Flooring Grades

The hardwood flooring grades listed below are determined solely on its appearance and does not imply and lesser degree of quality. These are the National Wood Flooring Association’s (NWFA) grading descriptions for most North American domestic species.

Red Oak and White Oak Flooring Grades:

NOFMA_Clear_Red_Oak NOFMA_Select_Red_Oak NOFMA_1_Common_Red_Oak_selected NOFMA_2_Common_Red_oak_Flooring

Clear Oak - This grade will be mostly uniform containing majority of heartwood and very limited character markings. Allows for the following: 3/8” sapwood streak on entire length of board or equal to if not exceeding 1” for 1/3 length of board. Fine pin worm holes and small burls with possible like character such as small tight checks. In the absence of these one thin brown streak 3” long is allowed every 6’. Average length is 3 1/2’.

Select Oak - This grade will exhibit some color differences because of the heartwood and sapwood content. Other characteristics allowed in this grade are: small tight knot every 3’, pin worm holes, slight milling imperfections, unlimited sapwood, limited open checks and burls. Brown streaks not to extend entire length of board. Every 8’ 2 flag worm holes are permitted. Slight face imperfections, such as torn grain, admitted. Possible random machine burns not to exceed 1/4” in width. Spot filling will be required for any open character. Average length is 3 1/4’.

# 1 Common Oak - This grade will exhibit a prominent range of color variations and various characters. Fillable character such as knot holes are permitted. No more than 20" scant stock in thickness allowed every 5'. Minor machine imperfections are allowed. Sticker stain admitted and other characteristics like: worm holes and machine burns not to exceed 1/2” wide or 1/64” deep. These are not admitted: larger grub worm holes, broken knots in excess of 1/2” diameter or split boards extending through the piece. Average length is 2 3/4’.

# 2 Common Oak - This grade will have natural color variations and manufacturing imperfections. Suitable for homes and areas of utility use where contrasting color variations are acceptable. Open character that is fillable is permitted, such as knot or worm holes. A limited amount of boards with missing tongues are permitted that can be face nailed. These characteristics are not allowed: large open knots, shake, excessive rot, shattered ends and similar unsound defects. Average length is 1 1/4’ or longer. 

Other Domestic Hardwood Flooring Grades:

This is to provide a general description of grades for popular domestic species such as Walnut, Hickory, Maple, Ash, and American Cherry. Please view actual products for a more detailed product description. These are to give an overall idea of the grade and not intended to be a complete list or characteristics. Grading can vary by species and manufacturer. Please contact us at 866-449-0444 for more information.

Select Grade - will overall have more consistent color and grain variations with the exception of Maple and Hickory that can show clean heart and sap wood colors. Walnut will have a majority of heartwood with some sap content. This grade will be most or completely free of knots and mineral streaks.

#1 Common Grade - allows for a higher degree of color variation than higher grades. Will contain a limited amount of sound character markings.

#2 Common Grade - will display all of the natural color variations the species is known for. Also has a lot of knots, of which some will require to be filled. Expect a shorter average board length with this grade. With Hickory there is the possibility of the flooring having “blue stain”. This is a natural fungus that grows on the lumber and can have the appearance of water spots on the flooring, not considered a defect.

Character Grade - this is basically a mix of mostly #1 Common and some #2 Common to give the floor a real hardwood floor look without being too rustic. 

Exotic Flooring Grades

Exotic species use a different grading scale than our North American domestic species. Below is an overall general description of the grades and please see the actual product page for a more details on the species.

Clear Grade - is the highest grade of exotic hardwood flooring. Depending on the species, exotic hardwoods are not usually known to be uniform in color but clear grade will provide the most overall consistent color and grain than other grades. This grade will have little to no natural imperfections and contains the longest average lengths compared to other grades. Exotic hardwoods are well known for their rich color variations and desired for that reason. With any grade of exotic flooring you choose there will be some color variation present, although clear grade will have a lesser degree. Color variation is not considered a defect. 

Select Grade - overall this grade will be closely related to clear grade but will contain a higher degree of color variation. This is not considered a defect but rather a desired characteristic of the flooring.

Common Grade - will be sorted out for having an even wider amount of color variation than higher grades. This grade can also contain a percentage of sapwood and sound knots. Possible other characteristics would be some minor natural defects and a shorter average board length.

Installation Considerations:

It is advised to take into consideration the different types, species and grades available when making your flooring purchase. There are some wood floors that are not best suited for certain areas depending on your climate or environmental factors. It is advised to seek the guidance of your installer when unsure of your decision. Proper moisture content levels of the wood floor and subfloors must be meet to ensure the longevity of your flooring. Solid hardwood can become unstable when the building is not properly maintained. Engineered can be a better option for customers that have concerns about the stability of solid hardwood in their home. Solid hardwood is not advised to be installed below ground level or directly on concrete. If properly done, solid wood can be installed on concrete with the addition of a plywood subfloor. Please make sure your buying decision is an educated one. Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions.