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What’s the Deal With Hardwood Flooring Grades?

Hardwood flooring is standardized as well as it can be; however, there will always be variations because hardwood is a natural product. Commercially-grown hardwood is fed with ideal amounts of wood and fertilizers to make the wood grow as quickly and as healthy as possible. There are things that can’t be controlled, though; rainfall is a good example,. For naturally-sourced trees, they’ve been growing where they are for decades or even centuries. They’ve experience different minerals, rainfalls, and many other factors that have led to the trees growing differently. In fact, an oak tree might produce a different quality of wood than a tree right next to it. To account for these differences, hardwoods are graded. The grades are typically clear, select, #1 common, #2 common, and cabin grade.

What Do They Mean?

The grades of hardwood flooring indicate the color, grain, uniformity, and processing of the hardwood planks. Every grade of hardwood flooring should be functional. The only exception might be the cabin grade hardwood; it’s a less standardized grade of wood. Cabin grade can mean that the wood is blemished or it can mean the wood is actually damaged.

Cabin grade is the lowest grade of hardwood that is generally available from hardwood flooring retailers. Cabin grade has a rough hewn look. It has wormholes, woodpecker holes, knots, and checking. It might also have manufacturing defects such as burn holes, sanding blemishes, or saw imperfections. That doesn’t mean that it has splits or actual structural damage. Cabin grade wood is great for a rustic look to your living space.

#2 Common

#2 common wood has visible knots and some small worm holes or woodpecker holes but not many. The main difference between #2 and some higher grades of wood is that #2 common wood has larger variations in color on each board and between boards. One board might be very lightly colored, while the next one is dark.

#1 Common

#1 common has some knots and pinholes. There is some variation in the color of the boards but it’s pretty uniform. The planks still retain some of the natural character of the wood, but it doesn’t look rustic by any means.


Select grade hardwood has little to no pinholes or knots. It has very little of the natural character of wood; it’s almost uniform.

Clear Grade

Clear grade hardwood flooring is uniform in grain, color,and texture. There are no pinholes or knots in the wood. This is the highest grade of wood for flooring.

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