Color: Heartwood is very light brown and sometimes has a gray or pink cast, sapwood is white to pale cream.
Grain: Open grain long rays with occasional crotches, swirls and burls. Plainsawn boards have a plumed or flared grain appearance; riftsawn has a tight grain pattern with low figuring; quartersawn has a flake pattern, also called tiger rays or butterflies.
Variations within Species and Grades: Some variation in color and grain, differences not as pronounced as red oak.
Hardness/Janka: 1,360, slightly above average.
Dimensional Stability: 1-.5.
Sawing/Machining: Excellent, one of the easiest woods to machine.
Sanding: Sands well when sanded in proper sequence.
Nailing: No nailing problems.
Finishing: Stains well, but tannins in the wood can react with certain liquids, like bleach and water-based finish, and cause staining.
Availability: Widely available.
What is White Oak?
White oak is a deciduous hardwood with dozens of subspecies indigenous to North America, southeastern Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Oak was introduced to Europe in the 18th century and flourishes there. Color is a very light brown and can have a pinkish or grayish cast. The grain is open with long rays distinguished with occasional crotches, swirls and burls. Grain patterns are determined by machining; plainsawn boards have a plumed or flared grain appearance; riftsawn has a tight grain pattern with low figuring; quartersawn has a flake pattern, also called tiger rays or butterflies. White oak is noted for adaptability. It flourishes in many different kinds of soils and climates. The lumber is less popular than red oak in the United States, probably because it generally costs a bit more, but structurally it is more durable than red oak.
White Oak Usage
White oak has been prized for centuries for its beauty and durability. It is historically used for interior woodwork, flooring and paneling, furniture, boxes and crates, coffins, timbers, pallets, handles, agricultural tools, and flooring. Because its pores are filled with a fibrous substance called tyloses, it is also used in outdoor construction, boat hulls and wine barrels. Aging wine in oak barrels infuses the wine with a unique flavor.
The Janka scale uses 0.444” steel ball pushed into a 2’’ x 2’’ x 6’’ piece to determine how hard the wood is. The test determines out how many pounds per square inch, or PSI, of force is needed to push the steel ball half way into the wood plank. White oak is rated at 1,360, making it very durable and long wearing. White oak is manufactured as solid flooring planks or veneer surface for engineered flooring. Solid white oak flooring can be sanded and refinished up to seven times over the life of the floor. High-end engineered flooring may be sanded up to five times. High-end manufactured flooring can be as costly – or more – than solid wood, but has advantages in areas of high humidity and can be installed at or below grade, unlike solid wood. Lower-end engineered flooring can not be sanded, but can be stripped and re-varnished. Read the manufacturers instructions for specific details about your flooring product. White oak is exceptionally durable and is one of the woods most often reclaimed from old buildings and boats and recycled for new use. Antique oak has a unique color and character from the heartwood of once-common old growth trees that we rarely see today.
White oak is one of the easiest woods to work with. It is easy to sand and takes finish well, but is easily stained when tannins pull from the wood into water-based finished or products containing wood bleach. Pre-boring is recommended, but the wood will hold the nails well. White oak flooring can be floated, nailed, stapled, or glued.
Where to Use
White oak has natural, rustic warmth, but it’s best to avoid rooms where standing water is common, like bathrooms. White oak will do well in almost any other room in your home. It can stand up to heavy traffic and wears extremely well. Placing pads under furniture legs, rugs or runners in high traffic areas and keeping pet nails clipped will help protect your floor and keep it looking good for decades.
Care and Maintenance
All wood flooring is easy to care for when treated with respect, but prone to dents and scratches from heavy traffic, impacts, spiked shoes, furniture. or pet nails. Excess water will stain and damage your beautiful floor, so it is imperative to clean up wet spills immediately. White oak is one of the easiest care floorings. Sweeping or vacuuming regularly and an occasional pass with a damp mop are all the care needed. If your floor is waxed, an occasional buffing will restore the shine and remove any scuff marks.
Relatively fast maturity and superior adaptability make white oak a highly sustainable resource and an environmentally sound from approved sources, and since most white oak flooring is grown and manufactured in the United States, you can be confident that is logged legally and forested responsibly.