Flat Sawn vs. Quarter Sawn Lumber

Before hardwood products ever make it to your deck, house or boat, a decision must first be made on how to cut the lumber. There are three ways that the lumber can be cut: flat sawn, rift sawn, and quater sawn.

Flat Sawn Rift Sawn Quarter Sawn Lumber Illustrations

Flat Sawn  |  Rift Sawn  |  Quarter Sawn

Each method makes a difference in the appearance of the wood grain and its durability. For this article, we’re going to focus on the flat sawn and quarter sawn techniques (since they are more common). Here are the basics of the flat sawn and quarter sawn methods to help you make a decision on which is the best for you.

flat sawn ipe deckingFlat Sawn Ipe Decking

Flat Sawn

This is the most common method, also known as plain sawn. This method has minimal waste and also showcases a “cathedral” look of annual rings. This look is the result of the annular rings being 45 degrees or less to the face of the board (known as tangential grain).

Flat sawn lumber is the most inexpensive option because it is the easiest to obtain. Generally 60-70% of the lumber from a log is flat sawn. The rest is quarter sawn or somewhere in between. This makes flat sawn more widely available and therefore cheaper. Logs can be cut to produce more quarter sawn but the yield from the log is lower and therefore more expensive. 

Overall, the flat sawn boards are popular for a reason — they are easy to come across and are more cost-effective than other cuts. If you’re looking for a solid cut that won’t go over-budget, you can’t go wrong by choosing the flat sawn method.


quarter sawn teak deckingQuarter Sawn Teak Decking

Quarter Sawn

The quarter sawn method is a little bit more costly. However, it’s also more dimensionally stable than the flat sawn boards. Just as the name suggests, quarter sawn lumber is cut into four quarters and then cut using the plain sawn method. The process overall is more time intensive, but it creates a unique pattern that stands out against the plain sawn lumber.

While quarter sawn boards are more expensive, they are going to hold paint better and wear more evenly on the surface. In addition, when it comes to abosorbing moisture, quarter sawn boards expand more in thickness than flat sawn boards. This causes the boards to be more stable than flat sawn boards (which expand more in width when abosrbing moisture).

Quarter sawn lumber is a little harder to find, but it’s worth it if you’re willing to spend a little more money on a more stable board that boasts unique designs.

What should you choose?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a cut for your hardwood. If you’re more concerned about budget and availability, plain sawn lumber will be the best choice. However, if you want a board that will withstand more moisture and has a more interesting design, you will want to consider the quarter sawn lumber. We suggest visiting your nearest hardwood distributor and seeing the boards for yourself before you make a decision.

Have any more questions about flat sawn vs. quarter sawn lumber? Give us a call at 1-800-999-7616.

Posted in Teak, Ipe, Marine, Teak Decking, Hardwood Decking, Siding & Soffits, Millwork, Outdoor Living, Technical Data | Leave a comment

Is Your Hardwood Deck Hurricane Proof?


With the number of hurricanes the coast has faced over the past several months, it leaves many people along the coast wondering if their home is hurricane proof. When it comes to having a hurricane ready deck, you don’t want to take any chances. Choosing Hardwood Decking will no doubt give your project the added strength it needs to face a severe storm, but having a storm-proof deck doesn't end there. Whether you are about to begin the building process or you’ve had your deck for years, here are some ways to make sure that your hardwood deck is ready to face any storm.

Start from the ground up.

If you’re starting the building process, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure the structure is well anchored in the ground. To do this, we suggest using heavier concrete footings. Mushroom footings, as opposed to standard sonotube footings, are a stronger way to anchor your deck. You may also want to use thicker framing for your deck. Heavy concrete footings and thicker framing is a solid place to start when building a hurricane-proof deck.

Bring on the hardware.

Once you have a strong foundation, you’ll want to take extra steps to secure the framing. One common and relatively easy way to do this is with hurricane ties. These metal pieces are often sold at local hardware stores and reduce the chance of any board coming loose or flying away during the high force winds of a hurricane or severe storm. They are inexpensive and we highly recommend installing them if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes or tornadoes.

