American & European Oak Flooring – What Are the Differences?

Oak is one of the most popular tree types used in hardwood flooring. There are around 600 different species of oak trees; however, only certain species are used when manufacturing hardwood floors.

Types of American Domestic Oak Used in Hardwood Flooring

Oak is one of the most eco-friendly trees used in the production of American hardwood flooring. This is because of its relatively small carbon footprint and the fact that oak trees are prevalent and easy to repopulate. The most common species of American oak trees for hardwood flooring are red oak and white oak.

Domestic Red Oak

Red oak generally possesses a light, reddish coloration. Sometimes red oaks emit rusty golden and/or pinkish color tones. This species of American oak is also known for its expressive grain patterns.

Domestic White Oak

Despite its name, American white oak is usually a darker tone than red oak. It may also appear to have a brown and/or yellowish tint. American white oak is somewhat harder than red oak and is often used when the hardwood flooring installation requires a sturdier material. Due to its hardness, white oak has been used in the production of many American products over the centuries.

Some of these products include:

  • Boats
  • Outdoor and indoor furniture
  • Baskets
  • Barrels
American White Oak Flooring
European Oak Flooring Pompeii from Legno Bastone

European Oak Used in Hardwood Flooring

European oak is sometimes referred to as a white oak; however, European oak is actually quite different from the species of white oak discussed earlier. Most European oak used in hardwood flooring originates in France, Germany, or the United Kingdom.

European oak generally possesses a darker tone than either of the American oaks; its tone has sometimes been compared to the color of burnt honey. This species of oak is often more evenly colored than domestic oaks making it an ideal choice for flooring installations that require a more uniform look.

European oak is also the most popular species of oak to be fumed due to its relatively high tannin content.

Fuming is the process of exposing the wood to ammonia gas for the purpose of bringing out the darker tones within it, and tannin is a type of astringent that can bind to the organic compounds found in oak.

American Oak Vs. European Oak Flooring

Now that you’re familiar with the main characteristics of American oak and European oak, how do you decide which one is the better choice for your flooring installation? There’s no right answer to this question as there are many factors to consider.

One of the most common considerations is the price point. European oak is almost always going to cost more than American oak for one overbearing reason. Location. The cost of shipping planks of oak across the Atlantic Ocean and the potential tariffs tacked on to that overhead are obviously going to bump the price up on European oak purchased in the United States; however, the price difference isn’t drastic and can definitely be worth it if it’s the ideal wood for your specific flooring project.

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