Hickory vs. Oak: What To Choose

Hickory vs. Oak: What To Choose

Hickory vs. Oak

Not everyone is good at making decisions. Sometimes, two options seem equally great, and you can’t figure out which one would work best for you. If you find yourself struggling to decide which engineered hardwood flooring option is right for your home, don’t panic. With a little research, you can find the pros and cons of every type, making it easier to come to a clear, well-informed decision. Slow down, make a list of everything you want and need for your home, and then use that information to find the perfect option. If your choice has come down to hickory or oak wood flooring—two fantastic options—look no further. Find the information you need with this rundown of hickory vs. oak and what to choose.

An Introduction to Hickory Flooring

The hardest of all domestic hardwoods, hickory has a ranking of 1820 on the Janka scale. This makes it a tough and durable option for your flooring. Hickory isn’t as common as oak or other wood flooring options, but that means it will make an even more unique addition to your home. Hickory is known for its rich color variations, striking character marks, and complex grain patterns. The darker character marks create a natural look, making hickory a great choice for anyone seeking a warm, rustic vibe in their home. Hickory also takes staining very well, which means you’ll have an even easier time choosing the perfect color and tone for your home.

An Introduction to Oak Flooring

Oak has long been a favorite among homeowners and builders, and for good reason. This incredibly popular choice offers a versatile range of colors and tones, making it easy to fit any aesthetic you have in mind for your home. There are many different species of oak, but hardwood flooring manufacturers use red and white oak the most. Red oak has a Janka hardness rating of 1220, while white oak has a rating of 1350. Red oak flooring, as you might guess from the name, comes with red to pink tones that create a warm, cozy look in a home. White oak engineered flooring, on the other hand, has neutral undertones, varying from light brown to a slight gray color.

The Differences Between Hickory and Oak

While they’re both great options, hickory and oak have some key differences you should pay attention to. Factors such as how much activity your home sees, what kind of décor you want, and even the desired width of your floorboards can help you determine which species of wood is right for you. Keep these and other details in mind when investigating the following differences between hickory vs. oak and what to choose for your home.

Hardness and Durability

One of the most obvious differences between hickory and oak hardwood flooring is the hardness of the wood. As the hardest domestic wood, hickory obviously outshines both red and white oak in terms of durability. Softer woods may dent or scratch beneath careless footfalls, but hickory is more likely to withstand the abuse. This makes it an ideal choice in homes with a lot of activity and traffic. Hickory holds up well against the skittering of pet claws or the pounding feet of running children. As such, it works great in entryways, living rooms, or anywhere in homes that expect to see a lot of foot traffic through the years. That said, rooms or homes that don’t see as much heavy activity might not have a use for a harder floor.


Of course, you also have to consider price when comparing the different species of wood. Generally speaking, both red and white oak are cheaper options than hickory. Prices will vary depending on factors such as finishes, board width, and installation method. You should also keep in mind that affordability isn’t always the most important quality. A durable, long-lasting floor that fits your home’s style is almost always more meaningful than flooring that saves you a few dollars in the short term.

Character and Grain

As we mentioned above, hickory’s dark grain and bold character marks make it stand out among other hardwood flooring species. However, bold choices aren’t for everyone. The uniqueness of hickory can make it perfect for certain designs and décor, but it might end up looking out of place in some homes. In these cases, oak is a reliable choice. Don’t be afraid of your oak floors looking too common or boring, either. You can stain oak floor to make it stand out more or fit better with your home’s design. If you do end up choosing hickory, make sure you use wide floor planks. Narrow boards can make the rich design and texture of hickory look busy and distracting in a room.

Cleaning and Maintenance

All engineered hardwood species require roughly the same cleaning routine. If you avoid water damage and use a broom or dust mop to sweep up dirt, pet hair, and other debris on a regular basis, your wood floors should last for years to come. That said, there are some differences between oak and hickory when it comes to maintenance. Due to its lower Janka rating, oak is more susceptible to dents and scratches than hickory. It’s also more susceptible to insects and heartwood decay. On the other hand, hickory is more naturally prone to rot than oak is. When you’re deciding which wood to use in your flooring, keep the environmental factors of your home in mind and try to choose a species that will hold up best in your home.

The Similarities Between Hickory and Oak

Like all engineered hardwood flooring options, oak and hickory have a few perks in common. Both can be gorgeous and unique additions to your home, especially when you find the perfect stain to match your dream design. Furthermore, both hickory and oak can boost your home’s value. Hickory is a bold, pricier option that will make your house stand out on the market. Meanwhile, oak is a traditional and reliable choice that draws the eye of many potential homeowners. Finally, though they have slight differences in durability and long-lastingness, both hickory and oak are steadfast options that can stand the test of time. This means beauty and value will serve your home for years to come, no matter which species ends up being the best fit.

Hickory vs. Oak

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