Hardwood floors come in a wide-variety of options that extend past color, texture and species choices. Although most hardwoods have similar durability ratings, they vary greatly in terms of look. The aesthetics of hardwood floors are classified using a Character Scale. The character grade or rating of a floor is based on it’s natural characteristics, like color, mineral streaks and knots. Traditional solid wood Hardwood floors in the bast have been broken down into three grades: Select, #1 Common grade and #2 Common. The scale does not refer to the quality of the product but rather to the appearance of the product; moving from less-character hardwood (select,) to more character, knots and mineral streaks in the common grades. This characterization simply makes the hardwood selection process easier for consumers. More recently with the growth in popularity of engineered hardwood, the industry language has changed partly because there are more variables now to consider. Most engineered hardwood will be scaled starting with select, classic and character grade. Each label describes the hardwood based on the variation and volume of character, knots, mineral streaks and overall plank variation. Now that you understand what hardwood flooring grades are, let’s dive into the differences between the three!

Select Grade

Select hardwood floors are called Select for a reason; these hardwood floors are carefully chosen for their uniform look and lack of knots, uncommon grain patterns and lack mineral streaks. With Select grade hardwood floors, you will find the planks all have a similar color and uniform lengths. Additionally, Select hardwood floors won’t have band-saw marks, blade scrapes or character markings; in fact, to be classified as “Select” only small knots are permitted every three feet. Although you will get a smooth, consistent look with Select hardwood floors, they don’t come cheap; because the floors have so many desirable qualities, they come at a premium price. However, if true uniformity is important to you, you will have to budget for Select grade floors.

Classic Grade

Generally, less expensive than Select planks and with more aesthetic variations, the classic grade harwdood (#1 Common) floors are labeled appropriately. This flooring grade will have color variations from plank to plank and have some planks that have knots fillers. It often comes in variable length planks that are made up of what the industry calls A-B-C-D planks, meaning variations in character from a few select planks (A) to more rustic, character filled planks. This is the most common grade of engineered hardwood, and most showrooms will likely have displays that consist of this grade.

Rustic Grade

Rustic grade (also #2 Common in solid wood) floors are the least expensive of the three wood flooring grades because they have the most inconsistencies and are made up of the most common planks of wood available in the mill. Rustic grade floors will have great color and length variations from board to board. You will also see an abundance of mineral streaks, holes, and knots. Like we mentioned above, although hardwood floors are “graded”, a lower grade doesn’t mean lower quality, it simply means it will have more character flaws. Selecting a hardwood floor grade is entirely dependent on your personal style and budget.  
To summarize, if you’re looking for a consistent, modern look, Select hardwood floors are going to be your best bet, but you will have to make sure your budget has room for the expense. If you’re not quite as picky about consistency, classic grade floors should finish your project nicely at a fair price. Character grade floors should be selected if you’re looking for a more rustic look or want to finish your flooring project at the lowest price. No matter which flooring grade is the best fit for your project, our hardwood flooring contractor will be available to answer any questions you may have!
Millennium Hardwood Flooring 9705 Research Blvd Suite C1 Austin, TX 78759 512-351-2258