When it comes to hardwood flooring, the term “grading” is sure to come up. Grading refers to the system used by manufacturers to assess the appearance of hardwood floors. This is an important concept to make sure you are both getting the flooring product you want, and comparing competitive estimate to ensure the same quality standards.
NOFMA: The Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association grades emphasize color, grain pattern and other markings that occur in wood. Color is determined by what part of the tree the wood comes from, and the grain pattern is determined by species and how the wood is cut.
Heartwood, the oldest, densest, innermost section of the log, is often darker and richer in color than sapwood, which lies closest to the bark. The color difference may be so pronounced that heartwood and sapwood from the same species are marketed under separate names. Click here to understand the difference in grades of hardwoods.
Boards can be cut from a hardwood log in several directions: tangent to the annual rings (plain-sawn or flat-sawn), or radially, across the rings (quarter-sawn and rift-sawn).
Arched or flame-shaped markings, evident in bold-grained hardwoods such as oak, characterize plain-sawn wood, while rift-sawn and quarter-sawn or “quartered” boards show a pattern of roughly parallel lines. Both have advantages depending on application and species.
If your choice is unfinished oak or ash, you will have four grades to choose from:
- Clear is free of defects though it may have minor imperfections.
- Select is almost clear, but contains more natural characteristics such as knots and color variations.
- No. 1 Common have more markings than either clear or select and are often chosen because of these natural features and the character they bring to a room. Number 1 Common has a variegated appearance, light and dark colors, knots, flags and worm holes.
- No. 2 Common have more markings than either clear or select and are often chosen because of these natural features and the character they bring to a room.Number 2 common is rustic in appearance and allow all wood characteristics of the species.
Clear and select grades are further identified by sawing direction:
- Clear Plain
- Clear Quartered
- Select Plain
- Select Quartered
- Factory finished
Here are the grading standards for pre-finished oak flooring:
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