Red and White Oak Stairs

Red and White Oak Stairs 

When it comes to current home furnishings, refinishing dated or even new oak wood furniture is all the rage especially with home décor professionals and HGTV enthusiasts. However, when it comes to updating home flooring or stairs, the natural oak look is as popular as ever. The reason today’s homeowners choose oak wood for their flooring and/or stairs project are much the same as they were decades ago—for its durability and classic look, which complements a variety of design styles. Oak wood not only warms up a home, it increases its value.

There are two primary oak hardwood species to choose from: red or white. Listed below are the differences between the two and the different cuts available to help you with your final decision.

Red oak gets its name from the color of the tree it comes from and not its actual color. The lumber color ranges from a light golden to a pinkish tint. Red oak features a more prominent grain, which does better in hiding scratches and dents than the white. Because red oak is often used in North America for furniture and flooring, homeowners often choose the same material for their stair bannisters and treads so it will match what they currently have in the home. It is a bit lighter than white oak and has a more porous and open grain.

White oak is a bit browner, darker and has more of a yellow tint than the red oak. In contrast to red oak’s more visible grain, white oak features a smoother look and is a good choice for those who want a less busy look. It also does better in resisting moisture and air so it is a good option for boats, outdoor areas and high traffic areas like stairs, foyers and recreational areas in the home. It is denser and harder than red oak. Typically white oak is a little more expensive than red oak.

There are a variety of cut types to choose from when deciding on a floor and/or stair design. Cut type means it is the type of cut that is made in the wood log that makes the boards and planks. The different types of cuts include:

  • Flat cut is a cut made in the wood that moves along the same shape of the tree ring—actually parallel to it. This cut is also called back cut or plain sawn. It results in straight grains and produces many wide patterns. Because it has a coarser look, it takes attention away from the lines of the surface.
  • Quarter sawn is cut from the middle of the log (usually the pith) at a 90-degree angle out toward the edge of the log. It creates a uniform vertical grain line and has distinct marks on the top of the wood called ray flecks. This process takes a longer amount of time to cut than the other options so it is typically priced higher.
  • Rift cut is a cut between a flat cut and a quarter sawn cut.

    Homeowners and contractors cannot go wrong choosing red or white oak for their flooring or stair project. It is a matter of deciding what color they want in the oak.  There are a variety of combinations available to best match their taste, style and needs.