Wood Floors 101

What is the difference between Quarter Sawn, Rift Sawn and Plain Sawn Lumber?


When lumber is cut from logs, it is typically cut in one of three ways: quarter sawn, rift sawn or plain sawn. Each type of lumber is dependent on how the log is oriented and cut at the sawmill. The result is a particular orientation of the growth rings on the end grain of the board and is what defines the type of lumber.  The type of cut also determines the figure in a piece of wood and the wood’s mechanical properties.

Sound too confusing? This graphic will help…

Most common, least expensiveQuartersawnRiftsawnLumberDifference_Diagram3-300x182 (1)
Plain sawn, also commonly called flat sawn, is the most common lumber you will find. This is the most inexpensive way to manufacture logs into lumber. Plain sawn lumber is the most common type of cut. The annular rings are generally 30 degrees or less to the face of the board; this is often referred to as tangential grain. The resulting wood displays a cathedral pattern on the face of the board.

More expensive than plain sawn material
Quarter sawn wood has an amazing straight grain pattern that lends itself to design. Quarter sawn lumber is defined as wood where the annular growth rings intersect the face of the board at a 60 to 90 degree angle. When cutting this lumber at the sawmill, each log is sawed at a radial angle into four quarters, hence the name. Quarter sawn wood has an amazing straight grain pattern that lends itself to design. Dramatic flecking is also present in red oak and white oak.

Most expensive, least common
Rift sawn wood can be manufactured either as a compliment to quarter sawn lumber or logs can be cut specifically as rift sawn. In rift sawn lumber the annual rings are typically between 30-60 degrees, with 45 degrees being optimum. Manufactured by milling perpendicular to the log’s growth rings producing a linear grain pattern with no flecking. This method produces the most waste, increasing the cost of this lumber. Rift sawn lumber is the most dimensionally stable cut of lumber available and has a unique linear appearance.

Original Source: Hardwood Distributor’s Association.



As per the National Wood Flooring Association:

“Wood flooring will perform best when the environment is controlled to stay within a relative humidity range of 30-50 percent and a temperature range 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.” 

NWFA & NOFMA Member Grading



A mostly heartwood flooring product that allows all the natural heartwood color variations with minimal character marks and limited color variation.  This combination features the infinitely variable grain patterns with the minimal distraction from character marks and color variation.




Contains all the variations in coloration produced by the contrasting differences of heartwood and sapwood.  Also included are minimal character marks, such as small knots, worm holes, and mineral streaks, as well as slightly open characters.  The combination creates a floor where the light sapwood and dark heartwood are combined with small characters and other small color interruptions.  




A flooring product characterized by prominent color variation that also contains prominent characters (with size limits) such as knots, open checks, worm holes, along with machining and drying variations.  No. 1 Common is a tasteful floor where prominent variation is expected.




Contains sound natural and manufacturing variations including knot holes, open worm holes, and other open characters along with prominent color variations.  Manufacturing variations include drying characters and machining irregularities.  No. 2 Common is most desirable for applications where numerous notable character marks and prominent color contrast is desired. 


Janka Hardness Scale


The Janka hardness test measures the hardness of wood. It involves measuring the force required to embed an 11.28 mm (0.444 in) steel ball into wood to half its diameter. This method was chosen so that the result would leave an indention 100 mm² (0.16 sq in) in size. It is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear. It is also a good indicator of how hard a species is to saw or nail. The hardness of wood usually varies with the direction of the wood grain. If testing is done on the surface of a plank, perpendicular to the grain, the test is said to be of “side hardness.” Testing the cut surface of a stump would be called a test of “end hardness.”



The results are stated in various ways, which can lead to confusion, especially when the name of the actual units employed is often not attached. In the United States, the measurement is in pounds-force (lbf). In Sweden it is in kilograms-force (kgf), and in Australia, either in newtons (N) or kilonewtons (kN). Sometimes the results are treated as units, e.g., “660 Janka”. To convert the United States pound-force (lbf) units to newtons N multiply pound-force by 0.453 592 37 then multiply by 9.80665 (1 standard g in units of m/s2). Janka hardness N = (lbf x 0.453 592 37) x 9.80665 OR multiply by 4.44822161526. To get lbf from N, multiply N by 0.224808943099736.



