If you are considering white oak flooring for your home, you are in a great place. I'm sharing exactly what white oak floors we put in, the hardwood floor price and also, sharing lots of inspiration for white oak stain colors to choose from!
Wood flooring backstory on how we picked our oak floors
Our town has a mill, called Vermillion. They mill red oak hardwood and white oak hardwood in 3", 4" and 5" planks. Their oak floor options come unfinished; meaning that you have to have it installed, stained onsite and then have a clear coat put over that. The process for the install is much longer because of the dry times for the topcoats.
I had originally gone to Vermillion first and loved their oak hardwood flooring options, prices and just that they were local. I was scared off because of the extra work the unfinished flooring would be. Vermillion also sells pre-finished hardwood and engineered hardwood but everything I liked was way out of my budget. #storyofmylife
So, I got my samples from Vermillion, checked out other local flooring businesses and ordered samples from BuildDirect. It all seemed overwhelming. Money was tight on being able to do the main rooms that we wanted to do (1500 sq feet) and having it installed. So, we decided to wait. We DIY lots of things around here, but the flooring is just too much for us to tackle. We have a custom circular staircase in our entryway, which we knew would be a huge undertaking to create custom stair treads for, as well as two different circular trim pieces. So, this wasn't going to be a DIY project for us. As usual though, I have found ways to save on it and will share those at the end!
So, fast forward a few years and we are ready to just get 'er done.
I went back to looking at wood samples and considered red oak vs white oak options. I ordered more samples (mainly from BuildDirect) and went back to the stores in our area (including Vermillion). Luke and I both love lighter wood flooring, similar to these:
Choosing engineered or pre-finished wood floors
First off, here's a great article on the pros/cons of wood flooring versus engineered floors.
If we went with pre-finished flooring (either engineered or hardwood) then we could have the installers do room by room. This would mean that we could move everything out of one room to the room next to it each day. This is much easier than having them install raw, milled flooring.
With unfinished flooring, you have to move everything out of the rooms that are having the flooring put in, all at the same time. This is because they have to do multiple coats of stain and poly and they are doing those all at the same time. Moving everything out (1500 sq feet) and up/down multiple sets of flooring seemed crazy. So, I was determined to find finished flooring (meaning, it could just be installed and then it would be good to go).
There's lots of discussion on engineered and what a great product it is. Lots of people chimed in on Instagram saying they loved theirs and others chimed in saying to only go with hardwood because it can always be refinished. I think, in our neighborhood, it would be considered a negative to go with the engineered. I think it could be viewed as a cheaper product. Not that it is a cheaper product but, where we live, I think people would expect hardwoods. Our area tends to favor simple and traditional.
After looking at inspiration and considering our budget and options, we decided to purchase our white oak hardwood floors from our local mill.
Choosing White Oak Flooring Plank Width and Character
We went back to the factory to determine what size of plank width we wanted and if we wanted "select", "1", or "2" wood. At this point, I had already decided that I wanted white oak hardwood flooring instead of red oak hardwood flooring.
Oak floor grades
Basically, the oak floors are graded from no variance in colors or knots to lots of variance (in colors and knots).
- Select : Highest Grade with little to no variance in colors and knots.
- 1 : Minimal knot sizing and variance color.
- 2 : Larger knots and a range of colors in the wood.
The mill wasn't running white oak when we were there so this is red oak. On the left, you can see that there is almost no variance in colors (that's a 1, common) and the right side shows variance (2, common).
I thought I'd want the 1, common but when I saw a few pieces laid out, I realized that it was too perfect. All my inspiration pieces showed variances. So, I went with a 2 common in 5" planks.
Breakdown on Hardwood Floors Price
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the plank size, the higher the cost. For the 5" unfinished white oak floors in the 2 common grade level, we paid $2.55 a square foot (in 2018).
Some of my samples that I collected ranged from $1.99-$12 per square foot so there's a wide range in flooring costs.
For unfinished white oak hardwood, you can expect to pay $1.75-3.50 per square foot depending on width of the planks as well as character/knots that you want.
For finished white oak hardwood flooring, you can expect $5.00-$12.00 per square foot.
Hardwood Floors Cost to Install
In our area (the midwest), the cost is $1.75-$2 square foot for the oak hardwood floor install and then $2.00 per square foot for the staining and finishing.
Our quote was $4 square foot to lay the wood and finish it. That doesn't include ripping up baseboards or old flooring.
**You can save yourself money by ripping up baseboards and old carpet yourself! Luke and I did it ourselves and it wasn't that bad.
Flush-mount floor registers
A huge plus side for getting unfinished is that I was able to order flush-mount wood registers (for the floor vents), which I'd highly recommend doing! They really look great.
Making Custom Curved Stairs
Another plus to going with unfinished wood flooring is that the curved wood stairs install is easier to match because you can use the same stain.
For our curved wood stairs (including the custom moulding, planks and finishing) the cost was $3,000. There's a level of craft needed to work on custom pieces, so I can't say I was surprised by the price.
Cost to Install Herringbone
I debated about installing herringbone wood floors in our library. The cost was about $560, which equals out to be about 30% more on your install price. I realized that I loved the look of herringbone when the wood flooring planks were 3" but I didn't love it with the 5" wood planks. Since I was going with the 5" wood planks, I decided to forgo the herringbone pattern.
Looking for a mid-tone stain
Stain changes the look of the flooring drastically! I originally thought that I didn't want the warmth of the stain but didn't like the color of the wood with just the poly over the top.
My installer tested out a few swatches in the bedroom and let me think about it for a while. I eventually decided on Weathered Oak stain by Minwax finished with an eggshell topcoat. Its the perfect honey-warm color that I just adore.
I wasn't very far along with my kitchen renovation when I had the flooring installed. I'm happy to report that the white oak hardwood flooring with dark kitchen cabinets looks good. I love the combo.
So, that's the process that we went through when choosing white oak vs red oak, stain colors, etc. I wanted to share a few other examples for you in case you are looking for a white oak floor that looks slightly different than mine.