Eric Anderson
3 min readDec 1, 2021


When it comes to selecting a new wood floor for your home, you will be faced with many decisions.

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.

Lumber Grades

There are several different organizations that have been accredited to write grade rules for the range of lumber species available in today’s marketplace. You may have heard of some of them, such as the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA), the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB) or the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA). You may have also heard terms like “FAS”, “#1 Common” and “Select”, which are used to designate lumber grades. These grading rules exist to standardize lumber buying practices in multiple markets and regions. It’s worth noting that the grading is done on rough lumber and not on the finished flooring that you will be installing in your home.

Grading rules were primarily designed to describe material destined for the furniture and cabinetry markets rather than flooring. Consequently, the intent was to allow for clear boards that would later be cut into shorter, narrower pieces. While this approach works well for many applications, it isn’t ideal for building a wide-plank floor.

#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.

Solid Oak wood flooring What is it?

Each solid wood board is made from a single piece of wood, typically 18–20mm thick. It is usually fitted using tongue-and-groove. All types of wood have a hardness score, which indicates how easily they can be damaged, dented or worn by everyday wear and tear. Solid wood flooring can be sanded back to restore the finish — the number of times you can do this is determined by how deep the tongue is set from the top of the board.

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Eric Anderson

Eric is a blog writer for the Hardwood Flooring Store and has a vast knowledge of the hardwood flooring industry.