Hardwood grading designations are determined by the National Hardwood Lumber Association and depend on the number of defects in a board and its overall appearance. All grades are equally strong and serviceable, but each affords you a different look. A lower grade can be quite acceptable for your project, depending on placement and usage, and, with its character and patina, you may even find it to be more beautiful!
Prime Grade (Clear) is a flooring product with minimal character marks, providing a uniform appearance.
Select Wood (Select) is a flooring product with natural heartwood/sapwood color variations that can include knots, streaks, etc.
Light Rustic Grade (No. 1 Common) is varied in appearance, featuring knots and some variation in color.
Rustic Grade (No. 2 Common) is rustic in appearance, allowing all wood characteristics of the species.
The angle at which a board is cut determines the look of the finished product. Wood flooring is either plainsawn, quartersawn or rift sawn.
Plainsawn The most common cut, typified by its pleasing appearance and varied grain. It’s the easiest way—and the most cost-efficient—to mill a log into planks.
Quartersawn More expensive than Plainsawn as it is more labor-intensive to produce, featuring greater wear resistance, less tendency to cup and twist, less shrinkage in width, and uniform grain appearance with ray flecks. Ray flecks are decorative figures that appear in flooring cut across the wood’s ray cells, creating a shimmering flake figure in the wood. The straight grain pattern especially lends itself to design.
Rift sawn This cut is similar to Quartersawn, but without the ray flecks. It is also referred to as radial grain.
Live sawn A unique method of sawing a log straight through its diameter, preserving the heart of the log, and all the grain and character variations seen throughout the lumber. Live sawing is a very efficient use of the lumber, and therefore creates less waste product.