Choosing the right type of hardwood flooring for your home can prove to be a more complicated decision than originally intended. With all of the different types of hardwood available comes different grades of hardwood flooring and each grade has their own characteristics and variations. While one grade may have a more uniform color, another grade may drastically vary in color. Despite our catchy title, no grade is “better” than the another, but there may be a specific grade that is better suited for your project and choosing the wrong one could leave you with an undesirable outcome.
The Different Grades of Hardwood Flooring
When it comes to hardwood flooring, the grading scale isn’t to be taken literally, and no grade is better or more durable than the others. Rather, hardwood grading is simply a measure of average board length, milling imperfections, and character markings or natural markings. Character or natural markings include variation in color from board to board, mineral streaks, and presence of knots or wormholes. Where some people prefer a more rustic look, others may like their hardwood flooring to be more uniform. It all comes down to preference.
So, what are all the different grades of hardwood flooring?
Clear Grade and Select Grade
The fact that these two grades have so very few imperfections or character markings, they are often bundled together. In fact, they are quite similar. Clear Grade and Select Grade are typically thought of as the best grades of hardwood flooring because they display few variations in color, board length, and little to no visible knots or pinholes. However, with Select Grade, you will find that there are subtle diversions in the grain pattern that display some of the wood’s natural character which is why it is slightly more expensive than Clear Grade.
When it comes to Common Grade, there are two types, but the natural wood character is the primary focus. In #1 Common Grade, characteristics like swirls, knots, and streaks are quite visible, though they will be limited in size and prominence. This type of wood will display a more natural, organic look and can easily make your floor the centerpiece of any room. #2 Common Grade is similar to #1, but you will find a larger amount of natural characteristics displayed among the boards, as well as a greater variation in color. #2 is commonly referred to as the ‘Rustic Grade’ because it retains such the organic, natural quality of the wood.
Last, but certainly not least, is Cabin Grade and it looks exactly how you would imagine. In Cabin Grade wood, the imperfections of the wood dominate the face as they display large streaks, deep knots, burls, and wormholes, as well as some marks made during the milling process. You won’t find much consistency among Cabin Grade boards, but they offer a truly rustic look that the other grades simply cannot provide. Cabin Grade is popular in playrooms, workshops, and other areas where the floors might be subject to high foot traffic and potential abuse. Cabin grade boards are substantially cheaper than common and clear/select grade boards.