Different Wood Flooring Grades


Hello..I bought a new construction home and payed for grade one hard wood floors.my floors look terrible (IN MY OPINION)there are holes in the wood and there are dark strips that look almost rotten.the builder swares there grade one..however when i called the installer down his man told me they were grade 2.after i confronted the builder with this information the installers man came back and said i misunderstood him…my question is.Is there an organization or a private company i can call in N.Y. that i can have come in and grade my floors?also is there a way to tell what grade floors i have by looking at them.if not how can i tell…. thank you ….very frustrated….


Dear Chris

I’m going to summarize the NOFMA grading guidelines for UNFINISHED oak flooring.

Here are the four different grades of oak floor so there is no confusion. The top grade is called clear quatersawn and select quatersawn . It is very expensive, and is only justified when you want the effect of ribbon grained wood, with some of the medullary rays visible on many of the boards, especially in white oak. This is the grade you want if you want the least movement in the boards, but choose the narrow 2 1/4″ size. The average length will be about almost 4 feet. If milled correctly and stored well, this grade will have the least tendency to warp and shrink.

Next is select (and select and better). I know this sounds confusing but try to get the select and better grade. It should be free of all defects but some pin knots. Some dark boards but not many. It is wood cut on the bole of the tree so this oak will have that pleasant grainy effect you see in most oak floors. The average length should be about 3 feet, with some long boards. All the boards will be sound solid lumber in this grade. It’s what I almost always use.

So that makes the third grade now what we call Common # 1. It sounds a lot like what you have as the boards will be varied in color, and have many knots and worms holes. It should still be sound wood though, with bundles 1 1/2 foot and more. And average length will be about 2 1/2′. When some contractors see the #1 with the word Common in front, they will just omit the word Common, and call this grade #1. I saw the loosing side of a small claims court case try this and fail to convince the judge.

And lastly there is the Common #2, and this stuff is just about suitable for the garbage pile. It will be very rustic in appearance, with many, many dark defects. Much of the wood will not be sound, and there will be a lot of cutting waste with this wood, to get rid of unusable wood. A lot of 1 foots bundles, bringing the average length down to about 2′.

These last two grades ( Common #1 and #2 ) should only be used in the most rustic of rooms. These grades will tend to self destruct in about 10 years or so when the many internal checks and voids start appearing at the surface.

Now if you have a PREFINISHED floor and it has a dark stain on it, it will be hard to tell just what grade it is. But there should be a grade label on the box they came in. Generally speaking the select grade unfinished hardwood is made into Prime grade prefinished flooring. And it will be rare to get this material, unless the prefinished wood has a clear finish on it. With a clear blonde finished wood they just cannot hide the defects. This is the only grade of prefinished floor I can recommend.

And then the Common #1 unfinished material goes into the Standard grade prefinished hardwood floor.

And lastly and sadly the poor Common #2 unfinished material is the rotten stuff that makes the prefinished Tavern grade flooring. You can go to the NOFMA web site at www.nofma.org to get a more official description of these grades. They are never referred to by number like your contractor tried to say, but by the word description. NOFMA has been in charge of the standard grading of wood flooring materials for about 90 years now. Don’t confuse them with the NWFA which is just a trade association, controlled by and for the benefit of the big flooring manufacturers.

Any more questions you may have on this subject or clarifications of your original question feel free to write again at no cost. I hope you have enjoyed this personal service, real human responses are the best.

If you found this information helpful, please explore the Wood Floor Doctor.com by visiting the rest of our website.

As always your Most humble servant, Joseph, the Wood Floor Doctor.-