Oak flooring is one of the simplest ways to bring strength and character to your home: but installation can cost a small fortune. However, hardwood floors are one of the best investments you can make. Oak’s rich detailing and deep tones can warm up a home and give it a timeless appeal.
Real oak will last forever if taken care of properly. While the initial cost may be high, you may never have to replace your floors again.
In fact, many historical homes still have their original hardwoods intact. If you’re ready to learn about oak floors, take a look at this guide for more information.
Red Oak vs. White Oak
There are visual differences between the species, but both are used in building and remodeling. Raw wood is a commodity, so price fluctuates and is dependant on grading, and sizing.
Pricing for both red and white oak tends to fall between $3-$6 per square foot. Expect to pay more for specialty sizing or premium quality wood.
Red oak has pink undertones and prominent graining. It has a hardness rating of 1290 on the Janka scale, a tool used to measure the density of wood. The graining gives variation to the boards and helps to hide imperfections and scratches.
White Oak is lighter with yellow or amber undertones. The surface is even, with little variation and a uniform look. White oak is a bit harder than red and has a rating of 1360 on the scale.
Once stained, there’s little difference between the oak.
Pre-finished Vs. Unfinished Oak
You can buy oak floors in either stained or raw formats. Stained boards will cost you $2 more per square foot but are cheaper to install. On-site finishing costs can exceed $4 a square foot depending on location.
Pre-finished oak is available in various shades and textures. The stain will look even with little to no variation in color or consistency. The factory applies several layers of protective coating, dried and hardened under optimal conditions.
A benefit to buying pre-finished oak is less mess on the job site. Since there’s no need for staining and sanding, you can walk on your new floors the same day they’re installed. You won’t have to block off rooms or stay elsewhere during your remodel.
There’s also the health benefit associated with pre-stained flooring. Your family won’t be exposed to noxious odors and harmful chemicals from color and clear coat applications. These products can take days to cure and often emit fumes for several weeks.
However, buying unfinished boards is a better solution when matching existing oak floors, or when a custom color is desired. Since unfinished oak is sanded on site, it will appear flat with fewer bevels.
Cost of Installing Oak Floors
A contractor may base your estimate on either an hourly or per project basis. Typical installation costs range between $65-$125 per hour or $4-$8 per square foot. You should get estimates from a few installers to ensure accurate pricing.
Remember, contractors often charge extra for the demolition and removal of existing materials. Expect this to add around $500-$1000 to your estimate. This fee will include haul away and disposal.
Aside from finishing and overall area, the price of installation can fluctuate by floorplan. A room with transitions and obstacles can be challenging. Your installer must make intricate cuts and carefully plan the layout.
Not all the flooring will be usable, always purchase extra. Wood is a natural material and may come with imperfections. Selecting higher grade wood will help keep waste to a minimum, but your contractor must inspect every board before installation.
In addition to culling, flooring contractors match the graining and tones for consistency. They have to mix boxes and vary lengths to create the perfect layout. The best contractors will take their time to ensure a natural pattern.
The installation process itself is straightforward but time-consuming. Flooring professionals will lay an underlayment and then nail each board to your subfloor. Even with a Pneumatic nail gun, the job is backbreaking and not for the faint of heart.
Depending on the project, many professionals can lay a floor within a day or two. If you’ve opted to have the oak finished on site, expect the process to take a week or more.
White oak is one of the more expensive oak flooring options because it has a high Janka rating (1,360), boasts a straight-grained appearance, and is rarer than other types of oak.
English oak, overcup oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, post oak, and sessile oak are all examples of white oak woods.
While white oak flooring is more expensive than other options, it is by no means the most expensive wooden flooring option. Brazilian cherry, zebrawood, and Macassar ebony are some of the most expensive hardwood floor options available.
Can I install hardwood floors myself?
Unfortunately, hardwood is not an easy material to work with and it’s always recommended that you leave this installation to the professionals. Installing solid hardwood floors is difficult and requires extensive knowledge of how the material behaves, including expanding and contracting over time.
You’ll also need expert know-how about the conditions that hardwood thrives — and fails — in, and a mistake in this area can cost you thousands of dollars to remedy.
If you’re looking to keep costs low, though, you can discard the old flooring and remove your furniture from the installation area yourself instead of including that in the installation.
What is the most affordable oak flooring?
If you’re set on oak flooring but are concerned about the cost, red oak is the way to go. As you now know, white oak is more expensive because it has a higher score on the Janka scale and is not as common as red oak trees.
Red oak trees — also called Quercus rubra — are plentiful, which means that this material is less expensive than other options. In some instances, red oak can cost half the price of other oak flooring options.
Black oak, cherry-bark oak, water oak, and willow oak are all different types of red oak woods.
Final thoughts on Oak Floors
Oak flooring will never go out of style. Contrary to popular belief it is relatively easy to maintain. Most surface scratches are superficial and can be buffed or filled with wax.
Installation can be expensive, but the job requires more than labor. There’s no substitute for the skill and trained eye of an expert tradesman. Unless you’re confident in your ability to plan, select and install new floors, you should hire a professional.
If you’re considering investing in hardwood floors, be sure to shop around for the best quality and prices. Oak flooring is pricey compared to other materials but can last forever. You can restore the boards to look brand new even after 100 years.
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