What goes into a hardwood floor?

A hardwood floor is an investment that can last for generations. It's a big decision, and a lot of factors go into it! We are here to help you understand what those factors are so that you can make an informed decision and be happy with your floor for decades to come.


The biggest determining factor in the final appearance of you floor is what species of wood you choose. Species of wood differ in color, appearance, grain, hardness, etc. To learn more about different species, click here.

Four Dimensions to Consider

Square Footage

This one is pretty straightforward: how much wood do you need? Multiply the length and width for each room and add them all together. When we install, we add on an additional 10% to make sure there is enough wood.


We typically sell wood as random length, which is the least wasteful and most cost-effective route. You do have a few options: we sell standard 7' nested bundles which have boards ranging from 1'-7' long. These are easy to carry if that is important to you. We also sell ten foot bundles, and you can choose if you want a minimum length, of 1, 2, 3 feet, etc.


How wide is your board? You have a lot of options here, and we mill wood from 1-1/2" to 12". A couple things to think about here when you plan your floor: do you want one width, or multiple? An additional thing to keep in mind is that wood 6" and wider will need to be glued down.


Standard thickness of our boards is 3/4": it is solid and generates the least waste. However, if you are trying to match an existing floor of a different thickness, we could do 1/2", 3/8", etc.



Character grade flooring is highly variable in color and can have natural imperfections. The flooring is sound and usable.


1Common wood has varying color and also has imperfections. These imperfections cannot exceed a certain size. The boards must be sound and not have large worm holes or cracks.


Select hardwood contains both heartwood and sapwood and may have a few minor imperfections such as knots, but these must be limited in size and concentration.


Clear hardwood is predominantly heartwood, and lacks knots or other marks that would discolor the wood. Natural variation of color within the heartwood is normal.

Choosing an Edge

Square Edge

Our default boards result in a smooth floor with no gapping between the boards. The tops of the boards fit tightly together.

Standard Bevel

Our standard bevel is cut at a 45 degree angle starting 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the board. When boards are put together, this results in a 1/4 inch groove.


The microbevel is half of a standard bevel, resulting in a groove 1/8th of an inch wide. All prefinished floors from the Hardwood Mall have a microbevel.

Plain Sawn

The Grain

Plain sawn oak has a distinctive "cathedral grain" characterized by arches that abosrob pigment creating a distinctive contrast.

The Cut

Boards are cut so that the growth rings are roughly parallel to the surface of the board. The process is the least labor intensive way to cut the log and generates minimal waste.

The Floor

Plain sawn oak is a classic option with beautiful contrasts between the grain and the rest of the board

Rift Sawn

The Grain

Rift sawn lumber has a tight, straight grain that absorbs pigment but does not generate the contrast or pattern of plain sawn lumber.

The Cut

Rift sawn lumber is cut so that the annual growth rings are between 30 and 60 degrees from the face of the board.

The Floor

Rift sawn lumber is usually mixed with quarter sawn for a floor. However, a pure rift floor like the one above would not be as busy as a plain sawn floor with the primary contrast being in the natural variation of the heart or sap wood.

Quarter Sawn

The Grain

Quarter Sawn oak has a tight straight grain like rift sawn, but also has distinctive flake that creates a light contrast against the rest of the board.

The Cut

Quarter Sawn boards are cut so that the growth rings are at a 60-90 degree angle from the surface of the board. The Boards are cut through the medullary rays of the tree, which produces the flake on the wood.

The Floor

Quarter sawn lumber is typically mixed with rift, but the resulting floor creates beautiful contrast that has a more modern feel than a plain sawn floor.

Live Sawn

The Grain

Live sawn oak combines elements of plain, rift, and quarter. A single board may have cathedral grains, tight straight grains, and flake.

The Cut

A live sawn board is cut through across the log and contains both heart and sap wood. As a result, growth rings will occur at all angles relative to the surface of the board.

The Floor

A livesawn floor is visually interesting and encompasses all possible appearances of oak. It is less uniform than a plain sawn or a rift and quartered floor, but it combines the strengths of all of them in a single, beautiful floor.

Solid vs Engineered

Our solid hardwood floors are typically 3/4" thick and are incredibly durable. Well cared for, they will last for generations. As a natural product, there are expansion and contraction cycles with changes in temperature and humidity that occur.

An engineered floor has a real hardwood wear layer glued on top of a control layer (i.e., plywood). Ideally, the wear layer accounts for one third of the thickness of the board.

Engineered or solid?

An engineered floor provides the stability of a solid hardwood floor, and has a real hardwod surface. It is often spec'ed by Designers and Architects in basements and other Below Grade Hardwood Installs.

A high quality engineered floor should also minimize cupping of the board. A downside of engineered hardwood flooring that may occur in lower quality engineered floors is the risk of delamination, i.e., the wear layer disconnecting from the control layer.

Quality in engineering

Not all engineered flooring is created equal. Some engineered floors have a much thicker ware layer than others, and have more wear layer relative to the control layer.

We source high quality engineered flooring where the wear layer is a quarter inch thick and accounts for one third of the total thickness of the board.