Keep the water moving.

After you've secured your foundation, it’s imperative that all of your gutters and irrigation is draining properly. Be sure to keep drains and irrigation channels clean and cleared out so that the heavy amount of water can pass through without causing any flooding around your home or deck. In the long term, excessive water and flooding can cause water damage to your deck and home. If your yard does not have a good irrigation system, we recommend contacting a professional about putting one in place.

Protect your deck surface.

If you haven’t already, waterproofing your hardwood deck with a UV Inhibiting sealant is another great way to protect it from the elements of a hurricane or severe storm. It will extend the life of your hardwood decking and help your deck keep its original appearance. If your deck has recently been stained, you don’t need to waterproof your deck as the stain acts as waterproof sealant. If you do decide it's time to apply waterproof sealant, make sure to check the forecast and leave at least 48 hours for it to completely dry.

Remove hazards that surround.

In the short-term before a heavy storm, you’ll always want to clear deck furniture and loose limbs that surround your deck. This eliminates the potential for a branch or deck chair becoming a hazard when the winds pick up. Also, be sure to prune the trees surrounding your deck, home and fence and remove any dead branches.

When it comes to preparing for any storm, it’s always better to be more prepared than necessary. The tips we've shared are a good place to start when looking at your hurricane readiness plan but, as always, you should consider additional precautions as necessary for your deck and home.

What hurricane prep tips would you add?

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How to Protect Your Outdoor Projects From Termites.

Termites can wreak havoc on your home or deck. If not caught quickly enough, they can alter the very foundation of any wood construction project. Thankfully, there are many precautionary measures that you can take to avoid damage done by termites. Here are some of the steps that you can take to protect your home or deck from the threat of infestation.


Eliminate moisture.

Having moisture in your home is bad for many reasons, including termites. Why? Termites need two things: food and water. Since wood is their food, adding a source of water will give them all they need to survive. Be sure that your home or project is properly draining any water and that there are no sources of leaks.

Choose your wood carefully.

While maintaining an environment that keeps termites away is crucial, it’s also a good idea to chose a wood that termites will keep their distance from. Options like pressure-treated wood and hardwood species will act as a deterrent to termites. These types of wood aren’t a 100% guarantee against termites but they will keep them away more than other types of wood. We suggest talking with a member of our team to help you determine the best option for you.

Limit soil contact.

Most termites live and build their colonies underground in the soil. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not giving them the perfect environment to live and breed right next to your house or deck. If you have to use mulch next to your house or project, check your local hardwood store for new rubber mulch options. Rubber mulch can be a great alternative that looks and acts like the real thing but doesn't attract any unwanted guests.

Spray pesticides.

Spraying liquid pesticide to the foundation of new construction sites is a common practice for good reason — it works. There are two types of pesticides you can spray. The first acts as a repellent. The second will kill the termites directly upon exposure. Since you’re working with chemicals, consult a professional to find out what they suggest for your home.

Elevate your structure.

One of the most important precautions to follow in termite prevention is ensuring that your wood structure is elevated above the ground. When it is closer to the ground, subterranean termites have easier access to it. If possible, use concrete to elevate your structure from the ground and eliminate the risk of termites making a meal out of your foundation.

Practice proper maintenance.

Keeping your home and yard maintained can make a big difference when it comes to warding off termites. Those fallen limbs or old 2x4's that have been sitting in your yard for a few months can serve as a breeding ground for termites. In addition, be sure to repair cracks that give termites an easy entryway, and, as mentioned before, fix any leaks.

Having a termite-free home is best done on the front-end of any project by choosing an insect-resistant hardwood. The key is to make the environment less favorable for them to live and to keep it that way with proper maintenance and upkeep.

What helpful advice would you add? Be sure and comment below.

