Planet Hardwood
PlanetHardwood

Choosing wood grades

An Explanation of “Country”* Grade

“Country” grade is generated exclusively for Planet Hardwood as a function of a mill’s broader production. In other words, it is only available to us on an accumulation basis and not on an order-driven basis. Because the deal is so good, we get as much as we can, when we can, but there are often gaps in availability. Please check with us before budgeting. Any domestic specie in any width is our open purchase order with the mill. It’s cheaper than a quality laminate and it’s a solid wood floor!

The major aspect of the country grade is shorter pieces. That and any part of the tree that functions as a wood floor is allowed in the carton. What is not allowed are open knots (they are filled) and any compromise to machining or finish. For a mill’s low-cost offering, sometimes called “country” grade, this is very unusual. Not all “country” grades are equal.

The value is magnified by the fact that there is no difference in performance. The word “grade” suggests that there is, but it’s an appearance issue only. The country grades go through the same milling and finish equipment as the rest of the production and will last just as long (and according to the American Institute of Architects, that’s as long as the building is standing). In most cases we have examples of this specie in other grades as well, and as long as it’s from the same mill, grades and widths can be mixed on the same floor.

* In the world of lumber, there is no such thing as a “country” grade. The closest legitimate equivalent grading description to “country” would be #2 or #3 Common grade. A flooring mill may give their production a proprietary grading name for two reasons: 1) They can put anything in the carton, and 2) It’s a combination of grades with no name of its own.

An Explanation of “Natural”* Grade

“Natural” grade is our most popular and exhibits the full color range within the specie. This allows for all parts of the log and features in the wood to be expressed but either limits or excludes the presence of knots. Wood is an organic material and we take an organic approach as to how we direct the mill to run the lumber. All the different grades in the mainstream wood flooring industry are determined by how they chop up the lumber. The more inclusive we make the grading standard, the less chopping… and therefore longer average lengths. Sometimes we make the determination to do no segregating at all and just run the lumber combining all grades into one production run. This is the closest one can get to the appearance of a floor milled from a tree growing in the backyard. Our ancestors who worked with wood without the benefit of machinery didn’t waste their energy, or any part of the tree that functioned as a wood floor… including the knots and color variation.

The popularity of the Natural grade is in keeping with the relaxed atmosphere of Vermont living. The liveliness of the wood masks or distracts from any accumulated wear that a rambunctious family may impart.
Some domestic woods, like Hickory and Walnut are either too “wild” (Hickory) or too limited (Select Walnut) to be offered in anything but a mixed grade in mainstream production. In those cases, the choice becomes either: with knots, or without knots. Regardless of grade, the performance of the flooring is the same.

* In the world of lumber, there is no such thing as a “natural” grade. The closest legitimate equivalent grading description to “natural” would be #1 Common grade. A flooring mill may give their production a proprietary grading name for two reasons: 1) They can put anything in the carton, and 2) It’s a combination of grades with no name of its own.

An Explanation of “Select” Grade

The grading standards for flooring and lumber run parallel and are based on features of the wood that are forgiven and those that are forbidden.
Select grade in domestic wood flooring denotes a clean and uniform look that limits the color range and forbids knots. The Select grade is the most familiar as it is the grade most used in architecture, furniture and cabinetry. Depending on the specie, it utilizes exclusively either the darker heartwood of the log (as in Cherry and Walnut) or the lighter outer sapwood (as in Maple and Yellow Birch).

Every log yields examples of lumber in each of the grades. In the mainstream flooring world, all the grades are pulled from the same pile of lumber. The grade of the flooring is determined by how they cut up the lumber. In traditional production, the mills target the Select grade as a priority since they get more money for it. The other grades are generated from what is left over. This usually results in the Select grade having longer average lengths.

Select grade is the only commonly used grading term in the flooring industry that carries a definition verifiable by a third party. Sometimes a mill will substitute a proprietary name for Select (like “premium”) so they’re not bound by that definition. Theoretically every mill’s “Select” grade should be the same… but it isn’t, which is one of the reasons why we show you a whole carton of wood instead of a few pieces.

The word “grade” suggests a good-better-best. In wood flooring, grade is an appearance issue only and there is no difference in performance between grades.

Other content

When choosing wood flooring for your home, you’ll notice that the some species of wood are offered in three or four different grades. These grades should only distinguish differences in appearance only, and not affect the performance of the floor in any way. All grades occur naturally in the lumber yield of any log.

Select grade describes flooring that is somewhat uniform in color with few or no knots. Some mills distinguish a “clear” grade in addition to select.
#1 Common grade allows for a wider color variation and for occasional small sound (secure) knots. #1 Common shows more of the natural characteristics of the wood. Many other words are used to describe this grade such as “natural”, “mill run”, “character” to name a few.
#2 and #3 Common include boards that do not qualify as Select or #1 Common. These grades, with names like “country”, “rustic”, or “tavern”, vary widely from mill to mill as it’s the grade that consumes lumber that is left over after the other grades are established. The major aspect of the country grade is shorter pieces. That and any part of the tree that functions as a wood floor is allowed in the carton. What is not allowed by us is any compromise to machining or finish.

Just because the grade name on the description is the same does not mean what is inside the box is the same. A flooring mill may give their production a proprietary grading name for two reasons:

  1. They can put anything in the carton, and
  2. It’s a combination of grades with no name of its own.

Mill grades

“Select”, “#1 Common” and “#2 Common” are defining terms in grading lumber and are used to describe hardwood flooring. The individual grades distinguish differences in appearance only, not performance.

All grades occur naturally in the lumber yield of any log. Wood flooring mills typically purchase lumber in a mixed all-inclusive grade, and then grade the flooring by appearance after it has been profiled. They might get three different grades out of a single board. Since lengths are one criteria of the lumber grading process, the average lengths of Select grade flooring are usually longer than #1 or #2 Common. There is no international grading standard, and many flooring manufacturers make up their own grade names so they can define their own mix. Planet Hardwood describes these mixed grades in ordinary lumber terms so as to create a relative standard.

Select grade describes flooring that is somewhat uniform in color, with few or no knots.

#1 Common grade allows for a wider color variation, and for occasional small sound (secure) knots. #1 Common shows more of the natural characteristics of the wood.

#2 Common includes boards that do not qualify as Select or #1 Common. This grade, with names like
“Country”, “Rustic”, “Knotty”, or “Tavern”, exhibits all the color variety, and allows for any sized knot. At Planet Hardwood we only carry flooring from mills that fill open knots with epoxy.
Mixed Grade includes flooring that combines two or more grades, often resulting in longer average lengths.