Probably the most popular wood floor of all time in the USA has been oak flooring. Both red and white oak are extremely abundant and have been used for everything from railroad ties, cabinets, ship & barn beams, furniture to hardwood flooring. Oak is also very dense, has good impact resistance, good grain clarity and stains well, which all adds to its appeal as wood flooring. Although oak hardness is not as great as hickory or some maples its availability, graining and density has helped make it so popular for hardwood flooring.
Red oak and white oak are both common hardwoods growing through out the Eastern, Midwestern and Southern states. The denser oaks come from the colder climates where the trees have shorter seasonal growing periods. Oak flooring are also a green product and is considered an environmentally friendly choice of flooring. Many mills also use selective harvesting and replanting of new young trees to help protect and manage the oak tree forests. Also, solid oak flooring can easily last a lifetime, can be refinished several times and adds value to any home.
Red oak flooring is available in both 3/4" solid and engineered hardwood. They vary in width from the 1-1/2" strip planks to 7" or wider planks. Solid oak strip flooring comes in both prefinished and unfinished and are generally 1-1/2" to 3-1/4" in wide and random lengths. Solid oak plank flooring also comes in prefinished and unfinished in width from 3-1/2" to about 8" and in random lengths. Engineered red oak flooring has a thin top layer of red oak and the plies underneath are generally a softer wood. Once installed it is hard to tell the difference between an engineered and solid oak floor.
White oak flooring is pretty much the same as red oak but has a whiter coloration and is slightly more moisture resistant than red oak. Also, white oak flooring is slightly harder than red oak. Both red and white oak flooring are installed the same ways and require the same care and maintenance.
Solid oak flooring has to be nailed-down over a wood type sub-floor and the proper expansion joint has to be left around all vertical walls to allow the planks to expand and contract. Engineered oak floors can be glued-down or stapled over wood sub-floors and glued over concrete slabs. Some engineered wood floors can also be floated over a variety of sub-floors including some types of existing floors.
With the improvements in radiant heating systems most hardwood floors can be installed over radiant heated sub-floors. There are precautions that need to be taken and Hydronic heating systems need to be installed prior to the sub-floor and oak flooring. Extensive laboratory testing has shown the oak planks should not be greater than 3" wide when installing over a radiant heating system and the maximum surface temperature of the floor should never go over 85 degrees.
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