How well do you know your floor? Or how well do you know the floor you’d love to have?

When you’re in the market for a new floor, and you’ve read up on it and gathered all the pertinent details, those details—not to mention the plethora of flooring choices—can be daunting.

Aware of that potential information overload, our CEO Sam Cobb decided a decade ago to make it easy for consumers, whether homeowners or office builders, to understand where flooring comes from to aid in a wise flooring purchase.

So what did he do?

Ever the visual guy, Sam came up with . . . Plankology. Plankology is a no-nonsense guide, a set of visuals, to explain the manufacturing process of solid wood floors and engineered flooring in simple terms.

The basic process of creating engineered flooring.

An illustrated version of Plankology, showing the manufacturing steps from log to flooring.

A log gets cut into rough lumber. That rough lumber gets turned into a lumber blank (dimensional lumber at a certain size). That blank gets cut further into veneers. Those veneers are affixed to a piece of plywood to create a flooring blank. That flooring blank is cut to make tongues and grooves; the surface is finished, and voilà, you have a prefinished engineered floor.

We use four techniques. Which one is right for you?

Solid Wood Flooring

The above visual highlights the process for engineered flooring. Many of our customers are interested in solid wood. That process is achieved by skipping a couple of steps in the diagram. Solid wood flooring starts with the log, gets cut into a rough lumber piece, then into a lumber blank, and that lumber blank gets a tongue and groove, and then finish is applied, or left as unfinished.

We love our solid wood flooring and select the finest quality hardwoods to create beautiful and long-lasting floor options for our customers. Yet, we also understand some folks would rather have the ease and quality of an engineered floor.

These Plankology examples showcase the three veneer types we use with our engineered floors.

Sawn Veneer

As mentioned above, a log is cut into rough lumber, then a lumber blank is re-sawn into a veneer and affixed to plywood, and lastly gets a tongue and groove before it is finished.

The sawn veneer creates a beautiful floor. When cut, the growth rings of the original tree form myriad patterns where the rings intersect with the grain of the oak or maple. These looks can be stunning—particularly the horizontal and vertical features such as cathedral grain where the arches in the wood resemble Gothic church facades.

Left: Oak blanks being cut. Right: Oak veneers being cut from a blank.

The sawn veneer technique is higher in cost than the others because of the multiple cuts and the sawdust waste. But it’s not as expensive as a traditional solid wood floor. Yet the lumber is cut the same way, and the sawn veneer achieves the same look as a solid wood floor.

As well, a solid piece of flooring is 3/4-inch thick, with the usable part only the top 1/4 inch. With a sawn veneer, we use that top 1/4 inch (just as we would with a solid wood floor), and it can be refinished multiple times, creating a lifetime floor. You get the same look, investment quality, and longevity as solid wood.

Our floor collections Vintage Loft, Tasmania, Steadfast and Silvian are each made using sawn-cut veneers.

Rotary Veneer

While the sawn veneer rests at one extreme, with many cuts and a slow progression, the rotary veneer rests at the other as it skips the intermediate process and goes from the log straight to the veneer.

The rotary veneer technique is much like pulling a paper towel off of a paper towel roll.

We take a log, soak it, and heat the water up to 80 degrees Celsius. Once the lumber is fully saturated in water, then we put it on a lathe, use a knife blade and peel the wood off like one might peel an apple.

While the sawn veneer has a low yield, the rotary peel has a very high yield since it wasn’t cut into lumber and there’s no sawdust waste. By using a high percentage of raw material, it’s a simpler process, more environment-friendly, and the cost of this type of flooring is lower.

Admittedly, the look of the rotary is very different from the sawn veneer because it lacks the cross-sections of the wood’s growth patterns. With this technique, we essentially chase the growth rings around the log. The rotary peel may not be considered as naturally beautiful as the sawn veneer, but certain woods when rotary peeled look better than others. Birch and hickory are great choices and allow people to get an attractive floor at an excellent price point.

Our Ponderosa collection is made with rotary-cut veneer.

Sliced Veneer

A middle point, if you will, between sawn and rotary, is sliced veneer.

With this technique, the log is cut into a flitch (a square piece) and soaked at 80 degrees Celsius. It is then sliced into a veneer, gets laminated to plywood to create the flooring blank, and then receives the tongue and groove, and lastly the finish.

We achieve a beautiful look from all these grain patterns but a high yield because of, similar to rotary, the lack of sawdust waste. It is an elegant solution to attain the integrity of a solid wood floor look.

As well, you get increased stability. The sliced veneer creates a more stable environment than a solid wood floor. Changes in humidity won’t affect it. We like it so much that our 1875 Collection is named thus because of this technology that was perfected outside of London in the late 1800s.

Our floor collections Saltbox, Longhouse Plank, Eighteen Seventy-Five, and Brick&Board are each made using sliced veneers.

Here’s a pop quiz to test how you think these veneers should look. Can you tell which samples are made with the 3 veneer types, or is a solid floor?

Each of them are prefinished and have some coloring added. Answers are listed at the end.

The More You Know

Plankology was created as a tool to help educate people in a visual way about how floors are made. It’s our goal for our customers to be as educated as they want to be about flooring before they make a purchasing decision. If you’d like to learn more about these processes, we’d love to talk with you about it. Contact us today via our website or by phone, 877.215.1831.

Answers: Panel A = Sliced, Panel B = Rotary, Panel C = Solid, Panel D = Sawn