Traditional Oak Wood Floors

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Traditional oak wood floors are considered timeless and lovely. This guide will discuss the main differences between red oak and white oak wood floors so you can make the best decision for your home.

In our previous home and our current home, we have oak wood flooring throughout. I love wood flooring, but like anything else; it has strengths and weaknesses. Flooring trends are out there and they can come and go but nothing is more classic and traditional than oak wood floors.

Let’s dive into all the details of red oak and white oak wood floors, their hardness level, stain colors durability and cost.

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white kitchen with wood island and runner rug on oak wood floors

Are Oak Wood Floors Out of Style?

When embarking on a new build or a remodel; we all want to know if something is trendy or timeless. “If I install oak flooring, will it be dated in a few years?”

Traditional oak hardwood floors are undeniably timeless. They offer a classic look that transcends trends, are exceptionally durable, and prove to be very versatile for your personal design style. Oak floors have been around for hundreds of years meaning they are classic and timeless. Just like a white kitchen, marble countertops and subway tile; all classic design elements for your home.

Flooring is a large part of a new build or remodeling budget and flooring has a lasting impact on the look of your home. Choosing a flooring that is timeless, like oak, will ensure your investment lasts. Over the years there have been many flooring design trends – dark cherry or mahogany wood floors that have strong red undertones, very dark wood floors, gray floors, distressed wood floors, and very light bleached wood floors. These styles go out as soon as they come in and you find yourself wanting a new look.

Sticking with timeless design elements in your home ensures there is no stress to keep up with changing trends.

oak wood floors with rug

Red Oak Wood Floors

Red oak flooring is one of the most commonly used hardwood floors, mostly because it is relatively affordable, and durable.

In the 90’s, orange floors were very trendy and red oak was very popular. Orange tone floors do not have to be your destiny if you select red oak flooring however. There are ways to stain the oak to hide red and orange undertones.

Red oak has strong pink and yellow undertones that certain stains can bring out and darken more than others. Not to worry if you are choosing a medium to darker stain. Darker stains get soaked right up and hide the salmon color, leaving you with beautiful wood floors.

Red oak is less hard than white oak, but it’s so slight that it’s inconsequential. Red oak also has a heavier and more dramatic grain and pattern meaning it can hide scratches and dents more than even white oak.

White Oak Wood Floors

Grown in North America, white oak is a domestic hardwood. White Oak hardwood flooring is quite durable and is harder than red oak and is considered the industry standard. It is a great flooring for high-traffic areas and holds up well to daily wear and tear.

White oak is readily available as a flooring material and has surged in popularity. Its tight grain and relatively neutral color makes it accept a wide range of stains so you can customize your design style.

White oak is a closed-grain wood, which refers to the cell structure of the wood grain. White oak is more water-resistant than red oak, which comes as a result of the grain difference. Often white oak is slightly darker than red oak, has neutral, yellow undertones and is more accepting of different stain colors.

red oak flooring with rug and chair

Blue Chair | Rug | Curtains | Lamp

Red Oak or White Oak?

If you are installing hardwoods for the first time, I would recommend selecting white oak.

White oak will cost a bit more than red oak, but you will not have the pink undertones you will get from red oak. However, you can still choose red oak as the pink undertones can be balanced out with the staining process.

White oak is harder than red, has less grain, but honestly…either red oak or white oak are excellent choices for your home. We had white oak in our previous home and in this home we have red oak. I have been happy with both of them.

foyer with oak floors

Current home has 4″ red oak wood floors stained Minwax Provincial.

Staining Oak Floors

If you are installing unfinished flooring or refinishing existing flooring; you will need to find the perfect stain color for your home.

I do not recommend going to the hardware store and selecting a stain just by looking at the sample card on the stain display. In order to find the perfect shade you will need to apply several samples and evaluate them in different lighting situations. This is just like how you would select paint for your walls.

Have your flooring professional advise you on which stain to use and how to balance the pink undertones. They should be able to put down a few stain colors on the floor for you to evaluate and make the best decision. You may even have to mix a couple of different stains to arrive at a custom finish.

White oak flooring can just be sealed with a protective finish, but red oak needs some type of stain, even if it is light in color. Red oak floors will look unfinished if you do not stain them.

You decide how light or dark you want your floors to be based on your home decor. I prefer a warm, medium tone wood floor that has limited overly orange undertones. In our previous home we had white oak flooring that we refinished and stained Minwax Special Walnut and I loved them.

minwax stain guide card


  • Flooring is a large part of your building a remodeling budget – choose flooring that will last
  • Test wood flooring samples before making a selection
  • You might need to mix stains to get the desired look
  • Consider solid wood floors over engineered for timeless, high quality flooring

Cost of Oak Wood Floors

Most hardwood flooring projects cost homeowners around $6 to $18 per square foot depending on wood type, installation design, geographic location.

If you break it down, it costs $3–$10 per square foot for materials and $3–$8 per square foot for labor, totaling $6–$18 per square foot. If you were to install wood in a 200 square foot room it might cost between $1,200–$3,600. 

Red oak is around $2–$6 per square foot and white oak is around $4–$7 per square foot. If you can handle the price difference; I would go with white oak.

red oak flooring with rug and chair

Blue Chair | Rug | Curtains | Lamp

Installing Oak Wood Floors

Properly installed oak floor can look any way you like. They can be installed in a traditional straight line or arranged in patterns such as herringbone. Wide, narrow, and medium-width planks are available, furthering the customization possibilities.

We have not installed wood flooring ourselves so this is not a guide on how to install oak wood floors, but rather general install information. For DIYer’s it may seem easy enough to install wood floors yourself, but you need to take into consideration a few things.

When people list issues with their flooring such as warping, cupping, cracking, and other damage, it’s likely a result of improper acclimation, incorrect installation, or a structure and subfloor that simply were not suited for hardwood installation in the first place.

New wood flooring must be acclimated before installation. If wood isn’t allowed this acclimation time there will be issues with your wood floor post installation that could have been avoided. If you are going to install hardwood flooring yourself; ensure you understand all the aspects so that your flooring will be perfect.

sealing wood floors card

Solid Oak Wood Floors vs Engineered Floors

If you follow along on the blog or Instagram; you know my love for using high-quality and natural decor elements in my home. There are definitely instances to use alternative flooring such as a basement or guest house. However, in your main living areas of your home, splurge on the quality upfront and you will save money in the long run.

Solid wood floors are made from a single solid piece of wood. These floors can last a lifetime or longer so they tend to be the more expensive option because they are more durable.

The thickness of the wood means you have the opportunity to refinish the surface multiple times. This process is less expensive than replacing your flooring altogether. Engineered hardwood floors have a single thin layer of actual wood on the surface. This thin layer covers multiple layers of lesser-quality materials and refinishing them is limited to one time before you have to replace them.

Some engineered wood flooring manufacturers design planks to have a deep beveled groove between them when installed. These grooves then collect dirt and debris that is difficult to clean. Once raw oak wood floors are installed, they are sanded down to ensure a continuous smooth surface making them ideal and easier to clean. There are so many benefits to just installing real wood floors from the get go.

wood floors comparison card
white oak floors stained

Previous home had white oak wood floors stained Minwax Special Walnut.

brown branch graphic

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oak wood floors with rug

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