Typically, hardwood for flooring is separated into four or five different grades. The highest grade wood is select grade; this is the most uniform and most expensive grade of wood. However, it’s not necessarily the most interesting or best looking. The lowest grade of wood is typically called tavern grade. Sometimes, odd lots is considered to be the lowest grade. Each type of grade has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are the grades.
Select grade hardwood flooring is the highest grade of wood. It has the most uniform coloring and grain. It is also the grade of wood with the longest planks and the least knots. It is a very uniform wood that makes for very uniform flooring. It’s not incredibly interesting, but it is very consistent. It’s often used for modern flooring that needs to look sleek and contemporary.
Natural grade wood is a step below select grade. There are a few small knots in each plank. Also, there will be some color differences. The color differences might come from mineral coloring, which is a natural effect of wood. As the tree grows, differences in minerals and nutrients in the wood will change the color of the wood. These are included in small portion in natural grade wood flooring.
Rustic grade wood has wide color variations; sometimes, the variations even appear within the same plank of wood. There are knots and mineral coloring effects as well. Rustic grade wood is a great choice if the idea is to create a rustic look in the wood. Rustic grade wood is structurally consistent and stable but visually diverse. It looks rustic and antique in some sense but it doesn’t have the structural defects.
Utility grade wood is often considered the lowest grade of wood. The wood will feature color differences as well as knots and mineral coloring. However, it will also feature some machining defects. The machining defects typically do not affect the structural integrity of the wood but they are elements such as burns and scratches.
Odd lots are often not considered a grade of wood because there is no standard to them. Odd lots are factory seconds that have blemishes, damage, and are sold as-is. They might have structural defects and irregularities that mean you’ll have to throw them out. They are great if you’re trying to create a rustic look and want the cheapest wood possible, but they are very inconsistent.