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Oak Flooring

Oak flooring has been the single most popular hardwood floor selection for several decades now. There is perhaps no other hardwood that is more versatile, and blends into more interior design schemes than oak. Plain Sawn (flat sawn) oak will show a very open and casual grain pattern (sometimes referred to as a cathedral grain pattern), and fit perfectly into a casual, or country style setting. Quartersawn oak flooring, however, offers a tight, vertical grain pattern, and shows off the beautiful medullary rays, which are the unigue, almost iridescent ribbons and fleck that complement the grain throughout a quartersawn product.

Quarter Sawn White Oak Hardwood - Character Grade
Quarter Sawn White Oak – This is engineered hardwood that was installed unfinished, then lightly sanded and finished on-site with Bona Traffic – Satin water-borne finish

Here at we get very excited about quarter sawn oak flooring, especially quarter sawn white oak flooring, and while we will soon be offering our blog followers a full, comprehensive blog post dedicated entirely to quartered oak flooring, and indeed all kinds of quarter sawn hardwood flooring, including quarter sawn walnut flooring and even quartersawn cherry flooring, for now we must stay on topic.

If you don’t mind, we can’t continue with this post without making mention of one of our favorite oak flooring choices… Rift oak flooring. Whether it is rift white oak flooring, or rift red oak flooring, the same concept applies. The most formal type of oak flooring available is rift oak flooring. The grain pattern of a rift oak hardwood is straight and vertical, with such tight, consistent lines that you might wonder how it came from the same tree as the all-so-familiar plain sawn oak floor. Often, both quarter sawn, and rift sawn oak flooring are mixed together and sold as Rift & Quartered Oak flooring, which from a manufacturer’s perspective makes perfect sense, considering that rift hardwood is a by-product of the quarter-sawing process. This also makes sense from a consumer’s point of view, because the combination of both rift and quartered oak is quite lovely to look at, and the two compliment each other perfectly. Just don’t be fooled into thinking that the two cannot be separated, when in fact, a rift only oak floor, or a quartered only oak floor is most certainly available when one or the other is desired for a certain application.

Allow me to get back on the subject (after all, we’re in the middle of a wood crisis here!) For the past several decades, homeowners and contractors both have enjoyed low prices and consistent availability of red oak flooring and white oak flooring in a wide assortment of colors, textures, finishes, and sizes. Typically, there has been an oak hardwood floor available for nearly any application. Today we have engineered oak flooring for applications on grade level, above grade level, and even below grade level (often used in basements), and wonderful for use over in-floor radiant heating systems. We of course have traditional solid hardwood flooring, suitable for installation on or above grade level. And last, but not least, we have quarter sawn and/or rift oak flooring, available in both solid and engineered construction, for installation in nearly any interior application. In fact, even solid quarter sawn oak flooring can be installed over in-floor radiant heating systems.

But what if you called your local hardwood flooring store, or your favorite online hardwood flooring dealer, and much to your surprise, the unfinished solid oak flooring you once enjoyed for $3.49 sf from your local store was now as high as $5.00 sf or more, and while the same product was recently $1.99 sf online, is now $2.99 sf. And as if that news wasn’t bad enough, what if the floor of your choice was out of stock, and backordered 6 to 8 weeks, or even longer?

That’s exactly what is happening right now all over the country, as supplies are scarce, and in many cases non-existent, prices are rising rapidly. So I guess now you want an explanation…

With a little bit of sarcasm, I’ll say that “perhaps” you’ve heard a little bit about the economy lately. Something about the economy being bad, right? Well, it took a little while, but eventually this bad economy that caused oak flooring prices to get so low (which is what is expected to happen in such times), seems to now be causing those oak flooring prices to go up. But how is that possible?

Let’s take a look at the oak hardwood supply chain for our answer…

In order for an oak hardwood floor to be made, a logging crew first has to harvest the timbers for the raw materials. But what happens when the loggers cost to go out and get the logs is more than they can get paid in return for those logs. What if harvesting and selling oak lumber to an oak flooring mill actually results in losing money? When the market gets to that point, the loggers simply stop logging oak timbers.

With less raw material coming in, and a surprisingly steady flow of oak flooring going out, inventory becomes scarce. At that point, flooring mills take the opportunity to increase prices due to a new, improved ratio of supply and demand. (In all fairness to the flooring mills, I have been personally told by several major players in the industry, that for the past year and half or longer, they have actually been losing money on solid strip oak flooring.)

The above is just our interpretation of the current facts, but here’s the good news. Oak lumber, like all commodities, has ever changing price trends. If you want an oak hardwood floor, and need it now, then expect to pay a little more for it than you would have this time last year, and also expect to wait at least a few weeks for it. At the end of the day, oak hardwood flooring is still the most versatile, affordable hardwood flooring available, and we don’t see that trend changing any time in the near future.

If you are perhaps wanting a substitute for oak flooring that may be less costly at this time, perhaps Ash flooring might do the trick. Ash hardwood displays a very similar grain to oak, and while naturally has more yellow tones, Ash flooring can be stained nearly any color you like, and is available online in our store at wholesale prices. While ash hardwood flooring is beautiful, and attractively priced, it too has it’s fare share of availability issues. Ash hardwood can blame it’s inventory shortages on the emerald ash borer, a wood boring beetle, which is not indigenous of the US, but has managed to destroy literally billions of ash trees in North America.

We leave you with this comment from a giant in the world of design, Bernard Wharton, who said “Oak is the greatest… it has a pronounced grain and can be stained any color you want. And using oak is traditional, not trendy – like owning a pair of gray flannels.”

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