April 14, 2023

Comparing Hardwood Floors: American Oak vs. European Oak

hand made wooden board white american

Oak has become the industry standard for the wood flooring industry and with good reason. They’re durable, provide timeless elegance, are long-lasting, and are reasonably priced. Residential and commercial properties want because of their proven ability to withstand wear and tear with their availability. While shopping for Oak may be easy, the truth is that it comes with challenges. One is to distinguish the differences between American Oak and European Oak. Read more about them in this story.

Species and Origins

When shopping for Oak hardwood flooring, homeowners need to know the difference between European and American Oak species. Doing this ensures you’re buying the flooring material with the expected quality.

European Oak, also called French or English Oak, are temperate hardwoods native to most European regions. While they have different names, many people refer to them as English Oak. It was due to the popularity of Oak paneling in England during the wood paneling era, and many renowned structures in London still have them today. In addition, many of these oak hardwood planks come from sustainably managed tree farms in Germany and France.

American Oak are temperate hardwoods domestic to North America’s southern and Pacific Northwest regions. Unlike European Oak, American Oak has a long history as chosen material for wine and liquor barrels before using them as floorboards.

Both Oak species are popular as they can live for centuries. In addition, industries classify European Oak as white oak. Meanwhile, American oak classifications come in white or red varieties.

Color and Tone

In terms of color, both Oak hardwood species resemble white oak. There are slight differences, but European Oak has a golden honey tone while American Oak has paler, pinkish hues.

In addition, the natural state of European Oak hardwood floors tends to have a more stabilized tone between boards. American Oak floorings provide more color variation in the floorboards as they age.

Both Oaks have high tannin content that makes them long-lasting, but they also work as insecticides. Tannins are the pigments needed for distinctive colors and grains within hardwood planks. When smoking or fuming oak hardwood planks, you can enhance their appearance despite their slightly uniform grains. By doing these processes, homeowners force the naturally pigmented tannins to the surface for a more distinct contrast. It means European Oak can give a richer honey color while American Oak turns paler and slightly pinkish.

Grain Patterns

The most notable difference between European and American Oak is their grain patterns. American Oak hardwood planks have densely packed, linear graining that sometimes is difficult to notice. When turned to hardwood flooring, the sweeping lines from American oak wood create more color interest instead of enhancing their grain characteristics. Instead of patterns, American Oak presents more appealing hues from their wood.

European Oak has a distinctive wavy grain pattern and sprinkles of pips and burs. They have a more consistent overall tone for hardwood floorboards, but what sets them apart is the variety of graining and patterns they offer to the wood.

Board Strength and Movement

Both Oak species are well-known for their toughness and durability. They placed high on the Janka hardness scale and proved they could handle aging, wear and tear, and heavy foot traffic. But between the two, European Oak is the better choice in terms of strength and movement.

Many professional flooring experts consider European Oak tougher, heftier, and more powerful. Unlike other hardwood flooring options, they’re less likely to expand and contract when combined with solid, constructed cores. When installed, hardwood floors using European Oak offer long-lasting strength and durability in places with more moisture and activity, like bathrooms and kitchens.

Board Length and Thickness

Between the European and American Oak species, European Oak trees grow taller and have wider and thicker sapwood. Due to their build, many homeowners choose the former for their floorboards. In addition, these planks ensure the best structural setup for any hardwood flooring.

While European Oak is the classic option, many manufacturers nowadays provide wider and longer American Oak planks. 


Homeowners need to remember that there are different finishing options well suited for Oak hardwood. Not all wood polish works well with European Oak the same way as they did with American Oak.

American Oak hardwood floors use polyurethane finishes, either prefinished or on-site, and they work well. Homeowners can refinish polyurethane coast over time, but the process is time-consuming, expensive, and labor-intensive.

Meanwhile, European Oak has more tannin and less sapwood than its American counterpart. Due to that, the planks absorb the stains more consistently. In addition, when you expose them to reactive stains, fuming, or aging processes, the hardwood reacts well to them.

Discussing the Best Oak Species For Hardwood Flooring in Austin Homes

Oak hardwood floors rank high on every remodeling to-do list for several reasons. Although durable and sophisticated, European and American Oak have distinct differences that buyers should consider and distinguish. By understanding the pros and cons of the two Oak species, homeowners can purchase floorboards with their expected quality and price.

Get an expert hardwood flooring suggestion with the professionals at Kelly Hardwood Floors today!