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The Best Decking for Docks

When building a dock, there are many factors to take into consideration: cost, safety, durability, and longevity. In this article we’ll discuss some differences between pressure treated pine, exotic hardwoods, and composite to help you find the best material for your dock.

Pressure-Treated Pine

The only real advantage to using pressure-treated pine on a dock is cost. It’s by far the least expensive option, but as is often the case, you get what you pay for. With proper care and refinishing every two to three years, the dock might last 10-15 years. Splintering, warping, cracking, and rotting is common with pressure-treated Pine, making it unsafe and likely to cause injury, especially on bare feet or with children.

Exotic Hardwoods

Exotic hardwoods cost more than pressure-treated pine, but that cost is recouped on the dock’s life expectancy. A dock crafted from Ipe, Cumaru, Garapa, or Tigerwood, if properly cared for, can last 25-30 years before structural maintenance is required. Not only will a dock made of these wood species last longer than pressure-treated Pine, but it will also stay smooth with a much lower chance of splintering, rotting, and warping. If insurance is a consideration, Ipe is a good choice, as it can receive up to a Class A fire rating. Ipe_Boat_House.jpg

To keep an exotic hardwood looking exactly as it did when it was installed, an UV-blocking oil must be applied every year, or you can choose to allow the wood to age naturally to a silvery-gray patina. This is a purely aesthetic decision, and the quality of the wood will not degrade if it’s allowed to weather naturally. Tigerwood_Texas_Boat_Dock.jpg


A composite material, made from recycled plastic and wood fiber, is also a good option for a dock. It’s pricier than pressure-treated Pine, but is almost maintenance free, won’t splinter, and doesn’t ever need to be refinished. It can, however, take on mildew stains, especially if it’s not swept and washed regularly. Because it’s so heavy, a composite dock will need more joist support than with wood or it will sag. Composite decking also heats up in the sun and can feel uncomfortably hot on bare feet.

While exotic hardwoods and composite decking have clear advantages over pressure-treated Pine, choosing between those two choices simply comes down to personal preference and budget. Choose an exotic hardwood like Ipe, Cumaru, Garapa, Tigerwood, or composite decking for your dock and it will have a long life expectancy, remain safe, and look beautiful for decades. 

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gold medal design for Olympic send off

  Cumaru Deck at Jonathan Beach Club


  When Civic Entertainment needed a set for NBC's Olympic Send Off, MadeFirst of Nashville, Tennessee was the company for the job. Owner, Jonathan Hammel's team, renowned for expert quality and craftsmanship, created a design utilizing the appearance of a deck for a stage placed on the beach in Santa Monica, California. When asked what makes MadeFirst different, Hammel responds, "Its our innovation, attention to detail and dedication to our clients that makes us the right partner for creative endeavors".

 In preparation for Rio Olympics 2016, MadeFirst's design helped kick off NBC's first ever Olympic Social Opening Ceremony hosted by Ryan Seacrest in Santa Monica. The custom stage made of Brazilian Cumaru decking provided by Overseas Hardwoods Company was used to keep the Rio theme. The Cumaru stage provided the exotic Brazilian look with the rich tones of Cumaru contrasting with the sand at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. At first glance one might think they were in Rio

 MadeFirst has an extensive list of projects throughout the US. With exquisite use of wood, metal, foam and/or plastic, this innovative company utilizes state of the art design and equipment to provide clients with breathtaking results. By staying firmly rooted in its philosophy, MadeFirst's will surely continue to achieve a highly acclaimed status and awards for its designs.


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How To Finish A Hardwood Deck

Finishing (applying a protective coating or stain) a hardwood deck is different than a softwood deck, like cedar or treated pine. For instance, hardwoods like Ipe, Cumaru, Tigerwood, and Garapa are much more dense, making it difficult for finishes to penetrate the wood. Even when using the proper UV-inhibiting hardwood oil, the finishing material essentially stays on the surface. Tropical hardwoods age well even without a finish. While the color of the hardwood will change over time the integrity of the hardwood won’t be compromised like softwoods, which can splinter or crack excessively if left unprotected.

