Oak vs Hickory Flooring: Uncovering the Hardwood Head-to-Head Battle

When it comes to choosing the right flooring for your home, oak and hickory are two popular hardwood options. Each wood type offers its own unique benefits, making it essential to understand their differences to make an informed decision.

Oak flooring is known for its classic appearance, durability, and variety of grain patterns, while hickory flooring is praised for its distinct character, exceptional hardness, and resistance to wear. In this comparison, we will dive deeper into the specifics of these two flooring options to help you decide which is best suited for your needs.

Physical Properties Comparison


Oak and hickory flooring have differences in hardness, which can affect their durability and resistance to scratches and dents. The Janka hardness scale is a commonly used measure to assess the hardness of wood species.

Here are the Janka hardness ratings for oak and hickory:

Wood SpeciesJanka Hardness
Oak (Red and White)1,290 to 1,360 lbs
Hickory1,820 lbs

Grain Patterns

Grain patterns on the wood surface play a significant role in the appearance and overall aesthetics of the flooring. Oak and hickory have distinct grain patterns that cater to different visual preferences.

  • Oak: Oak has a moderate to pronounced grain pattern, with a wavy appearance, creating a more traditional and classic look.
  • Hickory: Hickory features a more diverse grain pattern, with a combination of straight lines and swirls, lending itself to a unique and rustic appearance.

Color Options

Both oak and hickory flooring offer various color options to complement different interior styles and preferences. However, there are some variations in their natural shades and staining possibilities.

Natural shades:

  • Oak:
    • White Oak: Light to medium brown, often with a grayish hue
    • Red Oak: Light reddish-brown tone
  • Hickory: Pale cream or light tan, with dark brown streaks


  • Oak: Oak can take on a wide array of stain colors, from light to dark, with consistent and even results due to its less pronounced grain.
  • Hickory: Hickory can also be stained in various shades, but its striking grain pattern may yield more pronounced contrasts between light and dark areas.

Durability and Maintenance

When considering flooring options, durability and maintenance play a significant role in the decision-making process. Both oak and hickory offer unique characteristics in these areas. This section will provide a comparison of their performance in terms of scratch and water resistance, refinishing, and cleaning and care.

Scratch Resistance

Oak and hickory are both known for their resistance to scratches. However, hickory has a higher Janka hardness rating compared to oak:

Wood SpeciesJanka Hardness Rating
Oak1,290 – 1,360 lbf
Hickory1,820 lbf

As a result, hickory floors tend to be less susceptible to dents and scratches.

Water Resistance

Both oak and hickory are not naturally water-resistant. However, oak exhibits better resistance to moisture due to its closed grain structure. This characteristic allows oak floors to better withstand moisture absorption and humidity changes, which helps prevent warping or buckling.


Oak flooring can be sanded and refinished multiple times, making it a long-lasting choice for homeowners. Hickory, on the other hand, can be more challenging to refinish due to its hardness. Nonetheless, both types of wood can be refinished to restore their aesthetics and prolong their lifespans.

Cleaning and Care

Maintaining oak and hickory floors is generally similar. Regular sweeping or vacuuming is recommended to remove dust and debris. When cleaning, a damp mop can be used with gentle wood-specific cleansers. It’s important to avoid harsh chemicals or excessive water use, which can damage the wood finish.

Installation and Costs

Installation Types

Oak and hickory flooring can be installed using various methods, depending on the type of flooring product selected. Below are the common installation types:

  • Nail-down: Typically used for solid hardwood floors, this method involves nailing the planks directly to the subfloor.
  • Glue-down: Common for engineered hardwood floors, glue-down installation requires a strong adhesive to hold the planks in place.
  • Floating: This method allows the flooring to be installed without attaching it to the subfloor. Floating floors can be clicked together or glued at the edges.

Cost Comparison

The cost of oak and hickory flooring varies depending on factors such as quality, finish, and whether it’s solid or engineered hardwood. Here’s a basic cost comparison:

Type of FlooringOak (per sq.ft.)Hickory (per sq.ft.)
Solid Unfinished$3 – $5$4 – $6
Solid Prefinished$5 – $8$6 – $9
Engineered Unfinished$4 – $7$5 – $8
Engineered Prefinished$6 – $10$7 – $11

Keep in mind that these are average costs, and factors like plank size, quality, and installation method can affect the final price. Additionally, labor costs for professional installation typically range from $3 to $5 per square foot. It’s important to research and gather quotes to get an accurate estimate for your specific project.


In conclusion, both oak and hickory flooring options offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Oak flooring provides a classic appearance and is more affordable, whereas hickory flooring is known for its exceptional durability and distinctive grain patterns.

When choosing between the two, carefully consider factors such as budget, intended use, and personal preferences. Ultimately, the decision will depend on the specific needs and desires of the homeowner.

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