What Are the Grades of Hardwood Flooring?

When trying to pick out the perfect hardwood flooring for your new project, you certainly won’t be lacking in choices to make. Oak or pine? A clean and modern look, or a rustic style? Color, width of plank, type of wood, these are all usually things at the forefront of someone’s mind when starting a new flooring project. But did you know you can also choose between multiple grades of hardwood flooring? 

Every grade of hardwood will have its own unique appearance and characteristics that may be exactly what you want – or don’t want – for your hardwood floor installation project. So let’s take a closer look at each unique grade of hardwood flooring to help you choose the perfect grade of hardwood floor for your space. 


What Are the 3 Grades of Hardwood Flooring?

When talking about oak hardwood flooring, the three most commonly used grades are:

  • Select
  • #1 Common
  • #2 Common (also known as “Rustic” grade, or “Builder’s” grade)

This grading scale works as a measure of what you might think of as the “character” of a flooring material. That is, natural characteristics that make a certain type of flooring unique. This could include things like:

  • Mineral streaks
  • Presence of knots or holes
  • Variation in color from board to board
  • Board length
  • Milling imperfections
  • Irregularities in the wood


What Is the Best Grade of Oak Flooring?

None of these three grades are “better” than the other. They are all equally durable and equally suitable for use for a variety of flooring needs. The grading is primarily just a way to qualify the appearance of a type of hardwood flooring. 

So which is the best grade of hardwood flooring for you? Well, some people prefer the uniformity of “Select” grade hardwood. Others may prefer a rustic hardwood floor, opting for #2 Common. For those in between, #1 Common is the top choice for a little added character without too much of a rustic look. 


What Grade of Hardwood Flooring Is the Most Expensive?

Less character markings will cost more, simply because more of the tree will be unusable if you are getting rid of all the knots and irregularities. So “Select” grade flooring will be the most expensive out of the three, with #1 being slightly cheaper and #2 “Rustic” or “Builder” grade costing much less than select. 

Select grade costs more because it’s almost entirely uniform in color, with very few or no knots or holes, and long boards that are all very similar in length. In select grade boards, only small, tight knots are permitted, and even those are only permitted to occur every three feet. 


What About #3 Grade Hardwood Flooring?

#3 Grade floors are probably what you might expect after learning about select, #1 and #2 grade flooring. #3 Grade hardwood flooring has very noticeable color variations and distinctive, prominent character traits. Think lots of knots, open checks, and worm holes throughout the boards, with uneven lengths from board to board.

#3 Grade hardwood floors are also referred to as “Tavern” grade or “Utility” grade. They do cost significantly less per square foot of material, but unfortunately, much of it is often unusable. This could be due to shattered ends, large broken knots, broken flooring pieces, or dark machine burns. These unusable pieces can often negate the lower price. So for a rustic type of floor, we typically recommend a #2 grade, which has a higher percentage of usable boards that are still full of character. 


Color Variations in #1 and #2 Grade Hardwood Flooring

While some color variation in your hardwood floor might be what you are looking for in a floor, keep in mind that you can always apply a stain to your flooring to even out the color if desired. Especially if you use a darker color of stain, the color difference between your boards may end up almost completely indiscernible. So if color variation is your only reason for upgrading to a select grade hardwood floor, you can save a lot of money by getting a #1 or even #2 grade and using a dark stain to even out your color. 

No matter what style of flooring you’re looking for, the hardwood floor experts at Artisan Wood Floors can meet with you to achieve your design goals and install the perfect hardwood flooring grade for your unique project. Contact us today, or call (215) 515-7355 and ask for Steve.


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