Hardwood decking will oxidize when exposed to sunlight, developing a handsome, silver/gray patina. Hardwoods gray from the outside in, so if a project has been unfinished for a longer time, the thicker the gray surface will be. Luckily, if a homeowner tires of the silvery-gray color of aged wood, it is possible to bring back the original color.


Types of Finishes / Coatings

Since the hardwood is essentially impenetrable by typical coatings, a hardwood penetrating oil is recommended. UV rays from the sun are responsible for oxidation on the hardwood's surface, so a UV-inhibiting hardwood oil is best, such as Ipe Oil or Penofin Hardwood Oil. It’s worth reminding that oxidation and UV rays doesn’t damage hardwoods in the short term, but regularly applying a UV-inhibiting oil can increase the life of your project by years. UV-inhibiting oils will also help to maintain the natural color and minimize the graying from the sun.

Required Prepping

Fortunately, prep work is minimal to finish a hardwood deck. If your deck is less than two years old, or if it’s older but has been properly finished in the last couple of years, a simple power washing could do the trick. If that isn’t enough, apply a hardwood deck cleaner and brightener; you can also try some soap and water. It’s essential to apply the oil to a clean, dry surface. One exception is a brand new hardwood deck, which can sometimes have a mill glaze: a compressing of cell walls caused by process of machining the lumber to size. In some cases, you can sand the boards first to remove the glaze or us a prep to open the cells. Consult the manufacturer of the product you as using for best results.

If the deck has had several years of exposure to the sun and has completely grayed, you’ll may need to sand the boards to remove the oxidized surface, then follow the same instructions for finishing.

Finish Application

To stain a cedar or treated pine deck, one applies the stain with a roller or squeegee, letting the stain soak into the boards, then allows the stain to dry. Hardwood finishes, as you may have guessed, require a different application. Since the hardwoods are so dense, even penetrating oils don’t completely penetrate, resulting in a sticky and unsightly surface.

After a good washing, and making sure your deck is dry, apply the hardwood oil with a brush, wait ten to fifteen minutes, and then rub in as much oil as possible and remove any excess oil from the surface. If you’re finishing a large project, work in sections so you don’t have to walk on the finished surface. Depending on the heat and humidity of your location, the surface should be completely dry in a day or two.

Hardwood Maintenance

Maintenance of your deck depends on your location and your desired appearance for your project. If you live in an extremely hot, sunny climate, your deck might require an annual refinishing to maintain the natural color. However, if you live in a more temperate location or the project is partially shaded then your deck may only need to be refinished once every few years. The beauty of choosing a hardwood deck is that when it doesn’t look as new as you’d like, you can simply refinish!

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A Day In The Life Of A Tropical Hardwood Buyer

Gregory Robinson grew up in Mobile, AL, as a part of a family with a long history in lumber, but he never could have predicted that one day he’d spend his days immersed in Brazilian culture, traveling up and down Amazonian tributaries, and conducting business transactions in Portuguese.


When he first began his work as a hardwoods buyer back in 2002, Gregory spent 160 days in Brazil learning the culture. He didn’t speak Portuguese, but quickly realized it was critical to learn it as quickly as possible. He attended an intensive language school for two weeks, and has developed his language skills over the years. Now, Gregory only travels to Brazil a few times a year for inspecting and purchasing of product.

When travelling to Brazil, trips are typically about two weeks. While abroad, Gregory hits the ground running, breakfasting with a business contact at 7am, and ending the day with a 9pm dinner with another supplier. In between he typically visits multiple mills in pursuit of the very best lumber. A trip could consist of four to five cities or towns, and eight to ten mills per town. He’s gone to extreme lengths to reach a town, once hiring a tiny plane to fly him out, or riding on a boat for three to four hours. Gregory has travelled the partially-unpaved Rodovia Transamazônica (Trans-Amazonian Highway), which has no bridges even on the most treacherous sections, once crossed a river in a canoe, and spent the coldest night of his life on a barge with an out-of-control air conditioner.

