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25 Things to Know About Oak Flooring Before Installing It

Home interior with oak flooring

Oak floor is one of the more popular hardwood flooring types. It’s relatively hard, looks good, not the most expensive wood and there are a variety of shades available.

There are over 600 species of oak trees. They grow in the Northern Hemisphere. It falls in the genus Quercus which is in the Beech family.

With respect to using oak for your floor, here’s a huge set of facts and key information you should know before buying and installing it.

Related: Oak vs. Cherry Wood | Oak vs. Beech Wood | Oak vs. Cedar Wood | Oak vs. Poplar Wood | Oak vs. Birch Wood | Types of Oak Wood

Economic benefits of oak flooring

Out of all the flooring choices available to homeowners, oak seems to be a crowd favorite — and for a good reason. Oak flooring has been used for centuries in construction and has established itself for its durability. Even reclaimed oak still look as impressive.

Whether red, white, or light oak, when properly maintained for, oak flooring can develop a more vibrant color over time that adds character to whatever room that is installed in. The durability and strength of oak are so ubiquitous, that the home is perceived as more valuable than what it is. There is such a connection between hardwood floors and a home’s value that a recent survey has shown that real estate agents noted that it is easier to sell a home that already has hardwood flooring in it.

While popular, there are many things that you should consider before installing oak flooring. From choosing the grade of oak, maintenance, and installation, here are 25 things to know before installing oak flooring

Become familiar with oak properties

1. Compared to other woods, oak requires little maintenance.

While carpets need daily cleaning and vacuuming to keep dust off, and oak floor requires very little maintenance. It is because manufactured oak is treated to resist damage and stains. There also natural features of the wood that also helps to prevent stains from becoming embedded into the oak floor. Tannins and naturally occurring oils in the oak prevent the formation of mold, stains, and unsightly marks. Due to how it is installed, you can replace singular boards if they become damaged instead of replacing the whole floor.

2. A hygienic choice.

Parasites, bacteria, and dust mites can inhabit carpets, contributing to the suffering of allergy sufferers. The combination of dust and allergens accumulating on carpeted floors can play havoc with anyone who has an allergy. Thankfully, this isn’t a worry for those who have oak floors. Wooden floors do not trap unpleasant orders from animals or accidents, especially when properly sealed and waxed.

3. Oak is structurally strong, making it a viable floor for industrial and commercial spaces.

It has a hardness north of 1200 pounds, making it one of the more stronger woods. Depending on the grain and quality, white oak tends to be slightly stronger than red oak.

4. Oak flooring is scalable.

That means that an oak floor can be planned into any budget. Due to increasing demand in a larger consumer market, oak hardwood floorings are available in a wide variety of price ranges that will differ in shape and size.

5. You are investing in wood flooring that is naturally resistant to fungus.

Oak floors are remarkably resistant to mildew as well as insect attacks — which is a feature that you may be looking for if you live in an area that tends to be inundated with termites. It doesn’t need any expensive treatment after installation, with a minimum lifetime cost to maintain its luster when compared to other types of floors.

6. Oak floors survive even when trends change. Floor trends come and go — but oak floors stay.

Carpets was once a solid trend — several years later, the color scheme has fallen out of favor, and the carpet has become discolored and stained. The trend has moved away from carpets, and now you are left with a carpet that looks different than when you first installed it. It’s stained, dusty, and discolored. Changing a carpet each time decorating trends evolve involves great expense and manual labor. Thankfully, with whatever shade or color of oak that you choose for your floor, there’s a guarantee that will mesh well with the home’s color scheme. Wooden floors are commonplace in homes in the 19th century and remained in fashion up until the mid-20th century when artificial fibers were incorporated into the carpet manufacturing process. Now there is a return to a more traditional style of home decor, as seen as a resurrection in the consumer preference for wood as a floor material.

7. Durable luxury.

Oak furniture and floors have become a popular choice due to its robust features. It’s hard, and tight-knit grain provides strength and durability, allowing it to be carved and structured into intricate designs on your floor without the fear of damage. These unique characteristics make oak floors a perfect choice for families with children, and also ideal for high-traffic areas such as dining rooms, hallways, walkways, and living rooms. When softer woods are used, the floor tends to deteriorate much faster – not with oak.

