The cut of Reclaimed wood flooring affects its appearance, durability, and dimensional stability.
Moisture absorption and emission cause reclaimed wood to expand and contract. Generally, the most significant dimensional change occurs parallel to the grain (tangentially).
The dimensional change across the grain (radially) is about one-half that of the tangential change, and the change along the grain (longitudinally) is slight.
A cut producing grain perpendicular to the board face minimizes the distance between growth rings on the face and exposes the least amount of the spring growth of the wood (springwood), which is less dense than its summer growth (summerwood). Therefore, a cut producing grain perpendicular to the board face is the most durable cut.
It is also the most dimensionally stable because the maximum shrinkage and swelling occur across the board's thickness rather than across its face width. Plain sawing reclaimed wood timbers and boards produces about 80% of the boards with the grain running across the board face and 20% with the grain running perpendicular. Therefore, if the grain or annular rings run across the width of a board, the board's cut is called plain or flat sawn. When a plain-sawn cut is specified, some boards are usually vertically grained.
Quarter sawing Antique wood beams and boards produces boards that are primarily vertically grained. Therefore, if the grain runs at right angles to the face or across the thickness, the cut of a hardwood board is called quartered or quarter sawn. The cut of a softwood board is called vertical or edge grain. Because quarter sawing lumber produces narrower boards and more waste than plain sawing, saw mills generally cull boards with vertical grain from plain-sawn lumber to provide vertically grained boards and charge more for them.
Source: National Wood Flooring Association Technical Publication A100