The appearance of hardwood floors depends on a few factors, including the species of the hardwood selected, the cut and the grade of the wood and the type of surface finish used. A short explanation of different grades, cuts, and specialty finishes are provided below.
- Types of Grades
- Country – is the lowest grade of hardwood flooring available in the market. It allows for the largest degree of variation and most amount of marking such as knots and streaks. It is most often selected for cottages as it provides a rustic finished look. Some manufacturers call this grade the “common” grade
- Select wood – flooring product with natural wood variations that also includes knots, streaks, etc. This grade is the most preferred choice for most builders. Most manufacturers have this grade.
- Select and better – is the highest grade of flooring available in the industry and has an excellent, clean visual appearance. Variation from piece to piece is minimized, but not completely eliminated. Some manufacturers refer to this grade as the “clear” grade or a combination of “clear and select” grades.
- Types of Cuts
- Plain Sawn – is the most common cut. Characteristics are its pleasing appearance and varied grain appearance. The log is squared and sawed lengthwise in a series of parallel cuts. The annual growth rings appear as approximately straight lines on the board, joining at the end to form a “cathedral arch.” Because of this arch, plain sawn boards are often considered the most beautiful of the cuts. These boards are ideal for large visual areas like whole floors, tabletops, drawer fronts, sides of dressers or other similar projects. Plain sawn boards are the least expensive of the three cuts as they are the least labor-intensive to produce and leave the least waste.
- Quarter swan – is more expensive than plain sawn hardwood. Characteristics are greater wear resistance, less tendency to cup and twist, less shrinkage in width, and uniform grain appearance. Quarter sawn boards are created by first cutting a log into quarters and then making a series of parallel cuts perpendicular to the tree’s rings, cutting on the radius. The grain in quarter sawn wood is relatively consistent and the growth rings (grain) will be at a 90-degree angle in the profile of the flooring plank.
- Rift Sawn – is a technique of cutting boards in which each board is cut along the radius of the original log, so that the saw cuts at right angles to the tree’s growth rings. This produces lumber of great stability, but is a highly wasteful process.
- Specialty Finishes
- Hand-scraped finish – offers a rugged, hand-made appeal as wood floors back in the day. Back in the colonial days, homes were built with wood floors that were installed using basic handheld tools. This idea is still carried out in hand-scraped hardwood flooring today and designed to look naturally worn and finished by hand. Hand-scraped floors are a balance between distressed hardwood and pre-finished hardwood floors that have a shiny and smooth finish.
- Wire brushed Finish – are hardwood floors with planks that have been brushed with hard wire brushes, which scrape all of the soft wood off of the top of the floor planks, leaving only the hardest wood and exposing more of the wood’s natural grain. Wire-brushed wood floors can look very dramatic; bring out the rich texture of the wood including knots and the character. These floors are less likely to show chips, scratches and scrapes. They are also harder than normal hardwood floors so they are also less likely to scratch in the first place. These floors cannot be refinished as easily.
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