Logs after they are milled for hardwood flooring are graded on their appearance. The more uniform the appearance of the wood the higher grade it will receive. Prefinished and unfinished woods are both graded but the manufacturer does give them different names.The clear grade is the highest grade available. Clear grade has the most uniformity in color within the species and has the longest board lengths of up to 7 feet. The lowest grade is called shorts, cabin or tavern grades and had a great deal of color variations and the board lengths are from 8-34 inches long. Some wood species have different grading rules like Maple. Not all manufacturers use the same guidelines but many belong to the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association of NOFMA.
Common Grading Names
- Clear Grade is the best hardwood flooring grade and has virtually no blemishes or knots and the most uniform color, lengths and are longer.
- Select and better is the next best wood flooring grade and has longer lengths, a very uniform color and virtually no knots or blemishes.
- #1 Common is the third grading category and the boards begin to show more natural character in the boards including lighter and darker boards, have pinholes and knots, and the boards are on average shorter.
- #2 Common or rustic grade features a lot of character includes darker and lighter boards, checks, and larger knots allowed. The board lengths are also shorter.
- Utility grade or shorts include a lot of character with light and dark boards, the boards are very short averaging 16″ and the knots and pinholes are very evident.
- Clear grade is also the best grade in prefinished flooring. Clear grade has nearly uniform color, longer length boards and blemishes and knots are virtually non existent.
- Select and Better is the second grade of flooring and offers longer lengths, offers uniform color and has nearly no knots and blemishes.
- Select of Exclusive Grades is similar to #1 common grade wood and has some natural character in the boards. The boards have lighter and darker boards, some shorter lengths, as well as tiny knots and infrequent small pinholes.
- Traditional, Character or Antique Grades- Boards in this category have a lot of natural character including lighter and darker boards, shorter board lengths, tiny knots and infrequent small pinholes possible.
- Tavern or Cabin Grade grade is the lower cost hardwood flooring shows a lot of character and the boards are much shorter, averaging approximately 24″ on average. Pinholes and knots are very evident in this grade.