Sun Mountain Blog

How is Hardwood Lumber Graded?

You may often hear about the “grade” of lumber or wood floors in general.  Oftentimes when people hear about the wood grade, they assume it has something to do with quality.  This can be true in some cases, though in reality it comes down to your preference of design.  Some people enjoy a more rustic look whereas others prefer something much smoother, and more uniform.

The majority of hardwood lumber found in the United States as well as Canada is graded based upon the rules set out by the NHLA – the National Hardwood Lumber Association.  These grades typically reflect the number of “cuttings” from a board.  In other words, how many pieces can be obtained from the wood when it is cut for flooring or furniture?  A higher grade means wider as well as longer cuttings of wood that has few to no knots.  In addition, the number of knots, color variations, and so forth can come into play when wood is being graded.

Some locations make choosing wood for flooring much easier by providing more simple versions of grades.  Rather than looking through numerous wood grades to try and choose the right one, flooring locations will approach their wood with more descriptive names that better match the look and quality of the wood.  For example, stating that the wood is “rustic” may simply mean that the wood is of a lower grade.  When you look at this particular wood, you will see more knots, great grain variations, and a wider distinction between pieces of wood.

On the other end of the spectrum, a location may use words like “premium” or “select” to announce the wood’s grade.  One look at this type of wood and you will see why.  The planks are much clearer in appearance with few to no knots at all, though there may still be some rich color variations that help give the wood its character.

A quick note – if you have heard of reclaimed wood, understand that this is not a part of the wood grade system.  Rather, reclaimed wood is wood that has been taken from older locations that no longer need it, such as an old barn or home.  The wood is still perfectly suitable with no rot or damage, but can have an antique or weathered look to it for additional color variations and a unique style.

The grade and design of wood you choose all eventually fall upon one thing – your personal preference.