The Differences Between Live-Sawn, Quarter-Sawn, Plain-Sawn, and Rift-and-Quartered Floors

Live-sawn, rift-and-quartered, quartersawn, plain-sawn floors

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What’s the difference between sawing methods for hardwood floors? Below, we’ve put together a description of live-sawn, plain-sawn, quarter-sawn, and rift-and-quartered flooring, along with the factors you must consider with each.

Live-sawn flooring: This type of flooring is produced when each plank is cut straight off of the log in a single direction. The orientation of the log is not changed when the planks are cut. Because of this, the flooring displays the full range of the log’s grain, including the iconic cathedral grain, and includes both heartwood and sapwood. Live-sawn floors include a mix of clear and natural grades and a variety of graining patterns. This milling technique is the most efficient and eco-friendly of the four because the entire log is utilized. Because at least a third of the planks making up live-sawn floors are quarter-sawn, this type of flooring is stable.

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Plain-sawn flooring: This is the most common type of milling in the United States, in which the board is cut and then the log is turned 90 degrees before being cut again. This involves cutting the lumber into parallel planks through the center, resulting in a beautiful cathedral graining pattern. Because the wood is cut tangential to the growth rings of the tree, this is not a very stable cut and may be prone to cupping when excessive moisture is present. 

Quarter-sawn flooring: This cut is produced by quartering the log lengthwise, which results in growth rings which are at 90 degrees to the face of the board. This produces a straight, striped grain and creates distinctive ray and fleck patterns in red and white oak. This cut produces dimensionally stable flooring and is generally resistant to moisture fluctuations.

Rift-and-quartered flooring: This is the least common type of milling for hardwood floors because it produces a substantial amount of waste. The planks are milled perpendicular to the growth rings of the tree, which produces a straight grain pattern with no flecking. The log’s growth rings range from 30-60 degrees to the face of the board. These floors are rather expensive, but rift-and-quartered floors are the most dimensionally stable out of the four types of cuts.

Given the different qualities of each, the best choice for a floor if you are concerned about cupping or gapping as the humidity fluctuates throughout the year is rift-and-quartered flooring, but quarter-sawn and live-sawn flooring are also reliable choices.

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