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I’m beginning to realize that a lot of people out there don’t know that there are different grades of hardwood flooring!  Each grade has its own particular characteristics and appearance.  Especially pertaining to Oak hardwood flooring, the 3 most commonly used grades are:  Select, #1 Common, and #2 Common, which is also known as “Rustic” grade, or “Builder’s” grade.  The grading scale is a measure of what is known as “Character” markings or natural characteristics, e.g., variation in color from board to board, mineral streaks, presence of knots or worm holes; but they also reference average board length, milling imperfections, and other irregularities.  None of these 3 different grades are better or more durable than the others – the grading is primarily a way to qualify appearance.  Some people prefer the uniformity of Select grade, while others prefer a more rustic look with more character in the floor. Less character markings costs more, because there will be less of a tree that is usable.  Select grade is the most expensive of the three, with #1 being a bit cheaper, and #2 Rustic grade costing considerably less than Select. SELECT grade has very few imperfections or character markings.  Select grade will be almost uniform in color, with very few knots or holes, and longer, similar length boards.  Small, tight knots are permitted only every 3 feet.

#1 Common has more variation in light and dark colors from board to board, knots, holes, and more variation in the length of boards.

#2 Common or Rustic grade is very rustic in appearance, with great variation in color from board to board, visible mineral streaks, prominent, larger-sized knots and worm holes, and lots of shorter boards.

In our opinion, #3 Common, also known as “Tavern” grade or “Utility” grade is not worth purchasing to use for wood flooring, because even though it will be significantly less per square foot, so much of it will be unusable that this negates the lower price.  #3 or Utility grade frequently has dark machine burns, shattered ends, large broken knots, broken pieces, a high percentage of boards 1' or less, etc.  For those who like a floor full of character, we recommend going with a #2 or Rustic grade.

Here are some different grades of Red Oak hardwood floors that we have installed, sanded and finished, all natural without a stain:

And here are some White Oak hardwood floors that we've installed and finished:

Keep in mind that the above pictures are all of natural floors with no stain.  When you intend to apply a stain to the floor, especially a darker stain, the color differences between boards are less noticeable. With a dark stain, the differences between #1 Common and #2 Common will be nearly indiscernible, and you can save a lot of money by going with a more rustic grade of wood!

Here are some different grades of Oak hardwood floors that we have installed, sanded and stained with darker colors:


Can you tell the difference (especially between #1 and #2 Common)?  With a natural floor, the differences in grades of Oak are more noticeable. With a dark stain, much less noticeable.  A hardwood flooring expert can help you achieve your design goals in the most economical way possible -- call us!!