardwood floor types in the United States. While red oak and white oak flooring share some similarities, they are very different, both in hardness and appearance. White oak floors tend to be more durable than red oak, with a Janka Hardness rating of 1360. The Janka Hardness Scale (based on a scale of 0-4000, with 4000 being the hardest) is used to determine the density and hardness of hardwood flooring. Red oak is used as the standard of measure on the Janka Hardness Test; all other wood species are compared to red oak for their relative hardness. For example, Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba), a popular exotic hardwood flooring from South America, measures 2820 on the Janka chart and is said to be 224% harder than red oak.
White oak generally has a high level of tannic acid, a natural substance that's found in the bark of some plants and trees. This substance increases the wood's resistance to bacterial growth and insects. These two qualities make white oak a great material for indoor flooring. White oak also has a closed cellular structure that makes the wood more resistant than other wood types. For this reason, white oak is popularly used for outdoor furniture, ships and wine barrels.
Red oak, on the other hand, is most known for its fast growth rate and versatility. It is also visually distinctive, and the only oak tree that has silvery stripes running along its red and brown bark ridges. Red oak flooring has become a popular favorite over the years for its attractive and stunning surface. Although red oak can be both hard and heavy, it's fairly easy to work with and can be successfully stained with a wide range of colors.
To learn more about red and white oak hardwood flooring and other hardwood species, see our Hardwood Species section on FindAnyFloor.com.