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Hardwood Flooring: Saw Cut Methods Explained

Posted on August 17, 2023


Guide to Hardwood Flooring: Exploring Different Saw Cut Techniques

When considering hardwood flooring for your home or office space, the aesthetics, feel, durability, and price point are likely some of the primary factors you’ll be contemplating. Yet, delving a bit deeper into the manufacturing process, particularly the saw cut methods, can provide a richer understanding and appreciation of the final product. Different saw cuts yield varied grain patterns, textures, and overall appearances. This article aims to illuminate the different saw cut methods and help you make a more informed choice. 1. Introduction to Saw Cut Methods Saw cutting, in the context of hardwood flooring, refers to the technique used to slice the logs into planks. The method chosen can influence not just the appearance but also the stability and the cost of the wood plank. 2. Plain Sawn (or Flat Sawn)
  • Overview: This is the most common method of sawing wood for hardwood floors.
  • Process: The log is cut straight across, from one end to the other. This results in planks with a varied grain pattern, usually showing the familiar “cathedral” or “flame” shapes in the middle of the boards.
  • Advantages: It’s cost-effective since it produces the least waste and is the simplest method.
  • Disadvantages: This method may make the planks less stable compared to other cutting methods, making them more susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature.
3. Quarter Sawn
  • Overview: This method produces less common, straighter grain patterns and is often favored for its distinctive appearance.
  • Process: The log is first quartered, then each quarter is sawn perpendicular to the growth rings. This produces a straight-grain appearance with occasional “ray fleck” patterns.
  • Advantages: Greater stability than plain-sawn wood. The planks are less likely to cup, twist, or warp. The unique grain patterns also make it a preferred choice for certain design aesthetics.
  • Disadvantages: Produces more waste than plain sawn, making it more expensive.
4. Rift Sawn
  • Overview: Rift sawn wood is even less common than quarter sawn and is considered by many as the zenith of hardwood flooring.
  • Process: The log is cut at a slightly different angle than quarter sawing, avoiding the medullary rays and producing a plank with almost perfectly straight grain.
  • Advantages: It provides the most stable planks and offers a very consistent and uniform appearance. It’s the preferred choice for minimalist or contemporary designs.
  • Disadvantages: It’s the least efficient cutting method, producing the most waste and hence, the most expensive.
5. Live Sawn
  • Overview: This European method combines all the aforementioned methods into one.
  • Process: The log is cut straight through without turning. This produces planks that have characteristics of plain-sawn, rift-sawn, and quarter sawn all in one plank.
  • Advantages: It showcases the entire grain spectrum of the wood, offers a unique rustic appearance, and is comparatively more stable than plain-sawn wood.
  • Disadvantages: It might not be suitable for those who want a consistent grain pattern across their floor.
6. The Environmental Perspective With the environment in focus, it’s crucial to note that methods that produce less waste, like plain sawing, are more eco-friendly. However, the efficiency of a sawing method should be balanced with the durability and longevity of the flooring. Floors that need to be replaced frequently due to instability or wear can also have a more significant environmental impact over the long term. 7. Making an Informed Choice When deciding on hardwood flooring, consider the following:
  • Aesthetics: What grain pattern and appearance resonate with you?
  • Durability: Are you installing the flooring in an area with heavy foot traffic, or is it more for aesthetic purposes?
  • Budget: Some methods are pricier than others due to waste and labor intensiveness.
  • Environmental Considerations: Do you prioritize eco-friendliness?


The world of hardwood flooring is vast and rich with choices. By understanding the nuances of saw cut methods, you gain insight into the craftsmanship behind your flooring and make decisions that align better with your preferences and values. Whether you’re after the dramatic grains of plain sawn wood, the straight and minimalist rift sawn planks, or the unique spectrum of live sawn boards, knowing their distinct attributes can elevate your interiors and provide a conversation starter right under your feet!

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