Oak Hardwood Flooring Grades

Both White Oak (pictured above) and Red Oak come in a variety of grades based on overall appearance.

Like all domestic species, solid Oak flooring is given one of several grades:  Select & Better, #1 Common, #2 Common, #3 Common (also known as Utility or Cabin Grade), and Character. While all Oak flooring has the same qualities, the grade it is assigned per standards governed by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) indicates its appearance. As such, an even appearance receives a higher grade, while hardwood with character marks or color variation is marked lower.

Select & Better Oak flooring is primarily heartwood and has a uniform color. Select Oak flooring also contains more sapwood than lower grades.

Moving down the grading scale, #1 Common flooring, on the other hand, retains some of these qualities but may start to display a small amount of character marks.

#1 Common, #2 Common, and Character floors also have more color variation, including streaking and knots.

If a floor that displays an overall even appearance is your preference, consider going with a White Oak or Red Oak Select & Better floor.

Keep in mind that, regardless of the amount of character marks Oak hardwood has, each species has a general set of qualities.

Character & Value Grade Oak Flooring

Character grade Oak flooring retains all of the qualities of  qualities of #1 & #2 Common grades but also has a patina of distinct knots, mineral streaks, and color variation. Although not commonly available in stores, character Oak flooring is offered by several manufacturers through flooring distributors. Selections vary, however, as a distributor is given a list from a mill of all species sold each month.

Not all character grade flooring is the same, and Oak hardwood given this grade may have more than just knots and color variation. Certain hardwoods are marked “character” because of poor milling, which can result in voids, tree bark edges, milling tongues, splits, or wind shake. As a result, such pieces may not fit together in installation or, if they do, can create an uneven surface.

Nevertheless, character Oak flooring has several benefits. Aside from a rustic appearance, character grade Oak is typically cheap to purchase. However, before you go with value grade Oak flooring, inquire first about why the product was given a “character” label and, to compensate for any unusable boards, purchase 10 to 15 percent more with your order.

When professionally finished, #3 Common Grade Oak flooring is a great low-budget option.
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