A common use of Janka hardness ratings is to determine whether a species is suitable for use as flooring. The Janka Hardness test is done in accordance with ASTM D 1037-7 testing methods. Please note: no flooring is ever tested. The test is done on raw material stock that can range from 1″ to 2″ thick. Note these numbers are an average! A standard deviation exists for each species, but these numbers do not get published. The chart is not an absolute; it is meant to help you understand which woods are harder than others. There are other factors that can affect how flooring performs: type of core (for engineered flooring), grain direction and thickness floor or top wear surface.





Wood Flooring Species

Janka Hardness

Lignum vitae / Guayacan / Pockenholz 4500
Brazilian Ebony 3692
Ipê / “Brazilian Walnut” / Lapacho 3684
African Pearlwood / Moabi 3680
Bolivian Cherry 3650
Lapacho 3640
Cumaru / “Brazilian Teak” sometimes: “Brazilian
Chestnut,” “Tiete Chestnut,” “South American
Chestnut,” “Southern Chestnut”
Ebony 3220
Brazilian Redwood / Paraju /
Yvyraro 3040
Bloodwood 2900
Red Mahogany, Turpentine 2697
“Southern Chestnut” 2670
Spotted Gum 2473
Brazilian Cherry / Jatoba 2350
Mesquite 2345
“Golden Teak” 2330
Santos Mahogany, Bocote, Cabreuva 2200
Pradoo 2170
Brazilian Koa 2160
Sucupira sometimes “Brazilian Chestnut,”
“Tiete Chestnut,” “Brazilian Walnut”
Brushbox 2135
Karri 2030
Sydney Blue Gum 2023
Bubinga 1980
Cameron 1940
Tallowwood 1933
Merbau 1925
Amendoim 1912
Jarrah 1910
Purpleheart 1860
Goncalo Alves / Tigerwood 1850
Hickory / Pecan, Satinwood 1820
Afzelia / Doussie 1810
Bangkirai 1798
Rosewood 1780
African Padauk 1725
Blackwood 1720
Merbau 1712
Kempas 1710
Black Locust 1700
Highland Beech 1686
Wenge, Red Pine 1630
Tualang 1624
Zebrawood 1575
True Pine, Timborana 1570
Peroba 1557
Kambala 1540
Sapele / Sapelli 1510
Curupixa 1490
Sweet Birch 1470
Hard Maple / Sugar Maple 1450
Caribbean Walnut 1390
Coffee Bean 1390
Natural Bamboo
(represents one species)
Australian Cypress 1375
White Oak 1360
Tasmanian Oak 1350
Ribbon Gum 1349
Ash (White) 1320
American Beech 1300
Red Oak (Northern) 1290
Caribbean Heart Pine 1280
Yellow Birch, Iroko Kambala 1260
Movingui 1230
Heart Pine 1225
“Brazilian Mesquite” / Carapa
Larch 1200
Carbonized Bamboo
(represents one species)
Teak 1155
Cocobolo 1136
Brazilian Eucalyptus / Rose Gum 1125
Makore 1100
Siberian larch 1100
Peruvian Walnut 1080
Boreal 1023
Black Walnut/North American Walnut 1010
Teak 1000
Sakura 995
Black Cherry, Imbuia 950
Boire 940
Paper Birch 910
Cedar 900
Southern Yellow Pine (Longleaf) 870
Lacewood, Leopardwood 840
African Mahogany 830
Mahogany, Honduran Mahogany 800
Parana 780
Sycamore 770
Shedua 710
Southern Yellow Pine
(Loblolly and Shortleaf)
Douglas Fir 660
Alder (Red) 590
Larch 590
Chestnut 540
Hemlock 500
White Pine 420
Basswood 410
Eastern White Pine 380
Balsa 100


Wood Finishes of Triveneta Parchetti



Untreated & Calibrated


Perfectly smooth surface obtained by uniform sanding with grain size 180.


