Not all lumber or flooring is equal. Are you remodeling your existing home, or installing new flooring in a new home?
There are several things you need to consider before making any purchase decisions. What type of flooring are you looking for? And how do you know when you’ve found it?
Wood flooring comes in many varieties, but the hardwood planks you want for your floor are White Oak. The grain pattern is unique and popular for fine flooring and furniture.
If you’re out shopping, you’ll need to know if someone is trying to fool you into buying another variety of lumber.
This article gives you all the information you need about hardwood flooring, White Oak, and how to distinguish white oak planks from other types of oak.
Hardwood Flooring In Your Home
Hardwood floors make it easier for you to sell your home. They increase the aesthetic value and the real value, sometimes by thousands of dollars.
It is a large investment to install hardwood in your home. Yet if you plan to sell your home in the future, it may be worth the initial money you spend.
Hardwood floors are also cleaner than carpet.
There’s a reason DIYers suggest wearing masks with filters when removing carpet. The dirt found underneath the soft flooring has more than the dust and hair that you might expect. There is any number of bugs like fleas, dust mites, and bed bugs, along with bacteria and fecal matter.
Hardwood floors are much easier to keep clean. With the increased value to your home, what do you have to lose?
Why Use White Oak Planks On Your Floor?
If you’re debating between engineered wood and solid hardwood floors, consider the differences and needs of your home.
Only high quality Engineered hardwood has thick wear layers. They can be refinished like solid hardwood can. Yet it’s often more durable as well because the plywood layers warp less than solid hardwood does.
Most of the time, solid hardwood is more expensive. You may want to keep the same wood you have in other parts of the home, though.
If this is the route you choose, white oak is a great choice. It is more water resistant because of its nonporous grain, and the warmer color is welcoming. It also takes a custom stain beautifully.
Collectors find more antiques made with white oak than any other kind. It has a finer grain than other types of oak, and it’s more valuable.
White Oak has a much higher demand than Red Oak due to less pinks and reds showing through the finish.
How To Identify White Oak
If someone has applied a stain to the wood, it can be even harder to tell the difference than with unfinished planks. With these tests, you’ll be able to know if someone is trying to sell you Red Oak disguised as White Oak.
The main groups of oak trees are red oak varieties and white oak varieties. Among these two group, there are multiple types of trees, a list of which you can see here.
Here are four different ways to identify if a plank belongs in the white oak family or the Red Oak family.
Look At the Leaves
This is only possible for you if the tree is still growing, or if you are near the area where someone cut it down. The leaves on a Red Oak are pointy on the ends, and the White Oak leaves are more round. In more rural mills you can sometimes visit the local forest where the trees where harvested.
The same is true for most of the types of White Oak and Red Oak. They will follow the pointy versus rounded rule.
Use Sodium Nitrite – Professionals only
White Oak turns almost black when you apply sodium nitrite, but Red Oak keeps its color, for the most part. Your best chance of finding the chemical in small amounts is to look online. Otherwise, you may have to buy in bulk.
Dilute the sodium nitrite with 1 part chemical to 9 parts water. Make sure to label the container because it’s a hazardous solution (professionals only). Wait a few minutes, and then observe the stain to determine what kind of wood you have.
You can only do this test on the heartwood of the tree, not on sapwood. If you perform the chemical test on some oak and find out later the results were wrong, double check that you have the right part of the tree.
Look At the Endgrain
The end grain of the wood will tell you what category of wood you have. Make sure to find a piece without dust or sealant.
Red Oak varieties have a very porous grain, with tiny holes in the wood. A tree from the White Oak group has small plugs in its pores, making it nonporous.
These plugs are tyloses, and because the wood isn’t as open, White Oak makes better wood for boats or other water uses. As discussed above, it also makes wood floors more water resistant.
Look At the Rays
The rays in a plank are the darker brown lines that are part of the grain. White Oak planks have longer rays than Red Oak varieties do. If you have trouble finding any rays that are more than 1 inch long, there’s a good chance you have Red Oak.
Use another test for this as well, because this one isn’t always foolproof.
Caring For Your Floors
Now that you know four ways to test whether you have White Oak planks, you can make fast progress on your new wood floors.
Whether you choose solid hardwood or engineered wood, the value of your house will increase. And you’ll love the easy cleanup and new aesthetic of your home.
Oak and Broad is here to keep your floors crisp and tidy for years to come. For more information about caring for your wide oak planks, read more of our blog.