Real Wood Floors: Grain and Cut Influence Appearance

When it comes to wood floors, grain and cut have a big influence on appearance and beauty. Knowing your options can help you choose the right species to achieve the look you want.

Grain refers to annual growth rings in the wood, and is classified as fine (cherry) or coarse (red oak). Grain also refers to the direction of the fibers, which can be straight (ash), spiral (douglas fir) or curly (birch). Finally, grain also is described as being either open (white oak) or closed (hickory), which affects how the wood accepts stains and finishes.

The wood cut has to do with how it is sawed during the milling process, and includes three types: plainsawn, quartersawn or riftsawn. Plainsawn is the most common and least expensive method. It is obtained by making the first cut on a tangent to the circumference of the log and making all remaining cuts parallel to the first. This method provides the widest boards and the least waste.

Since most plainsawn lumber is flat grained, it tends to contain more variation within and among boards. It also is the least dimensionally stable, so will experience the most expansion and contraction.

Quartersawn wood is produced by first quartering the log, then sawing perpendicular to the growth rings. Quartersawing produces relatively narrow, dimensionally stable boards. Since there is more waste, quartersawn wood is more expensive than plainsawn.

Riftsawn wood is similar to quartersawing. However, the angle of the cut is changed slightly so that fewer cuts are parallel. Riftsawn wood results in more waste than with quartersawn and plainsawn wood, so generally is more expensive.

To learn more about the characteristics of wood floors, including cut and grain, visit Types, Styles and Species under the Why Wood Floors section of the NWFA's consumer web site,

The National Wood Flooring Association is a non-profit trade organization of more than 3,300 wood flooring professionals working worldwide to educate consumers, architects, designers, and builders in the uses and benefits of wood flooring.

The NWFA can be contacted at 111 Chesterfield Industrial Blvd., Chesterfield, MO 63005, or at +1-800-422-4556 (USA) or +1-800-848-8824 (Canada).

Contact: Anita Howard Communications Director [email protected]

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