Oak flooring comes in three main varieties: white , yellow, and red.
White oak flooring can range in color from creamy white to light brown. Certain bleaches or water-based finishes can cause it to discolor to green or brown. White oak resists splitting and is easy to cut and process but often hard to sand. Due to its tannic acid content, white oak resists fungi and insects. White oak flooring has a rating on the Janka Scale of 1360, which means it can resist about 1360 pounds of force before bending.
For those looking for deeper browns and reds, red oak flooring is the answer. Despite being easy to sand, it is somewhat difficult to cut and process due to its stiffness and density. It finishes well. Red oak normally comes in a uniform light brown with red/pink tints but the color can vary significantly depending on its origin. Red oak will also change color when exposed to air and light towards a more amber tone. Although this type of flooring needs love and attention, the beauty and elegance of well cared for red oak hardwood flooring adds significant value to a home. Red oak flooring has a Janka rating of 1290.
A cheaper alternative that is easier to install than hardwood oak flooring is laminate oak flooring which simulates the grain and color of oak flooring through a photographic appliqué layer. Although laminate oak flooring will not fool many people into believing you have a real oak hardwood floor, laminate oak flooring will not change color in the long term or need sanding. In addition, repairs are easier as the individual tiles can be removed and replaced by a non-professional. You don’t generally have to worry about finding a good match between the old and new sections, as there is no color change.
Unfinished oak flooring should always be treated with wood stain and a polyurethane gloss in order to protect it from moisture, wear and dirt. Leaving the wood untreated, for example when placing carpeting on top, can be a costly mistake in the long run as it will have virtually no protection from water and other liquids that might seep through the carpeting. The wood will also lose its natural resins and oils which can result in splitting.
Installation of oak plank flooring should be handled by a professional as it involves a much more complicated process than simply snapping or gluing together panels. Familiarity with power carpentry tools is essential as there is almost always a need to cut some of the planks to size and for sanding the final floor. The entire project is often too labor intensive for do-it-yourselfers and any mistake can be quite costly.
If installed by a reputable professional and cared for properly, oak flooring can be an excellent and beautiful investment for your home.