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The Difference Between Rift, Quartered and Plain Sawn Flooring

When purchasing rough lumber, you may see the wood listed as plain sawn, quarter sawn, or rift sawn. These are different methods for extracting boards from a log, which determines the orientation of the grain of the wood.

The most obvious difference between plain sawn and quarter and rift sawn flooring is appearance. Most flooring is plain sawn with character markings and figure patterns resulting from the annual rings that are brought out more fully, including the cathedral graining that is so prominent in woods like oak. Plain sawn floors are available in wider widths than quarter and rift sawn floors.

Plain Sawn

Plain sawing involves making a series of parallel cuts through the log, a quick method which leaves little waste. Plain sawn lumber has a large variety of appearances based on the angle of the growth rings relative to the surface of the board. When the angle of the growth rings nears perpendicular to the surface of the board, there are tighter stripes across the face of the plank.

In plain sawing, a log is moved back and forth on a saw carriage and rotated with each slice until it is cut from the outside inwards. With plain sawn lumber, the growth rings will typically range from parallel with the surface of the board to a 30-degree angle or more from the surface board.

Quarter Sawn

Quarter sawn floors are rare and are valued by homeowners who seek a unique look. To create quarter sawn lumber, the log is cut into four quarters, and the quarters are cut again into slices, which produces quarter sawn and rift sawn boards. The center boards will have growth rings positioned at 60 to 90 degrees to the board's surface. As the cuts are made from the quarters, they become more rift sawn. Stable quarter sawn lumber is often recommended for flooring in high moisture, high traffic areas like restaurant, bars, and home kitchens.

Rift Sawn

Rift sawn boards are the most stable boards and the most wasteful to produce. These boards are cut radially perpendicular to the growth rings of the tree. There are large triangles of waste left from between each board, which makes rift sawn lumber costly to produce and the most expensive type of planks available from a log.

If you're thinking about adding a new floor to your home or replacing an old floor, find a company that offers options in hardwood flooring, including rift, quartered, and plain sawn flooring.

Hardwood flooring comes in a few types, from 100-percent wood to engineered hardwood in a variety of species from red and white oak to maple and hickory. The company you select should offer a variety of engineered and solid hardwood flooring options in unfinished and prefinished options. Both are high quality products, with unfinished flooring ideal for replacing part of or adding to an existing floor, while prefinished is best for replacing an entire floor. With finish already added, prefinished hardwood flooring reduces installation time as well.

Discuss the differences between rift, quartered, and plain saw flooring with the company you select and determine the best method for cutting the wood that will be used for your floor.