Different types of wood and Electric Floor Heating


When purchasing rough lumber, you may see the wood listed as Plain sawn, quarter sawn or rift sawn. Theses are simply different methods for extracting boards from a log.

What it boils down to is that each manufacture needs to be contacted about the type of flooring interested in. If you have some specifics in mind let me know and I can contact the manufactures on your behalf. 


Here is an excerpt from an article from the National Wood Flooring Association that can help narrow your choices: 


• Quartersawn floors: They tend to expand in height, as opposed to plainsawn boards, which expand mainly in width.


• Narrower widths: They shrink and swell less than wider boards.


• Engineered floors: They are inherently more stable, and the more plies, the more stable the product.


• Reclaimed woods: They have a tighter pattern of growth rings, making them more stable.


• Parquet: As a whole, parquet floors have less expansion and contraction.


• Dark floors: Their color makes gaps between boards less obvious.


• Floors with obvious grain patterns: They also downplay the appearance of gaps between boards.


• Distressed floors: They help minimize the appearance of gaps, as well.


• Beveled edges: They also make gaps less obvious.


• Dimensionally stable species: Job-site experience is your best gauge here. Tangential shrinkage values (see the NWFA'sTechnical Manual A200: Wood Species Used in Wood Flooring) give an indication of stability as found in the lab, but many wood flooring contractors have found the species perform differently on real job sites. Walnut, cherry and oak are examples of relatively stable species; beech, Australian cypress and many bamboo products are examples of those that are not.


• Products for radiant heat: Some wood flooring manufacturers offer products that are specifically warranted and/or designed to go over radiant heat.



Engineered floors (including floating floors) are more stable, but keep in mind that they are not bulletproof. No matter which type of product you choose, make sure it's from a reputable manufacturer. A radiant-heated floor is no place to gamble with an unknown product. Exotics can be particularly susceptible to problems resulting from bad drying practices, making a reliable manufacturer even more crucial.


More in-depth about sawing and checking:

Plain Sawing:

The most simple method for milling a log into planks, plain sawing, involves making a series of parallel cuts through the log. This method is quick and leaves the least amount of waste. Because of the directional tension across the grain as the wood dries, ages and wears, flat sawn boards can be subject to cupping, twisting and bowing. Often, dry boards will absorb moisture from the atmosphere and will become distorted. Plain sawn lumber has a large variety of appearances based on the angle of the growth rings relative to the surface of the board. Often, these rings can be nearly parallel to the board, creating large, open patterns. When the angle of the growth rings nears perpendicular to the surface of the board, there are tighter stripes across the face of the plank. 

Quarter Sawing:
To create quarter sawn lumber, the log is first cut radially into four quarters. Once quartered, there are two different ways in which boards are extracted from the log as shown in the photo below. The upper method is more complex and labor intensive, but leaves far less waste from the log. The method on the right hand side can be executed quickly, simply plain sawing the quartered log. However, this technique leaves large amounts of waste wood. In a quarter sawn board, the growth rings of the tree are closer to perpendicular to the surface of the board than in most plain sawn boards. In certain species of wood, most notably Oak,  this creates a beautiful visual effect. These boards are more stable than plain sawn, being less susceptible to distortion that comes with expansion and contraction from absorbing and releasing atmostpheric moisture. Stable quarter sawn lumber is often recommended for flooring in high moisture, high traffic areas like restaurants, bars and home kitchens.

Rift Sawing:
The most stable boards, and also the most wasteful to produce, are rift sawn planks. Each of these boards is cut radially perpendicular to the growth rings of the tree. There are large triangles of waste left from between each board. As a result, rift sawn lumber is costly to produce and therefore, the most expensive type of planks available from a log.


The wood checked because:
• it was installed in an uncontrolled environment outside of the 35%-55% industry-accepted relative humidity (RH) range
• it was installed within acceptable moisture content (MC) range but dried excessively during the winter months (during seasonal periods of low RH)
• it gained moisture during the summer and swelled excessively, causing checks
• it wasn’t acclimated properly before installation (either too wet, or too dry).
Important Points about Checks in Solid Flooring
• Checks are drying defects that occur during the lumber’s drying process.
• Checks do not originate in post-installation interior environments.
• In many instances, installers cannot and will not see closed checks before the boards are installed.
• Closed checks, which are not visible prior to or immediately following installation, can lie in wait within the installed floor, completely invisible to the eye, and may become evident over time as the floor system is subjected to reasonable and expected stresses, especially when the humidity is dropping and causing the wood to shrink.
• Checks may be allowable (in some forms) as defined in manufacturers’ grading standards specific to their products.
• Proactive sales and consumer education can significantly reduce the potential for post-installation claims relating to checking.
• If more emphasis is put on the quality of wood flooring rather than just price and availability, materials will be created to accommodate that.

Written by Anatoliy Isayenko
Posted on
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