Red oak is among the most popular lumber for hardwood flooring because of its hardness, durability, and aesthetic appeal. It is however common for the material to have pinkish-red tones that might actually concern most people. But not to worry! We have found out the reason why it happens, and the ways you can resolve the issue.
The core or heartwood of oak naturally features a red to pinkish hue which may become evident on your floors. You can either apply bleach to neutralize the color or stain the wood to conceal it.
Similar to all flooring materials, it is only natural for oak to have hues with pinkish undertones. In this article, we will provide you with a brief explanation as to why it occurs, and the proper ways on how to bleach and stain your red oak floor.
Oak Lumber: An Overview
Red oak is a hardwood native to North America that accounts for almost half of all the trees in its forests. It is the most abundant type of domestic wood used as lumber in most forms of construction.
Red oak's durability and long-lasting nature make it a preferred material for both indoor and outdoor applications. Apart from the hardness and density of the wood, its natural color and beauty make it the ideal flooring choice.
The unfinished surface features hues that range from white, pink, tan to reddish brown, are easily enhanced by staining. The grain which is heavier and more pronounced than that of white oak stands out when treated with the right wood finish.
Oak is more stable than other flooring materials since it won't expand and contract when exposed to moisture and humid conditions.
Oak is always available and more affordable than most types of lumber because of its abundance.
Why Do Oak Floors Look Pink?
All trees contain a living outer portion referred to as the sapwood and an inner dead component known as heartwood. Generally, the former is lighter in color, while the latter is usually darker.
Red oak sapwood is typically white or light brown while its heartwood ranges from pink, tan to reddish brown.
When a tree is converted to lumber, both the sapwood and heartwood are cut, treated, and finally distributed and sold as construction material.
If your red oak wood floor is predominantly pinkish, it may contain mostly heartwood which is defined and characterized by the color.
The following section provides ways and methods to address the issue.
Bleaching Red Oak
One of the ways to dampen the pinkish hue of red oak floors is by bleaching the surface material. It is however important to check and identify the thickness of the boards before application because the chemicals can do considerable damage to lumber with thinner wear layers.
Since premixed wood bleach is fairly overpriced, you can always make one. All you need is hydrogen peroxide and lye which you may find in your home or purchase at your local grocery stores.
Apart from the main material, you also need gloves, protective eyewear, a sponge, clean cloth, and plastic container.
1. Clean The Surface
It is important to clean the area of any dirt and debris by vacuuming the surface and wiping the exterior with a clean cloth. Once finished, you may now proceed with the next step.
2. Mix The Ingredients
Before mixing the ingredients, wear your gloves and protective glasses, and always be careful when handling lye as it is a strong chemical as acid. Apart from this, use plastic containers because the substance produces a chemical reaction with metals.
Fill the receptacle with 1 quart of water, and then carefully add 3 tablespoons of lye, gently stir the water in between each application to gradually dilute the solution. Do not attempt to pour the chemicals all at once.
3. Apply The Chemicals
Gently pour the hydrogen peroxide on the flooring and spread the mixture evenly using a sponge one manageable section at a time, apply the lye soon afterward using or following the same procedure.
4. Rinse The Wood
After the solution has dried, you may use a damp mop to rinse the surface and clear the excess lye residue.
Staining Red Oak
Red oak easily absorbs medium and dark wood stains that would seep into the grain and dampen or conceal the pink color and transform the character of your floor.
There are several applications that would accomplish this.
A stain consists of a coloring agent mixed with a solvent designed to enhance the surface and protect the wood.
Oil-based stains form a thick, deeply penetrating finish. A medium or dark-toned application will effectively change the color of your floor and cover the pink hues on the surface.
Water-based stains aren't absorbed as well as oil-based treatments so more coats are necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
Before working on the floor, put on a mask, wear gloves, and clear goggles especially if you are using an oil-based stain. It may be difficult to get them off your hands and it emits strong toxic fumes. Open all nearby windows and doors to ventilate the area well.
- Use fine or medium-grit sandpaper and abrade the floor making sure you follow the direction of the grain. This will result in a smoother and more even finish. After sanding, use a damp cloth or vacuum the area to remove all debris and wood shavings.
- You can stain dry wood but moistening it with a spray bottle or sponge before the application will improve absorption and color more evenly.
- Spray, or use a rag to apply the stain lightly and evenly, working along the oak's grain. If you prefer a paintbrush, use a soft-bristled one to avoid strokes from showing after the application.
- Allow enough time for the stain to dry and note how it may slightly change in hue as the wood absorbs it. Depending on the outcome, you may opt to add another coat or seal the surface with a wood finish.
Can You Whitewash Red Oak Floors?
Red oak can be whitewashed as long as the flooring or lumber has been bleached. If you have not bleached the material, the red tones will only soften and fade into pink which is actually not the finish you prefer.
Other Flooring Materials
If you haven't still decided which flooring material is best for you, here are other options that you might be interested in.
Maple is one among the most popular hardwood flooring material because of its durability. The wood is a bit harder than oak, making it less susceptible to scratches and dents. Finished lumber has a white with reddish-brown hue which tends to darken over time.
Birchwood is known for its hardness and aesthetic natural reflection that enhances a home’s overall visual appeal. It is available in a variety of colors ranging from pale yellow to light reddish brown.
Although cherry wood is considered as one of the softer hardwoods used for flooring, its beauty and elegance can last through generations if properly maintained.
Newly-installed cherry lumber has a soft pink hue that deepens and changes into a rich red tone when exposed to light. It is best used in bedrooms or areas inside your home that has relatively less exposure to heavy foot traffic.
Pressure Treated Pine
Even though pine is classified as softwood, pressure-treated lumber is noted for its durability and relative hardness. You can choose between standard and knotty pine – all have relatively milky white, yellowish, or deep red hues.
Red oak floors have a naturally pink hue. You can either bleach or stain the wood to soften or neutralize the effect. We hope the article helped you understand and resolve the issue.
You might also find these topics interesting: