Before you install hardwood flooring into your home, you may be thinking about the type of wood and the color of finish that will look great in your home. But, there’s one other factor you should consider: the cut of the wood. 

There are four main cutting options available for hardwood floors and each cut has its own unique appearance and level of performance depending on the conditions of your home. 


This is the simplest and most common cut used for hardwood floors (also known as flat-sawn). Plain-sawn boards of wood have end grain and growth rings of 0-35 degrees to the surface that create a “cathedral” grain pattern. 

In terms of durability, plain sawing can often make the wood more susceptible to cupping, crowning, and gapping than other cutting methods. But, plain-sawn planks are the least expensive and offer a certain look that many homeowners desire. This cut is most commonly found in furniture, cabinetry, and trim.


The name of this cut comes from the fact that the log is cut into quarters prior to being cut into flooring. Quarter-sawn features annual growth rings at a 60 to a 90-degree angle. The look is an appealing, somewhat tight vertical pattern with dramatic flecking. 

Quarter-sawn planks have a bit more stability compared to plain-sawn planks and are less likely to expand and contract with moisture and temperature changes. The only downside is that quarter-sawn is usually more expensive than plain-sawn. 


Rift-sawn cuts have a unique linear or vertical grain pattern with no flecking and the annual growth rings are between 30 and 60 degrees. Rift and quarter-sawn are the two most aesthetically pleasing cuts because of the minimal grain activity. 

This method produces the most stable floorboards but is also more expensive because there is a lot of wood wasted with this type of cut. It’s also less common than the previous two cuts but is desirable for a highly elegant, formal look. Often you will find quartered and rift boards sold as a combined cut when purchasing flooring. In an environment like Iowa where the moisture levels fluctuate dramatically from winter to summer, quartered and rift boards are the most stable, with the least amount of separation during winter months.


This starts with a straight cut through the log, which gives a full range of the wood’s natural characteristics. The grain pattern varies with a live-sawn cut and it has vertical grain on the edges. The result of this option is a very natural-looking and beautiful floor. This cut also features the most character displaying the growth of the tree via knots and color range.

Live-sawn combines the performance characteristics of the three cuts above. It’s typically more stable during seasonal changes and shrinks less often compared to plain-sawn.

Learn More from the Hardwood Floor Experts at Barnum

When you’re making such an important investment like hardwood flooring, it’s important to work with a team that has years of experience. Our crew at Barnum is full of certified professionals who can guide you through wood cuts, types, and finishes to give you the flooring you’ve always wanted. Contact us today to set up an appointment, or visit our showroom!