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Hardwood Flooring Grades

Hardwood Flooring Grades

Hardwood Flooring Grades


This is the best "appearance" floor and is selected for uniformity of light color. There will be slight variation in the natural sapwood color (sticker stain is not considered a defect). Limited small character and pin knots allowed. Mineral streaks of less than 1/8" x 1" (3 x 25mm) and contains no checks or splits.

  • Minimum lengths: 12" (30cm).
  • Potential wastage to consider: 5%

Select or Better

Is a combination of clear and select grades, is the most standard high grade flooring sold on the world market. Excellent appearance with natural variation of the sapwood color with limited character marks (sticker stain is not considered a defect). Sound knots of less than 1/8" x 4" (3 x 100mm). No stains, checks or splits.

  • Minimum length: 12" (30cm).
  • Potential wastage to consider: 5%

#1 Common

Variegated (multicolored, spotted, flecked) appearance, all color variations allowed. Sound knots less than 3/8" (10mm), flags wormholes and mineral streaks allowed. No splits, holes or voids.

  • Minimum length: 10" (25cm).
  • Potential wastage to consider: 5%

#2 Common

Rustic appearance (all noticeable flaws from #1 common included) all color variations and species characteristics allowed. Is a serviceable floor after knot holes, worm holes, checks and splits are removed (in finished product) or removed and/or filled prior to finishing unfinished product.

  • Minimum length: 10" (25cm).
  • Potential wastage to consider: 5%

Tavern Grade

Should lay a serviceable floor. A limited amount of unfilled and unfinished open characters admitted. Finish irregularities such as bubbles, small skips, lines, stain/color variation, surface handling scratches, minor trash and the like are allowed. Not admitted is mis-manufactured planks; shattered or rotten ends; large open knots and other unsound defects of similar nature; pieces with less than 1/4" full tongue.

  • Potential wastage to consider: 10 to 15%

Cabin Grade (A.K.A. Country and Utility)

Cabin Grade flooring is the lowest grade of flooring available on the market today. It may have bubbles, knots, open cracks, splintered edges, partial tongues, unsound & unfilled knots and other imperfections in the wood. That doesn't mean the boards are not made correctly, or are shattered or broken, it just means there may be some imperfections. It's a less refined look because of the higher number of showing imperfections, and thus can give a more rustic look than higher grade hardwood flooring. Cabin-grade engineered flooring may not be much cheaper to install, though, because of the extra work involved in selecting and installing usable planks, and because of the waste involved in cutting out "bad" pieces. A professional floor installer may be able to lay this floor without many of the most obvious imperfections showing by cutting and choosing which boards to install, or where to install them.

  • Potential wastage to consider: 15 to 20% or more.

Terminology and Characteristics for Hardwood


A swirl or twist in the grain of the wood that does not contain a knot, but tends to occur near knots.


Heartwood is mature wood which is often darker, extending from the sapwood to the pith. This wood is found at the center of a tree. Heartwood is more popular in Cherry, Oak and Walnut to get the richer colored portions of these trees.


Lighter colored wood found growing inside the bark of the tree. This is more desired in Ash and Maple to get the lighter colored wood and grain nearing white in color.

Mineral Streaks

Streaks of color ranging from Olive to blackish-brown typically following the grain pattern and are caused by mineral accumulations when sap is traveling through the tree.

Bark Pocket

A bark filled distortion in the grain pattern.


A lengthwise separation of the wood that usually extends across the rings of annual growth and commonly results from stress set up in wood during air drying or kiln-drying. Typically this stress which will cause a check is due to rapid or faulty drying.


Portion of a branch or limb which has been surrounded by subsequent growth of the stem. The appearance of these knots in flooring depends heavily on how the tree is cut, but are circular in shape.

• Small Knot - In hardwood strip flooring not over 1/2" in diameter. • Pin Knot - A knot that is not more than 1/2 inch in diameter. • Sound Knot - A knot cut approximately parallel to its long axis so that the exposed section is definitely elongated. • Unsound Knot – A knot that once formed the base of a branch or twig, that now has a pith or missing center.


The small, soft core occurring near the center of a tree trunk, branch, twig, or log.


A lengthwise separation running parallel to the grain caused during the drying process.


The decomposition or breaking down of wood by fungi.

• Advanced Decay - The older stage of decay in which destruction is readily recognized by soft, pitted, or crumbly areas. Decided discoloration or bleaching of the rotted wood is often apparent. • Incipient Decay - The early stage of decay that has not proceeded far enough to soften or otherwise perceptibly impair the hardness of the wood. It is usually accompanied by a slight discoloration or bleaching of the wood.

Bamboo flooring grades

Grade "A"

Relatively free of markings, considered to be the "cleanest" and most desired quality of bamboo flooring.

• Potential wastage: 5%

Grade "B"

Very subtle flaws in the plank surface but still maintain even coating on plank surface. Grade B bamboo may contain small splits or cracks on the tongues portion of the plank.

• Potential wastage: 7 to 10%

Grade "C"

This would be considered the Utility grade of Bamboo flooring. May have splits or cracks on the plank surface, flaws may or may not be filled prior to coating. Consideration on selective cutting and placement may be best determined by an experienced installer.

• Potential wastage: 15 to 20% or more.