General Flooring Knowledge, Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood Grades

Not all hardwood floors are the same. By this, we don’t mean the different types such as engineered or solid hardwood. In this article, we’re discussing the different grades assigned to hardwood flooring.

All hardwood flooring is divided into grades by the manufacturers on the basis of their appearance and characteristics. The purpose of grading is to address the overall appearance depending on the features of the planks. It has nothing to do with the structural integrity of the wood itself, just the appearance.

Not all homeowners are aware of this. As a result, they might not get the right flooring option for their home. Therefore, to shed some light on this differentiation of hardwood flooring, here are the different grades that are commonly used.

Prime Grade (AB)

Prime grade tops the list of grading system in hardwood flooring. Also known as AB grade, it is the best hardwood flooring as it features minimal colour variations, few (if any) knots and lower sap content. The boards of hardwood are cut from the centre of the log, thus giving a uniformed look to your floors. It is the highest-end grade of flooring, ideal for places that need a perfectly finished appearance on their floors.

Select Grade (ABC)

Select or ABC grade is the second-best grading of hardwood flooring. It features slightly lower characteristics compared to Prime grade. It contains natural attributes of wood such as small knots and minor colour variations and has longer average plank lengths. The planks of this grade don’t have finishing defects such as streaks, debris, chipping or blisters.

Natural Grade (ABCD)

Natural, ABCD, Millrun or #1 Common grade is known for more distinct colour variations and varying wood characters (such as spots, pinholes, streaks, knot holes or small splits) compared to Select grade. Bigger knots, more sap and slightly longer average plank length are some of the features of this grade.

Rustic Grade (CD)


Rustic, also referred to as #2 Common grade, show natural characteristics of wood, and colour variations are common. Visible knots, pinholes, darker and lighter boards and shorter board length are the characteristics of Rustic grade hardwood flooring. This grade of flooring is ideal for residential purposes where homeowners want the raw texture of wooden flooring in their homes.

Utility Grade (Cabin)


Utility grade, also known as Cabin or Tavern grade has the most visible characteristics and colour variations compared to all other grades. Defects such as machine burns, missing tongues, short pieces and splits are more noticeable. It is also the cheapest option available if you want hardwood flooring for your home on an extremely tight budget irrespective of the quality you get. While purchasing this grade of hardwood flooring, be prepared to get 15 – 20 percent extra, for wasted material.

Consider these different grades of your hardwood flooring before making your decision. These grades help out when sorting the best options in flooring materials so that you get what you need.


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4 thoughts on “Hardwood Grades

  1. stephen says:

    Wow I wish this information was readily available when I was a flooring salesman. I have to say Andrew has done an excellent job describing the differences in grades of wood.

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