Wood Grain 101

When you walk into a room with wood floors and look down, what’s the first thing you’re probably going to notice? 

If you said “the grain,” you’re right! If you didn’t, well, that’s not the answer we are looking for right now, but it’s probably still a really good answer. 

As you may suspect, the grain of wood varies from species to species. Heart pine can have very prominent grain while poplar is less noticeable.

 Plainsawn White Pine

Plainsawn White Pine

 Vertical Grain Heart Pine

Vertical Grain Heart Pine

Not all grain is created equal. A wood’s grain is the arrangement of wood-cell fibers and are placed in a longitudinal direction. If you’ve ever been out west to see the giant red woods, it’s easy to see that a tree’s grain comes from the growth of the tree. 

There are six types of woodgrain:

  • Straight grain – Straight lines running parallel to the vertical axis. 
  • Irregular grain – varying and irregular lines parallel to the axis that can avoid things like knots
  • Diagonal grain – happens when a straight grained log is not sawed along the vertical axis
  • Spiral grain – occurs when a tree did not grow straight up and the grain follows a spiral course
  • Interlocked grain – where trees in which each growth layer align in opposite direction 
  • Wavy grain – lines that constantly change direction

 You may be thinking, “all this info is great, but what does it have to do with flooring?”

It all comes down to how the wood was milled. Depending on the angle the tree was cut, your grain pattern may change which will determine how the finished product will look. Wood flooring is either plainsawn, quartersawn, riftsawn or livesawn. The NWFA has a great visual aid to showcase each cut. 

So next time you visit our showroom and take a look at our flooring, keep this in mind as you’ll see varying grain patterns with each flooring line.