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Red Oak Stairs vs. White Oak Stairs For Staircase Remodels In Fairfax, VA

Which Oak Is Right For Your Stairs?

Red oak stairs

Have you ever wondered which type of oak would make the best stairs for your home? Are you trying to choose between red oak and white oak for your staircase remodel?

In this post, you’ll learn the key differences between red oak stairs and white oak stairs, including their appearance, durability, cost, and availability.

By the end, you’ll be closer to knowing which oak is perfect for your staircase remodel in Fairfax, VA, making your decision easier and more informed.

Which Is Better For Your Staircase Remodel: Red Oak Or White Oak?

Choosing the best oak for your wood stair treads depends on your specific needs. Red oak stairs are ideal for indoor stairs due to their affordability, availability, and distinctive reddish hue with bold grain patterns. They are perfect for adding a warm, inviting look to your home.

White oak, however, is better for outdoor stairs or high-moisture areas due to its higher density and resistance to rot. Its light brown color and subtle grain make it a versatile choice for both traditional and modern designs. If durability and longevity are your priorities, especially for exterior use, white oak is the superior option.

Red Oak Stairs vs. White Oak Stairs

Visual Differences

Red Oak Stairs

Red oak has a distinctive reddish hue and prominent grain patterns, often described as “tiger stripes.” This unique appearance can add a striking visual element to any staircase.

When stained, red oak can take on a rich, warm tone that enhances its natural beauty, making it a popular choice for interior stairs.

Red oak’s bold grain patterns provide a rustic charm that stands out in various home designs, making it ideal for creating a warm, inviting atmosphere.

White Oak Stairs

White oak, in contrast, has a light brown color with a more subtle grain pattern. Its understated elegance makes it suitable for both contemporary and traditional designs.

White oak can also be stained in a variety of shades, allowing for greater flexibility in matching different interior styles. For example, a light stain can highlight the natural beauty of white oak in a home’s staircase, adding a sophisticated touch.

The subtle grain and light brown color of white oak provide a refined and versatile look that fits well in both modern and traditional home designs.

Functional Differences

Red Oak Stairs

Red oak is primarily used for interior applications due to its slightly lower density and resistance compared to white oak. It is an excellent choice for indoor staircases, offering durability and a pleasant woodsy aroma.

Red oak stair treads are also easier to sand and finish, making them ideal for custom projects where specific sizes and finishes are required.

Its high durability when stained and sealed makes it suitable for a wide range of applications besides staircases, including cabinetry, furniture, and flooring.

Red oak stairs provide a cost-effective and visually appealing option for interior spaces.

White Oak Stairs

White oak’s higher density and resistance to moisture and rot make it the better option for exterior stairs and high-moisture environments.

If you need a stairway that can withstand the elements, white oak is the superior choice.

Its greater density and resistance to rot make it ideal for outdoor applications such as ships, boats, and high-moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

White oak’s durability ensures long-lasting performance, making it a preferred choice for exterior projects.

Cost And Availability

Red Oak Stairs

Red oak is more widely available and generally less expensive than white oak. This makes red oak an attractive option for homeowners looking to remodel their stairs without spending a fortune.

Custom sizes and finishes are more affordable with red oak, making it easier to achieve the perfect look for your stairway. The abundance of red oak in the market ensures its cost-effectiveness compared to white oak, providing excellent value without compromising on quality.

White Oak Stairs

White oak, while more expensive, offers exceptional durability and a high-end appearance. It is often considered a premium material, and its cost reflects its superior qualities.

Although white oak is generally more expensive due to its higher quality and scarcity, its practical advantages in high-moisture environments and premium appearance make it a worthwhile investment for long-term durability and minimal maintenance.


Both red oak and white oak stairs require regular maintenance to keep them looking their best and to ensure their longevity. Here’s how you can maintain either type of wood:

  • Dust and Debris Removal: Regularly sweep or vacuum your stairs to remove dirt and debris that can scratch the wood surface.

  • Spill Cleanup: Wipe up spills promptly with a damp cloth to prevent staining and water damage.

  • Periodic Refinishing: This process involves lightly sanding the surface and applying a new coat of stain and sealant to restore the wood’s original beauty and protect it from wear and tear.

  • Sealant Maintenance: Ensure the wood is well-sealed, especially in high-moisture areas, to maintain its resistance to moisture and rot. Regularly inspect the sealant and reapply as needed.

  • Protective Rugs and Mats: Use rugs or mats in high-traffic areas to minimize wear and tear on the wood. Place protective pads under furniture to prevent scratches.

  • Avoid Excessive Moisture: Both types of oak should be kept dry as much as possible to prevent water damage. Use a dehumidifier in areas with high humidity.

Environmental Impact

Both red oak and white oak can be sustainable choices for your staircase remodel, provided they are sourced responsibly.

Certification: Look for wood that is certified by organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This ensures that the oak comes from sustainably managed forests, minimizing environmental impact.

Reclaimed Wood: Using reclaimed wood is an environmentally friendly option for both red oak and white oak. Reclaimed wood reduces the demand for new lumber and adds a unique, historical character to your stairs.

Long Lifespan: Both red oak and white oak are durable and long-lasting, which means they do not need to be replaced frequently. This longevity reduces the overall environmental footprint, as fewer resources are needed over time.

Local Sourcing: Whenever possible, choose locally sourced oak to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Both red oak and white oak are widely available in North America, making it easier to find locally sourced options.

Get Your Star Remodeling Project Underway With Stair Creations

At Stair Creations, we specialize in bringing your staircase dreams to life with expert craftsmanship and quality materials. Whether you prefer the warm charm of red oak or the sophisticated elegance of white oak, we have the expertise to create the perfect staircase for your home.

Don’t wait to enhance the beauty and functionality of your home. Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call to start your staircase remodeling project!

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