Types of Grades of Hardwood Flooring

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Al Talks About Grades. Appearance

Here at Al Havner and Sons the bulk of our installations are solid flooring, whether it be unfinished wood installed then sanded and finished on site, or one of the more popular prefinished woods that won't inconvenience the family, because once we install it, you're ready to move in.

There are several different grades of flooring and every species has several different grades as well. I'm going to use oak as an example because it is the most popular.

Clear Grades

Clear is mostly used by furniture companies. A grading of clear simply means the wood will be very clean, void of any mineral streaks, knots, worm holes, etc and usually has very long lengths. Clear to me is very boring. Too boring for me, but it may be up your alley. If so, just remember it's going to be an expensive alley. If you're into the elegant look and want to one up all your neighbors, clear is worth paying extra for.

Select & Better Grades

Select and better can be confused with clear. The grading folks may slip in a few very tiny closed knots or some minor mineral streaks, but it's far too much like the clear grade to me. Sorry folks, but this one is also a very boring floor in my eyes. On the plus side, it does have good longer lengths just like the clear grades. It has also been the most popular grade in new high end construction homes for many years, if appearances and what others do is important to you.

Select Grades

Select grades is where you start getting a better price point and we shift from boring to not so boring. A few more closed knots and mineral streaks. Although you still get some long lengths with select, this is where you start getting a lot more short boards in the mix. In our area, select is frequently used in the more affordable new home construction market. Select was also the most often used grade used in older homes.

Number #1 Common Grade

This is the beginning of very interesting; more closed knots and way more mineral streaking. This grade is being used a lot more in new home construction thanks to the recession and builders looking for way to produce a great looking floor at a much cheaper price. The flooring manufacturers caught on to this and have since lessened the price gap between select and number 1. The look is totally awesome when finished natural, but when stained, a lot of the goodies will disappear or become hidden.

Number #2 Common Grade

When using number 2 common the first thing you should know is you will need to order at least 15% extra wood for culling out boards that just won't work for one reason or another. This grade of wood is my personal favorite in many species. Oak, maple, and hickory all look awesome in this lesser grade. Just because it is graded as a lesser grade means nothing on how the floor will perform.

Number 2 is just as tough a floor as a select grade. What you're going to see in number 2 is a wealth of character. Everything from small tight knots, to large open knots that can be either cut out or filled with a black or a clear two part epoxy.

Some of the most beautiful woods in the world are usually described as being figured. This grade will have its share of figured wood, mineral streaks, and wormholes. I have seen throughout the years some really crazy colors in the lesser grades that include pinks, green, even blues and reds.

Number #3 Common Grade

This grade has so many names I'm not even sure what it's really called, I call it fire wood or expensive kindling. Others call it number 3 common, tavern grade, cabin grade, rustic, or waste management grade. This grade of wood is usually snapped up real cheap by the larger wood flooring liquidators and sold to unsuspecting do it yourselfers. If you have the time and patience this truly makes a killer floor. You will need to order at least 20 to 25% extra wood for all the kindling you will cull out of it. You'll also be dealing with a large number of short pieces.