Many people think that all wooden floorboards are the same. However, this is not the case. Hardwood flooring is available in a variety of grades, each of which has its own unique characteristics and color variations
Prime grade flooring has little to no knots present, and those which are visible will be of minimal size. The amount of sapwood defects and filler that is present in it will also be extremely minimal, and when filler is used, the color will complement it instead of being a perfect match. There will be an extremely small amount of color variation in the wood pieces as well, which will provide the most uniform end result possible.
Also referred to as clear or first grade, this flooring will have minor color variations and small knots. Plank lengths will be a little shorter than prime grade. Other attributes that will be present include slight milling imperfections, small pin knots or holes and minor variations in face-work. However, the plank face will normally be virtually free of other defects such as streaks, blisters, chips and scratches.
This wood grade will include a combination of sapwood and heartwood, which means that there will be a wider range of color variation among wood lots. Larger knots than those found in select grade will be present and cracks across growth rings will be a little larger as well. Minor cracks between the growth rings will also be permitted. In cases where filler products are used, the color of these will be chosen to compliment it – much like when it is used in prime grade boards.
This is also referred to as second grade, millrun or #1 common grade. The number and size of knots in this grade will be virtually limitless, while sapwood, filler and heartwood will be present in larger amounts than in classic grade wood. Other minor imperfections found in this grade will include larger knots, knot holes, small splits, and variations in angle of end matching, uncoated bevels, minor dents and small bubbles.
Also known as #2 common or third grade; rustic floorboards are shorter than those classified as natural boards. These boards will contain a wider variation of imperfections, such as plank faces that have a grainy surface, deeper scratches and dents, lipped ends, an orange peel finish and uncoated bevels. These boards are designed for areas where a more natural-looking appearance is desired.
This can be referred to as tavern or cabin grade and it may consist of mixed wood products. More obvious defects such as larger open knots, missing tongues, machine damage, larger wood splits and bigger variations in color are permitted. While this can be a low-cost hardwood option, as much as 25% wastage may be experienced. Board lengths will be shorter than those found in rustic grade products.
Although it can be tempting to choose the cheapest wood grade, a lot more effort and labor will be required to render it presentable in the end. As a result, it is recommended to spend as much as you can comfortably afford when purchasing wooden floorboards.