There are many different types of oak flooring available, all that have unique benefits.
White oak is the common name for most of the oak grown and sold in North America. There are over a half dozen species that pass as white oak, but the most common is Quercus alba. White oak is usually relatively free of knots, has lowered tannin contents and is quite uniform when it comes to colour and grain. Compared to slower growing cousins across the Atlantic, the grain of the white oak is not as dense. However, white oak grains often have parallel black veins that some consider unsightly.
European oak can be comprised of as many as a dozen different species with Q. robur and Q. sessilis being the most common. European oak is closer to gray in colour compared with the undertones found in white oak. Because it is slower growing, it has a tighter grain which makes it denser and prized for making ships, furniture, wine barrels, flooring planks and more. European oak grains do not include any black veins which makes it quite attractive. European oak’s high tannin levels (about twice that found in white oak) makes it more rot resistant and more easily stained, smoked and fumed.
Russian oak is sometimes passed off as European oak. The main reasons for this is that Russian oak is slow growing and illegal logging has threatened the habitat of the Siberian tiger. Much of the Russian oak is unsustainably harvested, processed in China and sold in North America as European oak. Russian oak can be identified by the black veining that runs along its grain – similar to that found in white oak. Tannin content in Russian oak is not as high as found in European oak.
Growing Conditions And Genetics
The conditions in which the oak trees grow, including the length of the growing season, the climate, the amount of moisture available and the type of soils they grow in all play roles in the properties exhibited by each type of oak. The number of species comprising each type also leads to variations with differences in the species of European oak yielding very different properties even though they have the same name.