Oak can add warmth to a home and ease of decorating as it tends to blend rather than dominate. All varieties of oak can take color well, giving the buyer a multitude of finishes to choose from. Dark finishes on oak are becoming more popular in modern homes.
Ash also takes color well, but this floor is often selected because of its natural light tones. It can be nearly white or cream to a light tan, which can make a small room look larger.
Red oak is sold more often because of its attractive pinkish tones. White oak is harder than the red oaks and is almost impermeable to water and other liquids, making it an excellent choice for bathrooms and kitchens where spills are more likely to happen.
Both varieties of oak are dense and stiff, but provide enough shock absorption to withstand dropped pots and pans. Both have a high concentration of tannic acids as well, making them resistant to fungus and insects.
Ash falls between red and white oak on the hardness scale. It has been used in making baseball bats because of its excellent shock absorption. An ash floor holds up well in high traffic areas and playrooms, as it can take a lot of abuse.
Oak and ash floors are comparable in costs. Because of its rampant availability and range of durability (red oaks being softer than the whites), buyers may find cheaper options in oak.
Both ash and oak woods offer quarter-sawn wood options. This can cost more, but comes with benefits over traditionally cut wood floors. The grain is less pronounced in quarter-sawn wood, giving it a smoother look. Finish colors take more evenly on quarter-sawn wood. There is also less shrinking, bending or twisting of the wood during installation and after.
Ash is one of the easiest woods to work with, and can be installed easily by screwing, nailing or gluing. Oak floors are similarly easy to install. It can be tricky for the novice to set the planks close enough together before securing them and may require a professional wood floor installer, which can be expensive.
All wood floors need regular maintenance of sweeping, vacuuming and mopping with a damp mop. Grit and water are enemies of a wood floor. While both white oak and ash are hard woods and almost impervious to water, spills should be cleaned up quickly as to not soak into the wood.
Oak floors will darken and change color over time. Ash floors appear to retain their lightness if finished with a clear coat.