Sub-base requirement

8. The final installation of the wood floors is only as good as the sub-base that it is on.

It is essential that the sub-floor is carefully inspected, assuring that it has the structural integrity to host the oak floors. All sub-floors need to be thoroughly cleaned, dried, and uniform before wood flooring is installed. OSB and plywood sub-flooring panels are an economical option as a base. Both materials offer excellent strength and durability. Joists need to be professionally inspected before installing plywood or OSB panels.

9. In commercial applications make sure to adhere to building codes.

Building codes for the sub-floors are made to ensure structural loads are adequate. By following building codes, you will prevent the occurrence of creaks, pops, and cracks on your sub-floor that can undermine the architectural integrity of your oak floors. Check the sub-floor joists band to determine whether it is sufficient, document your findings with the help of an inspector, then conjure a plan and estimated costs, and present it to the building owner.

Grades and finish of oak floors

There are four levels and grades of oak flooring.

10. Clear grade.

Clear grade pertains to red, white, and grey oak, the types of oak that are used in flooring. Clear grade consists of heartwood. It’s very uniform, with minimal character marks. Clear grade oak flooring is the preferred grade for consistent flooring, when you want the floor to have minimal characteristics differentiating each panel, allowing the eyes to settle on other aspects of the room. It’s subdued when compared to the different types of oak.

11. Select grade – or quarter sawn oak.

This grade of oak flooring contains all the variations and color produced by the contrasting differences between heartwood and sapwood. Sapwood, or tavern oak, is considered the outer portions of an oak branch, while the heartwood is the inner wood. Sapwood is typically a couple of shades lighter than heartwood. The combination of the two wood grades creates a floor that offers some characters and color perforations, much more than clear grade oak.

Red vs. white oak

When selecting oak flooring, you have the option of working with red or white oak. Certain characteristics differentiate the two.

Example of white oak floor

Example of white oak floor

Example of red oak floor

Example of red oak floor

12. Hardness.

White Oak is slightly harder than its red counterpart, with the latter having a Janka hardness of 1360, and the former having a 1290 rating. This is due to the fact that white oak is very dense, which makes it more suitable for outdoor furniture and building constructions. When it comes to home applications, red and white oak are excellent choices for long-term use. Keep in mind that the hardness is negligible, and the wood floors in your home will not be subjected to immense stressors when compared to commercial and industrial applications.

Wood Janka Hardness Rating Scale Chart

13. Grain and grade.

The grain pattern in red oak tends to have a unique print, where grooves dip and turn. While having a grain pattern that is erratic, it is less pronounced when compared to white oak. The lines in white oak are straighter and tighter, with fewer deviations. The lines in red oak are also wider and run in zigzag patterns. Keep in mind that it also has to do with color — red oak is lighter in color and hue than white oak, so perforations tend to be a bit more obvious. Keep these characteristics between the two in mind when selecting oak floor panels.

14. Matching room decor.

Red oak is more frequently used in stairs, posts, handrails, and railings. While you have the option of using red Oak, it might be slightly more costly since it is less commonly used than white oak.

15. Solid or engineered? Solid wood flooring is precisely that — it’s a solid piece of wood from top to bottom.

Thickness will typically vary, but for oak flooring, it will range between 3/4” to 5/16”. Solid wood is versatile and can be used in any floor in the home — it can be sanded and refinished, with the final look being much more versatile. It’s ideal for living rooms, dining areas, and kitchens. The only place where you shouldn’t use solid wood flooring is in the basement. Engineered flooring is still real wood, but they have been manufactured, with multiple layers applied to it. The layers of wood veneers run in perpendicular directions, making the wood panels dimensionally sound. Compared to solid wood flooring, engineered wood floors will not contract and expand like natural solid wood. They can be stapled onto the sub-floor or glued down. This makes engineered oak panels ideal for basement insulation. While still being able to be sanded, it cannot be sanded so thoroughly and as aggressively as solid wood panels.

