rift and quartered white oak flooring viewing to a living area with a white couch and colorful cushions, to the left is a glass bannister indicating a staircase.
Rift & Quartered White Oak

As the seasons change in the Northern Hemisphere to cooler and drier temperatures it’s always a good time to revisit why Rift & Quartered lumber is a superior flooring choice in homes.

Types of Lumber Cuts

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.

Plain Sawn Board vs Quarter Sawn Board

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.

Recently Rift & Quartered flooring in White Oak has become very popular across North America. While some people like the straight grained look of the rift boards, others prefer the dynamic, interesting look of quartered. When sawing Rift & Quartered lumber from a log you need to start with higher quality, straighter logs than when Plain Sawing. While the log does not need to be large, it does need to be straight and have its center almost in the middle of each end of the log. This allows the sawyer’s in the sawmill to truly split the log into 4 distinct quarters. If it’s not straight, you get lumber that exhibits both Rift & Quartered and Plain Sawn characteristics. The manufacturing yield loss is also higher in Rift & Quartered production. See the diagram immediately below.

In our mill we have computer scanners, thin-kerf band saws and optimizing edgers so we can recover more from a log than ever before. When you plain saw a log like the diagram above, higher yields are obtained. However, when you quarter the log there is less lumber in total because of the higher rate of cutting required to produce this type of lumber. The mill will also saw into that center part of the log so much of that area ends up being edged off and chipped. In turn the manufacturing costs for Rift & Quartered end up being increased. When the log is sawn like the diagram, it takes longer in the sawmill and is passed through a saw more times per board foot. It also takes specialized equipment, more knowledge, expertly trained, employees to properly Rift & Quarter. Drying Rift & Quarter sawn lumber also takes longer.

Did you know that one of the main costs of lumber drying is time? There is a constant evaluation of the drying of lumber and the longer it takes, increases the cost of production.

Rift & Quartered wood is predominantly favored in North America. In Europe lumber is sawn in a completely different fashion and often logs are simply sawn thru like a loaf of bread. They are often producing a plain sawn look where the cathedral grain is centered in the board. This is referred to as “live sawing” and it results in some Rift & Quartered on the edges of the boards, yet many floors in Europe expressly specify “no mirrors”, meaning no Quartered.

Benefits of Rift & Quartered Lumber

So what does this all mean? Well since the lumber is cut perpendicular to the rings it shrinks more in thickness than in width, this means that Rift & Quartered is a superior product when the humidity changes from heating to cooling seasons. Simply put the benefit of Rift & Quartered Lumber is that it is more stable and a superior choice for your wood flooring needs. Rift & Quartered also gives a unique new look to many species. Take a look through our Instagram for beautiful images or in our gallery here and here!