There are a lot of types of hardwood flooring grades and shapes that you can select from. Aside from the variety of different species, each with unique characteristics, you also have different stain, finish, and decorative treatments that can be applied to the surface. This means that hardwood has almost limitless potential.
Hardwood Flooring Cut Options
The cut of a piece of wood refers to how the actual log is sliced in order to produce the material. Some cuts will produce stronger planks and boards, while others are more efficient.
Plain Saw: This is the most common wood cut found in flooring. It is produced by taking a log, and slicing through it vertically, straight up and down. This cut allows you to get the most usable planks possible from the log, making this the least expensive option. However the material produced is only moderately durable, and is suggested for low, to mid traffic level environments.
Quarter Saw: This cut is achieved by taking the log and slicing it down the middle horizontally, and vertically, to produce 4 even sized wedges. These are then sawn on the radius, perpendicular to the rings of the tree. This produces fairly uniform and consistent pieces, which are resistant to bowing, bending, and breaking.
Rift Saw: Here the log is quartered even again, and then the wedges are sliced at a roughly 45 degree angle. This produces a lot of wedge shaped waste, and is the least efficient cutting method, making it also the most expensive.
However the wood produced is extremely uniform, and all pieces will have the same grain pattern, as well as an inherent strength and durability that makes this the most prized cut.
Hardwood Flooring Grades
While grade may seem like it has to do with the quality of the wood, it actually refers to the features found in the surface. Any grade of wood flooring should be equally durable in an installation.
Clear Grade: This is the most uniform, and pure surface grade available. Pieces that are considered clear grade do not have any splits, knots, worm holes, or excessive mineral streaks, and fall within a consistent range of color tones, with no pieces being significantly lighter or darker than any other.
Select Grade: Like clear grade these are pieces that do not have any knots, checks, splits, mineral stains, or contrasting sapwood features. However it is allowed to vary somewhat in color tone and hue.
Low Select Grade: This grade contains no surface defects or excessive surface features, and is made up of pieces that were taken from clear grade and select grade lots because of excessive color shading variations. This is a relatively rare grade wood as it has to accumulate as other lots are weaned.
Natural Grade: These pieces are allowed to have moderate natural features and color variations. Strips that have excessive surface defects are pulled, but most pieces will be included for a very natural looking effect.
Rustic Grade: These wood materials contain numerous defects, features, and color variations, with pieces varying, sometimes sharply, one to another.