Besides the sometimes adventurous aspect of his work, Gregory has also built relationships over the years with mill owners and employees, eating meals in their homes. He’s even received help in expanding his Portuguese vocabulary to learn the most effective words for a situation (hint: some of them have four letters).

Gregory has learned that culturally, Brazilians might have the intent to follow through on a business deal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. He estimates that in the first two years on the job, only about 20% of the orders he placed were filled, and came to realize that a transaction isn’t a sure thing until the lumber is on the ship. There have been a few cultural barriers to overcome, but now, he says, these relationships have enabled him to know which mill partners are truthful, legal, and reputable, and which ones need to be avoided.

“It’s critical,” he says, “to build professional and personal relationships and really know our suppliers in order to buy the very best lumber possible. Anyone who doesn’t truly know their suppliers is really rolling the dice.”

While in Brazil, Gregory blends high-tech and low-tech tools. He uses GPS to find remote locations, and WhatsApp (a messaging app) to communicate with suppliers, but he also relies on the common humanity of shared experiences to bridge cultural divides, such as sharing a meal in someone’s home, or showing off family photos. All of these methods and skills ensure that OHC sources the highest quality, most beautiful Brazilian lumber products for their customers.

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Deck Design Trends

Decks have changed greatly over the years, from the dull platforms of the past to the multi-level, highly-personalized extensions of indoor living space. With the addition of pergolas and other shade-giving features, as well as built-in fire pits, decks can now be utilized for most of the year, allowing homeowners to maximize their outdoor space as a part of everyday life.



Here’s a look at some deck trends that have contributed to bringing home life into the outdoors:


Larger Decks

Since 1973 the average home size has increased by more than 1000 square feet. It makes sense that homeowners would also desire an increased deck size. A typical deck in years past might have been 200 square feet, but current average deck square footage is 300-400 square feet. Building larger decks makes room for all of the “extras” that homeowners want, such as pergolas, privacy walls, built-ins, and storage and planters for both beauty and function.



Multi-Level Decks

Typical decks in years past were simple rectangles with rails and stairs. Today’s decks are often multi-storied structures, built to accommodate sloping terrain, maximize a pleasing view, or create different zones for multiple functions. Multi-level decks allow interaction between different zones, connecting people rather than separating, as multi-story decks tend to do. With multi-level decks (compared to single-level or multi-story decks), it’s possible to have a lounge area connected to an outdoor kitchen, or an open viewing area connected to a covered area for protection from the elements.



Two-Toned Wood

Many homeowners today choose to add interest to their deck by selecting two finishes or even two species of wood. It’s becoming more common to combine a lighter-toned wood with a darker-toned wood. This combination has been seen both by pairing built-in furniture in light tones with a deck in darker tones, and also by integrating the different colored boards in the same deck, with, for instance, dark floor decking and light-colored borders or railings.



Hidden Fasteners

Until recently it was fairly standard to see a line of screws on a deck, but thankfully hidden fasteners are gaining traction. Some, like the Pro Plug System, go through the top of the board and have a wooden plug placed on top, and other types, such as Camo Fasteners, are mounted to the side or underneath. Aside from aesthetic concerns, hidden fasteners also provide increased safety and durability. Hidden fasteners won’t stand out from the board after exposure to the elements causes the wood to contract. Less fasteners exposed mean less stubbed toes and a cleaner look.




Lighting has always been important, but homeowners and designers realize now what impact it can have on the look and feel of a deck. Gone are the days of tiki torches roped to the railing; they’ve been replaced by permanent solutions that call attention to special details and highlight the different zones of the deck. Low-voltage lighting can be wired into the deck’s steps, increasing both safety and beauty.

Outdoor Kitchens

When homeowners dream about using their deck, the most frequently pictured scene is one of burgers grilling while family and friends relax nearby. Modern decks take that to a new level by creating an entire outdoor kitchen featuring elements such as cabinets, countertops, a refrigerator, sink, kegerator, and of course, a first-class grill.


