Oak wood flooring stands the test of time. According to Ralph Severson, president of Flooring Masters, oak flooring has been a popular choice since the colonial days, and it’s the reason so many homes from hundreds of years ago are still standing.
Besides its durability, Severson says the classic, gorgeous look makes oak the most popular choice when his customers want hardwood flooring for their homes. “Some even choose it for the nostalgia — memories of their grandparents old, worn oak floorboards,” he says.
Here’s what you should know about oak wood flooring.
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Oak Wood Flooring Pros
- Durable. Maintains its appearance a long time. Can last more than 100 years.
- Relatively affordable price.
- Wide variety of colors, shades and grains.
Oak Wood Flooring Cons
- Vulnerable to moisture and humidity, like all hardwoods.
- Specific cuts and types can be expensive.
- Require frequent maintenance and must be swept daily.
Oak Wood Flooring Buying Considerations
All hardwood flooring comes in a range of grades. Oak flooring grades are typically noted as Select (or Prime), #2 Common and #3 Common.
As the grades descend, the boards feature more character markings, like wormholes, knots and minor imperfections. The price also drops, though the quality of the board isn’t diminished; grades are more an indicator of appearance than durability. For a flawless look with minimal variations, go with Select or Prime grade.
Wide oak planks are popular at the moment, although the range of colors and grain patterns make oak a great option for any width or length. Longer board lengths provide more grain continuity, while shorter boards can result in a “choppy” look. Decide what length and width works best with your grade and color.
Oak flooring color varies widely depending on the type of tree it came from. Severson says you can choose from red or white oak, or fumed oak, a process where ammonia darkens the wood to grayish. “Some alternate the floorboards with two of these choices, or another type of hardwood, like maple, for a unique look,” he says.
Oak also takes stains well, making it easy to customize the final color and match to your existing décor.
Oak grain patterns vary from medium to heavy, depending on the type of oak as well as the way it was cut. Red oak tends to have a slightly “busier” grain, with more character than white oak. If you’re concerned about scratches from large pets or rambunctious kids, red oak hides damage better.
Rift-sawn planks, cut perpendicular to the rings of the tree, have a more uniform, consistent look with long grain patterns. Plain-sawn boards, cut parallel down the circumference of the log, offer a busier look with loopier cathedral-style grain. Plain-sawn boards are also cut more efficiently, reducing waste and lowering the price.
Oak Wood Flooring Installation
Oak flooring installation, like other hardwood flooring options, uses tongue-and-groove joints to securely connect. It requires a level subfloor that can hold flooring nails or staples.
Let your oak flooring boards rest in the room where they’ll be installed in for at least three days — more if recommended by the manufacturer or installer. This allows the wood to acclimate to the humidity and temperature level. If you skip this step, your boards might swell or shrink after installation, creating unsightly cupping or warping.
Oak Wood Flooring Cost
Severson ranks oak on the middle to high end of the wood flooring price spectrum. “Oak usually costs around $7 per square foot,” he says, “but this can vary widely depending on supply, demand, and the specific type of oak flooring.” Installation costs runs an additional $5 to $10 per square foot, he says.
Due to its durability, oak can be sanded and refinished many times over, offering a strong return on investment (ROI) if you’re planning on selling your home in the future.