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When it comes to the wood you will use in your wood flooring; you have many choices to makes. You must first choose from over 12 domestic species of wood or from over 20 imported wood species. Then you must address whether you’ll be installing planks or strips. But, one of the most important choices you will be making is the appropriate grade of wood you will be using in your wood floor.

In a standard grading system, wood that is of a “clear” grade is cut from selections that have little to no imperfections and no defects. “Select” graded wood reveals some of the natural color variations in the wood and may show knots. “No.1 common” graded wood shows more of the natural color variations and knots. Wood graded as “no. 2 common” exemplifies a sampling that is more rustic, displaying all color variations and knots in the wood. And, finally, “no. 3 common” graded wood is typically used in a cabin-like setting for its rustic look. This wood often has mill flaws and must be sorted through to find adequate pieces for flooring.

It is important to note that choosing one grade over another will not compromise the quality of your hardwood floor. Grade classifications are a useful tool in determining appropriate décor settings and should not be misinterpreted as a higher or lower quality within the species. Interestingly enough, a clear grade of wood may only exist in theory, depending upon the species you choose. And, diverting from a select grade won’t automatically save you money. Depending upon current style trends, a grade that shows a high color variance or many natural characteristics may in fact be more costly than a clear or select grade.

Currently, grading standards do not apply to imported hardwoods. These trees are larger than domestic species, and usually result in flooring with little or no color variations or natural characteristics.

The MFMA (Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association) uses a specific grading system for maple, birch and beech wood in order to maintain a consistent level of quality in flooring wood. When considering these species, grades are delineated as first, second, or third. These species fall under a different grading system as typically, these types of wood are used for floors in athletic facilities, and therefore adhere to different guidelines. These species may certainly be used in residential applications as well.

In this system, first grade wood collections have a quality appearance, display limited character marks and reveal the natural color variations in the wood. Second grade wood collections reveal a bit more of the natural color variations and natural wood characteristics. Finally, third grade wood appears rustic, showing all characteristics and color variations in the wood.

When considering grades of unfinished wood for your hardwood flooring, it is important to remember that this is a durable long-term quality investment that will be in your home for many years to come. Choose a species and grade that you love. You won’t be disappointed.