These emerging deck trends open up the outdoors to be more than a deck. They enable the deck to be an outdoor living room, outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining room...really almost any indoor area can now be reimagined as an outdoor space!

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Featured Project: New Orleans Ipe Deck

Sometimes the only thing that works to beat the heat on a balmy summer day in New Orleans is to retire to the porch with iced tea in hand.


For one homeowner, David, spending time on the 10-year-old deck wasn’t the ideal situation he hoped it would be. Although his home was lovely and featured a beautiful, refreshing swimming pool, the composite deck left something to be desired. It hadn’t aged well and didn’t have the warm, organic feel of real wood underfoot. He decided to pull up the composite decking and try no-seam vinyl decking instead.

Still unhappy with the look and feel, a fortuitous meeting with OHC President Lee Robinson, Jr, introduced David to Ipe wood. After researching Ipe and considering the humid, tropical climate in New Orleans, David decided to make some changes and re-cap the hand rails with Ipe.

The wood’s natural weather- and rot-resistance would make it a natural choice for the location, and its good looks would elevate the entire backyard and pool area.

As construction began, things looked so great that David placed another order for more wood to completely redo the deck. In fact, he fell so in love with the Ipe (and the customer service he experienced with OHC) that he ended up going back two times to add more lumber! David can now be found drinking his morning cup of coffee on the deck, taking an afternoon dip in the pool, or simply relaxing outside any time of day.

The contrast of the white balusters and posts with the rich, warm tones of the Ipe rail cap and decking plus the landscaping and pool creates a true oasis.

David and his partner entertain frequently and have hosted numerous gatherings in the two months since the deck’s completion, sharing their new deck with friends and family. In fact, David was recently selected by Afar Magazine, an experiential travel publication, to be one of five homes open to the public to show how real New Orleanians live.

The spacious deck and surrounding area ensures the tour guests will be introduced to Southern hospitality with New Orleans’ particular flair.

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Is Ipe Fire Proof?

Ipe, an exotic hardwood from Brazil, is known for its many desirable qualities. It’s dense, durable, naturally resists rot and pests and its beauty is unparalleled.


Some have even claimed it’s fireproof. But is there data to support this claim or is it simply hyperbole?

The most commonly accepted test for flame rating is the Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials, also known as the ASTM E-84.The ASTM E-84 test measures how far and fast flames spread across the surface of the test sample by installing a 20”x25’ sample of the material as the ceiling of a test chamber, and exposing the material to a gas flame. The resulting flame spread rating (FSR) is expressed as a number on a scale where cement board is 0 and red oak is 100. This scale is then divided into three classes (Class A, 0-25 FSR; Class B, 26-75 FSR; and Class C, 76-200 FSR). Generally, inorganic materials such as brick or tile are Class A-rated and most whole wood products are Class B or C.  

Several years ago other lumber suppliers tested Ipe under the ASTM E-84 test. At the time, the metrics used to test fire spread were far less stringent than they are today, and Ipe was given a Class A rating, the same rating given to both concrete and steel. Is it conceivable that a wood product could have the same fire spread rating as concrete and steel? In a word: no. With today’s stricter metrics, Ipe is generally given no more than a class B rating. In order to receive a Class A rating each bundle of lumber would have to be tested, which is costly and inefficient.

However, Ipe is the wood with the best flame spread resistance, better than any other decking option.

Reinforcing this claim, in 2007 the United States Forest Products Laboratory released a report entitled “Cone Calorimeter Tests of Wood-Based Decking Materials” which show that the density of untreated Ipe outperforms other traditional decking materials such as pine, cedar, and redwood. It’s a superb choice for deck building anywhere, but particularly in a wildfire sensitive area. Additionally, it’s also often used for rooftop decking in densely packed urban areas as a measure of fire protection.

In summary, although it can not support claims to be fireproof, Ipe does provide a greater flame spread resistance than other decking options.

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