There is no denying that hardwood flooring add an air of elegance and sophistication to any room in a house or office. That is certainly true when comparing hardwood floors to tile floors and carpeting. At the same time, the grade of the hardwood floor will have an effect on how good a room looks. It would also affect the amount of maintenance the floor would need over time.
If you are contemplating using hardwood floors on an upcoming project, you will want to make sure you make the right choice in materials. To do that, an understanding of how hardwoods get graded would benefit you. With that in mind, you will want to read the information below.
How Hardwoods are Graded
In America, the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) sets the industry standards for the grading of hardwood lumber. In determining the grade of a hardwood piece of lumber, the NHLA takes many different factors into consideration. Once hardwood lumber has been graded, builders and carpenters will typically have a clear idea about that with which they will be working. That will ultimately dictate how they go through the hardwood floor installation process.
For education purposes, here are some of the factors that go into grading hardwood lumber:
- The species of wood and how it is processed
- The surface measurement (SM) of the whole piece (the width, in inches and fractions
- The rating of the worst side of the piece
- The cutting yield the contractor can expect to get
- Both sides of the wood are evaluated, creating an overall grade
- Final check to ensure the hardwood piece truly meets the final grade standards in terms of things like wane, pitch, and so forth
Hardwood Flooring Gradings
The NHLA has established there are 8 individual grades of hardwood lumber. At the high end of the scale is FAS: Shorthand for “First and Seconds”. At the bottom of the scale is No. 3A Common. It is worth noting that the list provided below does represent the grades as they sit now within the lumber industry. They are widely accepted by builders, carpenters, and merchants all over the world. However, there is currently no established (in writing) universal grading system for hardwood floorings.
The following is a comprehensive list of all 8 grades. The information will be presented as follows from highest grade to the lowest: Grade (Trade Name): / Min. Board Length / Min. Board Width/Min. Cutting Size / Min. Area of Clear Cuttings Required
- First & Seconds (FAS): 8' / 6" / 4"x5' - 3"x7' / 83-1/3%
- FAS 1-Face (F1F): 8' / 6" /4"x5' - 3"x7' / 83-1/3%
- Select (SEL): 6' / 4" /4"x5' - 3"x7' / 83-1/3%
- No. 1 Common (1C): 4' / 3" / 4"x2' - 3"x3' / 66-2/3%
- No. 2A Common (2AC): 4' / 3" / 3"x2' / 50%
- No. 2B Common (2BC): 4' / 3" / 3"x2' / 50%
- No. 3A Common (3AC): 4' / 3" / 3"x2' / 33-1/3%
NOTE: First and Seconds FAS actually counts as two separate grades, bringing the count to 8 grades in all.
Here are some interesting characteristics of note regarding some of the grades:
Select: The poor side of each piece is given the common I grade while the better side has a FAS grade, this grade is often used in hardwood floors in Northern U.S.
No. 1 Common: Typically used for furniture manufacturing
No. 2A Common: Used for cabinets and millwork
No. 2B Common: very receptive to painting
No. 3A Common: very popular grade for wood flooring and the making of pallets
No. 3B Common: very cheapest grade used in the manufacturing of pallets and crates for shipping and storage
Other Considerations When Choosing Hardwood Flooring Materials
As you contemplate the materials you want to use for your hardwood flooring project, you will realize a lot of factors will go into dictating the right choice. For instance, moisture absorption rates could be a significant factor in areas with high humidity and rainfall.
If you start dealing with different manufacturers, you will soon discover they all have their own grading systems. However, manufacturer grading systems focus more on factors such as strength, stability, durability, and quality of the hardwood flooring. Also, you will want to note that merchants won't include grading information when selling engineered hardwood flooring and or materials.
Finally, you will want to decide early on if you want to purchase prefinished (finished by the manufacturer) boards or go with a more labor-intensive site-finished flooring, which would require a staining or finishing process after the flooring has been installed.
Clearly, you will have choices to make as your start looking for your hardwood flooring materials. If you keep an eye on the intent of your project and the budget you have for your hardwood flooring materials, you should have no trouble getting the finished look you want.
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