16. Should I select prefinished or site finished panels?

A job-site finish is one that is completed on site, where the flooring is being installed. With this type of finish, you are able to select the final finish which will impact how it looks, its maintenance, and its stain. However, because the wood panels will be sanded and finished in your home, expect dust, noise, and disruption until it is completed. With factory-finished wood floors, the finish is applied at the factory, way before it reaches your home. You’ll be able to select different options for the final finish, but you’ll be limited when compared to job-site finished oak floor panels. One of the key benefits of a factory-finished panel is that there is no dust and noise that you need to accommodate for.

17. Keep in mind that you may need to order more wood than the dimensions of your room may initially call for.

As a general rule of thumb, you should plan to order about 10 percent more oak flooring than is needed for the installation. The reason is because much of the materials will be cut to fit the space; once the boards are cut, they cannot be used elsewhere in the room.

Acclimating wood

18. Acclimating your wood flooring.

It’s important to bring in your oak panels and boards into your home so that it has similar humidity levels as its environment. If you install the panels right away, and it has a higher moisture content, there may be structural issues in the future due to shrinkage. Seasonal changes in humidity can cause small seams to open and close, which is normal since you’re working with organic materials. However, make sure that if you pre-bought your wood panels, that they aren’t stored in an area prone to extreme humidity levels.

19. Acclimation period of your wood panels.

Prior to installing your wood planks, it needs to be a similar moisture content as the sub-floor and the environment that is being installed in. This is a step that tends to be ignored, especially for individuals who are choosing to go DIY with the project. Acclamation period can be between 5 to 14 days, depending on your region. To remove the guesswork, hire wood flooring professionals to measure the moisture content in the environment and your oak wood panels. They will ensure that the difference between the two is between six and 12 percent.

Creating an installation plan

20. Removing old flooring.

Floor installer removing old linoleum flooring

Consider the age of your old floors and how it will be disposed of. Extracting and transporting old floors can be a time-consuming process. If you prefer to remove your current floor materials, do it at least several days before the arrival of your hardwood products. This will allow room for cleanup and preparation for your oak wood panels. When removing carpet, pull the staples out of the floor, ensuring that none are left behind as they can interfere with your new floors.

21. Create a plan of action regarding trim.

Shoe molding and quarter round need to be removed — installing wood floors is more than just laying on the planks. Moldings would also need to be removed. A professional installer may do this, but there may be an additional charge to remove these features. Also, they may not be responsible for damage due to fragile wood. Any painted baseboards in woodwork may need to be retouched after the installation of your oak flooring is complete.

22. Before installing oak floors, consider what sort of traffic it will be exposed to.

Thankfully, oak is the go-to material for high-traffic areas. But keep in mind that just because it is a harder type of wood, that it doesn’t mean that its impervious to the effects of traffic. While hardwoods like oak won’t show the wear and tear like other woods, it needs to be properly maintained of. If appropriate, use a throw rug at your entryways to help prevent debris from accumulating and being tracked all over your floor. Do not use wet mops since the water can dull the finish and potentially damage the wood. Wipe up spills with a slightly moistened cloth. If you use a surface finisher, dust mop and sweep regularly. If there has been a wax applied to the wood panels, a dust mop is appropriate, using a buffer to maintain shine. You can use a slightly dampened — nearly dry – mop to maintain a wood floor and to pick up visible dust. However, water should never be sitting on your oak wood floors. Keep this maintenance in mind before installing oak wood flooring.

23. You need to be home during installation.

You’ll need to include installation day into your schedule. Be prepared to be at home and available during most of the installation process. Even if the installer quotes you a specific end date of the project, accommodate for a couple of days after the fact for possible reiterations.

24. Oak floor near the entryway?

If a room contains a door to the outside, it is natural that some dirt may accumulate at times. Make sure to use rugs and doormats to lessen the effect of debris, which can scratch at your oak floors.

25. Is Oak Floors The Right Choice for You?

Regardless of what your home is like — whether it is traditional or modern — oak floors are timeless. However, keep in mind that there may be barrier points. You’ll need to budget in oak floors — oak floors can cost anywhere between $3 to $8 a square foot –  as well as accommodate for the installation days, where it may be required that you stay home from work as the oak flooring panels are being laid down. Once installed, the oak floors will be an investment that pays out dividends in the form of adoration and appreciation by those who recognize the stylish and smart features of oak floors.