So you’ve been thinking of getting new hardwood flooring and you can’t decide between hickory and oak?

You’re not alone! The hickory vs. oak debate is one of the most common arguments we hear about in the flooring world.

Oak is one of the most popular options in the flooring space and it can be found in just about every house in America. 

Hickory, on the other hand, tends to be a bit rarer. Not ebony flooring rare, but rare nonetheless.

That being said, hickory and oak are both great choices, and while there are advantages and disadvantages to both of them, deciding between the two often comes down to personal preference – it’s not an “X is better than Y” situation. 

Below, we’re going to take a deep dive into what sets each of these wood species apart so you can make an informed decision and choose the one that suits your needs better.

Price Difference


Oak is one of the best-selling hardwood floors on the market, partly due to its affordability. 

The two most common oak types are white oak and red oak, and the price of each of these options varies based on factors such as board width and finish. 

Red Oak: Red oak’s price generally ranges from $3 to $6 per square foot for both solid and engineered options. 

Installation costs can add an additional $4 to $8 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the job.

White Oak: White oak flooring tends to be slightly more expensive, with prices typically ranging from $4 to $7 per square foot for both solid and engineered options. 

Installation costs are similar to those of red oak, usually falling between $4 to $8 per square foot. 

White oak’s higher price tag is primarily due to its superior water resistance and greater surface hardness.

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Hickory’s supreme durability and unique grain patterns makes it slightly more expensive than oak. 

The average cost of solid hickory flooring is between $4 to $8 per square foot, while engineered hickory’s price is generally the same as both white and red oak, coming in at $3 to $6 per square foot. 


Durability of hardwood is typically assessed through the Janka hardness test, which measures the amount of force required to embed a steel ball halfway into a plank of wood.

In essence, it measures wood’s resistance to wear and tear – the higher the Janka rating, the harder and more resilient the wood is. 


Oak is a durable hardwood option with a Janka hardness rating of 1290 for red oak and 1360 for white oak. 

This makes oak suitable for areas in your home with moderate to high foot traffic – places like living rooms, bedrooms and hallways. 

Oak’s consistent grain and uniform color also contribute to its resilience, making it a reliable choice for a wide variety of applications.

It’s worth noting that oak is considered the “industry standard” when it comes to hardwoods, so comparing it to hickory’s massive 1820 rating doesn’t paint the full picture. 


There’s no beating around the bush – if durability is your top priority for flooring, look no further than hickory. It is one of the hardest domestic woods, with a Janka hardness rating of 1820. 

This exceptional hardness makes hickory extremely durable and ideal for high-traffic areas, homes with pets, and families with children. 

Its ability to withstand dents and scratches surpasses that of oak, making it a better choice for long-term durability​. 

Engineered Options

Engineered Oak Flooring

Engineered oak flooring consists of a top layer of real oak veneer bonded to multiple layers of plywood or high-density fiberboard (HDF). 

This construction makes it more stable and resistant to moisture compared to solid oak. 

Engineered oak is available in a wide variety of finishes and styles, which makes it versatile for various design preferences.

Engineered Hickory Flooring

The same principle applies to engineered hickory. It also has a top layer of hickory veneer attached to layers of plywood or HDF. 

Engineered hickory is just as durable as solid hickory but with added stability and resistance to humidity and temperature changes.

This makes it suitable for areas prone to fluctuations in moisture​ levels.



Oak flooring is relatively easy to maintain. Regular sweeping or vacuuming, along with occasional damp mopping, will keep it looking fresh. 

The only difference between the two is that oak’s smoother grain makes it a bit simpler to clean.


Hickory requires similar maintenance to oak. Its hardness makes it resistant to scratches and dents, but regular cleaning and occasional mopping are necessary to keep it in good condition. 

Due to its textured grain, hickory might require more effort to clean thoroughly, especially in high-traffic areas.

Stains and Finishes


Oak takes stains and finishes very well, offering a wide range of color options. Its open grain structure allows stains to penetrate deeply, resulting in rich and even finishes. 

Whether you prefer a light, natural look or a dark, dramatic appearance, oak is highly versatile when it comes to staining preferences. 

Its ability to absorb stains evenly makes it an amazing choice for loads of different styles​ and aesthetics.


We think that hickory’s random grain is absolutely gorgeous, but if you want something more uniform in appearance, it’s probably not the best choice. 

Hickory’s natural color variations and unique grain pattern can be highlighted with the right stain, creating a distinctive and attractive finish. 

However, achieving a uniform stain may require professional help due to its strong natural patterns​​.

Resale Value


Oak is one of the best selling hardwood floors on the market for a reason – people love it! This wide appreciation makes it an easy and safe bet for increasing your home’s resale value.


On paper, hickory floors tend to be more valuable than oak. The reason why may simply come down to the fact that they’re rarer to find in homes. But of course, it all comes down to the preference of potential homebuyers. 


All in all, it really does come down to personal preference when choosing between these two options. 

Hickory is a little more unique and a bit more durable. Oak can be a little less expensive and might be a safer choice from a resale value perspective. The point we’re trying to make is that you really can’t go wrong with either one!

Now that you understand the key differences between these two options, you can decide for yourself which one is a better match for your home.

About The Author

Christian Southards

June 4, 2024

Christian is a freelance everything-writer, editor, and interior design nerd. When he’s not writing about flooring and remodeling, he’s either writing news for the California American Legion or working with his hands on his house. His favorite type of flooring is hardwood, but admits to having carpet in his bedroom.