Have you ever walked across gorgeous hardwood flooring or browsed through the floating wood floor aisles at your local building supply store wondering how hardwood flooring is made? Quality wood floors go through a rigid selection and preparation process that provides superior appearance and durability for years to come.

Solid Hardwood Plank Selection

Hardwood flooring is made from solid pieces or planks of wood, cut from various species of tree using one of three methods:

  • Plain Sawn - provides more variations than other methods
  • Quarter Sawn - logs are cut into quarters before planks are cut for flooring
  • Rift Sawn - logs are cut at different angles before planks are cut for flooring

We discussed the myths and realities of quarter sawn and plain sawn wood floors in a previous post. Rift sawn tends to be the rarest cut and provides premium strength for a premium price. Most widely available hardwood brands are plain or quarter sawn, and offer excellent levels of durability over years of use.

Once the wood flooring planks have been cut - generally 1-inch thick and 3-inches wide - they are graded for appearance. We’ll cover grading in the next post about how hardwood flooring is made.

Engineered Wood Floor Selection

Engineered wood flooring is made from solid hardwood veneer adhered to a plywood core. Selecting materials for the plywood core is fairly straightforward, but hardwood veneer selection is essential to appearance, quality and dependability.

Thicker veneers provide greater flexibility and a longer lifespan, but also carry a higher price tag. You’ll find a wide range of thicknesses available, from 0.6mm (lower quality, shorter lifespan) to 6mm (high quality, lifespan similar to hardwood).

Hardwood veneer comes from the tree, much like solid hardwood. But the veneer can be cut from the log in several different ways, including:

  • Dry Sawn - logs are dried out slowly at low levels of humidity to retain quality and reduce cupping, before veneer is sliced directly from the log
  • Rotary Peel - logs are boiled down for preparation before the outer edge is peeled away using a specialty saw - produces a grain similar to plywood
  • Sliced Peel - logs are boiled down for preparation before veneer is sliced directly from the log (similar to dry sawn)

Cupping and warping occur less with dry sawn hardwood veneers, although this type of processing produces the highest levels of waste and the lowest yields.

Rotary peel veneers tend to be less stable than dry sawn and present an erratic grain. Sliced peel provides mid-range quality, fairly strong grain structure (like dry sawn) with a tendency to warp and cup (like rotary peel).

Veneers also move through the grading process before being adhered to the plywood core. We’ll talk about grading and milling hardwood planks and veneer on the next post, moving further along in the process of how hardwood flooring is made.