What’s the Difference Between Plain-Sawn, Quarter-Sawn, Rift-Sawn and Live-Sawn Lumber?

July 23, 2021 11:16 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

When you’re choosing hardwood flooring, one of the factors involved is choosing a wood grain type. Depending on how a log is cut, the wood grain will look very different. There are four main grain types you may see: plain sawn, quarter sawn, rift sawn and live sawn. Here’s the difference between the four, so you can make an informed decision between grain types for your hardwood flooring.

Plain-sawn lumber

You may have heard this type of plank referred to as “flat-sawn” as well as plain-sawn lumber. Plain-sawn planks are the most common type of hardwood flooring plank, and produces what we think of as a “traditional” wood grain. The grain will produce cathedral-like shapes.

Plain-sawn planks are the most inexpensive way to cut lumber. This, of course, will help keep prices down, as opposed to other sawing types.

Quarter-sawn lumber

Quarter-sawn lumber is characterized by a straight grain pattern. You’ve probably seen this type of lumber used in Mission-style furniture. This is more expensive and rarer than plain-sawn lumber, but it tends to be more dimensionally stable. You’re less likely to experience cupping, twisting or warping. It’s also less likely to retain moisture, which can damage hardwood flooring.

This type of lumber cut is particularly attractive in maple, cherry and walnut wood. If you plan to use this type of plank, be prepared to pay a bit more.

Rift-sawn lumber

Rift sawn is the most expensive type of lumber cut, and the hardest to find. This type of cut produces a lot of waste—but it also produces a linear grain with very little flecking. These cuts are even more stable than quarter-sawn lumber. However, you can expect to pay significantly more than you will for plain-sawn lumber.

If you’re looking for an extremely consistent grain pattern, this is an excellent choice. If you don’t care much about the grain pattern, opt for another type of lumber cut.

Live-sawn lumber

Live-sawn lumber is the most efficient way to cut a log. It produces little to no waste, especially compared to rift-sawn lumber. One bonus to this cutting method is that it offers a full range of grain types, which can be quite striking in a hardwood floor. While this cut isn’t going to be right for every homeowner’s preferences, it can produce a beautiful and unusual effect.

Which should I choose?

Most homeowners wonder which type of lumber grain they should choose—and the answer depends on a number of factors. Grain pattern is just one piece of the hardwood flooring puzzle. You’ll also need to consider plank width, price, finish and more. In short, your choice probably won’t hinge on the grain pattern alone. However, it never hurts to understand why certain hardwood flooring types are more or less expensive than others.

If you’re interested in seeing these grain types for yourself, stop by The Wholesale House today. Our selection is sure to offer something for everyone, and we’d love to help you find the ideal choice for your home’s new flooring.

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