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  • Tim McGrath

American vs. European White Oak

When it comes to flooring, white oak is a solid choice. White oak is highly sought-after and one of the most popular choices due to its versatile color and durability. The most important question is whether you want European White Oak or American White Oak. What are the differences?


American vs. European White Oak
American vs. European White Oak


Color


Although both of these oaks are the same species, there are distinct color differences due to varied environmental conditions during growing. European oak is generally darker toned with a more warm, golden color. American oak typically has a pinkish hue with underlying brown tones to it. Although these different characteristics are common in each variety, they can vary based on desired look. For example, growing conditions can be manipulated to achieve different effects such as depth of color and grain tightness.


Grain Pattern


European white oak has a more prominent grain pattern than its American counterpart and for this reason is known as having more character and charm. It boasts a tighter, smaller grain with a wavy pattern. American oak is known for having straighter and more subtle grain patterns which lead to a clean, uniform appearance. It also tends to have larger growth rings than European oak.


Length, Width, and Thickness


American oak trees tend to be naturally shorter than European oaks. Because of this, American oak is offered in shorter, thinner width planks. It also has a thicker depth profile. If you’re looking for long, wide planks, European oak is the go-to. Wider, longer planks are trending at the moment due to its spacious, luxurious feel. Wider planks trick the eye into perceiving a room to be bigger than it actually is.

Strength/Movement


Both varieties are extremely strong and durable, which makes them excellent flooring choices. However, European oak is known to be harder and heavier. It is less likely to undergo expansion and contraction due to temperature and moisture fluctuations. This guarantees minimal movement during its lifespan which lowers the chances of splitting or cracking. Although these traits are generally desired, American oak is much stronger and bendable. This is ideal for a wider variety of applications.


Staining & Finishing


It is important to finish hardwood floors to extend their life, regardless of species. Because European white oak doesn’t expand or contract significantly, it is able to be finished with a natural oil. This penetrates the wood and hardens the fibers, making it even more durable. Unlike polyurethane, oils do not need to be refinished after a number of years. A new coat of oil can simply be applied over the existing layer. Utilizing a natural oil finish makes owning a hardwood floor a breeze. If you’ve ever had to sand down and re-apply polyurethane, you know it is a time and labor intensive process. American oak is generally finished with polyurethane, which can be a turnoff to some because of the aforementioned upkeep.


Conclusion


Both American and European white oak are highly sought-after due to their strength, durability, and aesthetic properties. At the end of the day, choosing a European or American oak will depend on availability, cost, desired aesthetic, and other personal preferences. Either variety is a great choice and will add tremendous value to your home. If you are interested in installing a white oak floor but are unsure which variety is right for you, reach out to us here and we will help you find the best flooring option!



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