Soft component of wood is brushed away highlighting the characteristic vein of the wood species. Brushed flooring is more durable, harder-wearing and more impact resistant.


For those who are true traditionalists and value hardwood flooring in it’s innate splendour. The use of solvent-free natural oils which preserve the open-pore state and promote the transpiration of the wood are the core of this finishing process. We use 100% natural vegetable oils in order to permit the pores of the wood to remain open, allowing for a greater stability should the ambient conditions undergo slight and/or drastic changes. In fact, oiled finishing treatments penetrate deep into the fibre of the wood, protecting and nourishing the flooring. A floor finished with natural oils grants an organic texture to the wood, however, requires a more diligent and constant maintenance. For our oiled products, we propose the application of a natural maintenance product known as Linfolegno, which creates a patina on the flooring and renders it more water and stain resistant.  While oiled flooring may be more prone to scratches and scuffing, it is easily repairable.


The use of acrylic and/or water-based anti-scratch varnishes offer a closed-pore finish, but are essentially elastic in nature and are available in a range of opacities from mat to glossy and are at the discretion of the customer.  The total quantity of varnish applied to the flooring amounts to approximately 220g/m2, which guarantees an excellent and durable finish. The maintenance for varnished floors is simple and can be renovated with ease.


A finishing that donates a unique texture and sheen to the flooring with the application of natural bee’s wax.


Combined with a brushed effect, the vein of the wood is brought into evidence with a coloured oil/varnish. The product is then re-calibrated and finished in the desired manner.


A machine finish which creates an irregular, wave-like appearance.


A finish involving a real craftsmanship, where a specific tool is used to carve out parts of the plank.


Used to give the wood an aged look and feel by adding small pinholes resembling those created by woodworms.


In this finish, the edges of the plank are serrated with a band saw.


In this finishing process a belt-sander is used to create small smooth hollows in the length of the plank.


Top 10 Tips

Safety First!


With a greater variety of products come changes in application, tools and drying times, so first take a moment to read the instructions–and always play it safe:  Wear protective gloves and safety glasses, and provide plenty of fresh air when working with oil-based products.


Know Your Wood


Particleboard absorbs too much stain, veneers sometimes not enough; “paint grade” woods are lower quality than “stain grade” woods and while a stain can change the color of a board, it can’t change the grain pattern. In short, ask questions and learn what to expect from any wood you buy.


Don't Skip Sanding


Sanding isn’t always fun, but scratches and nicks absorb more stain and finish than does smooth wood, hence they stand out more, not less, when stained.


Use Pre-stain Wood Conditioner


Wood pores are irregular and only Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner can reduce the likelihood of blotchiness when these irregular pores absorb the stain you apply.


Test First


Wood is unpredictable, so test your stain color on an inconspicuous spot before you start staining the most visible parts of your project.


Stirred, Not Shaken


Some ingredients in both stains and finishes settle over time, but shaking will only add unwanted bubbles– and may not mix the ingredients thoroughly. Always stir until all settlement is evenly dispersed.


Foam Brushes Don't Last


Foam brushes are fine for applying Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner and any Minwax®stains, but they don’t lay down a smooth final topcoat finish like quality bristle brushes do.


Don't Work In The Dark


For best results, face the strongest light in your work area so that you’ll immediately spot any runs, drips or missed areas while you are staining and finishing. And be sure to work in a well-ventilated room.


Clean, Dry & Scuffed


Before recoating an existing finish, make sure the old finish has been cleaned of any oils and wax, is completely dry, and has been scuffed lightly with fine 220-grit sandpaper so that the new finish has something to grip.


Eliminate Dust


Dust is the enemy of a smooth finish. To eliminate dust, vacuum it off your project and workbench rather than brushing or blowing it into the air.  Also, be sure to use a damp cloth as a final cleanup on the wood before staining or topcoating.



For any additional questions, feel free to contact the National Wood Flooring Association. As a member, PID Floors aligns ourselves with all guidelines of the NWFA.