The Two Oaks and Tannin Pull

Solid wood flooring is one of the most recognizable and unique flooring surfaces available on the market today. There is an abundance of options from the species of wood and  it’s color or warmth to the more technical aspects such as wood hardness or ability to accept stain. These and many other factors should be  considered before choosing your type of wood.  One of the most common of these wood choices in the United States is Oak.

There are two main species of oak that are prevalent in the solid wood flooring market; Red Oak and White Oak. It is vitally important to fully comprehend their intrinsic differences and how to distinguish between the two as they react differently when used with water-based coatings.  Typically there is a noticeable color difference between the two, one being “white” or “more blonde” and the other being “red”, but this is not always the case.

Distinguishing between Red and White Oak can be so difficult that now companies manufacture testing kits. However, if you understand a few parameters, telling the difference is a piece of cake. To make sure you have the correct wood prior to purchase, follow the below instructions:

  • Picture1Remove a piece of flooring from the pallet.
  • Turn the board so the end of board is easily visible.
  • Visible holes or “bullets” in the cut end of the board indicate Red Oak.
  • “Fills” or “no bullets” indicate White Oak.
  • Cross-bred flooring typically is a mix of “bullets” and “fills” and should be treated as if it is White Oak.


But why does all this even matter?

Wood is made up of many active chemicals.  One of those chemicals, tannin, is most prevalent in white oak and is very water soluble. Tannin is the enemy for water-based sealers and finish.  Water-based sealer will undoubtedly “pull-out” these tannins from the wood and result in blotchy floors with potential color differences seen all across the field. Pulling out these tannins will cause a color transfer from board to board.  Some professionals report this color as purple, green, or even red. When applying stain, if the stain pigment does not completely penetrate and fill-out these “fills”, tannin can pull-up through the stain, and create an even bigger disaster.

The answer to preventing any potential unsatisfactory results is two full coats of a water-based sealer that is designed to prevent tannin pull such as Basic Coatings® Lock N’ Seal.




Nathan Daniel is the Basic Coatings Regional Sales Manager for the Southwest Region. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>