Wood Flooring Grades
Wood is a natural material. However, what we often forget is that before being used for our floors, it was a living, breathing thing. No two humans are identical and similarly, no trees can be as well. There are subtle and not so subtle differences in quality which are also reflected in the price of the final product. To find and categorise those differences, a grading system was introduced. It estimates the quality of the timber based on certain factors including the amount of sap in the wood, the colour variation and the number and size of the knots. The grading system in the UK contains three classifications – Prime, Natural and Rustic.
How to Avoid Confusion?
In some countries, the flooring system is divided into four grades instead of three. In China, for example, we have A - for perfectly uniform and carefully selected wood, B - for timber with some very small imperfections, C – for ‘middle of the road’ wood and finally D marking pieces which offer a wide variation of knots and colours.
As mentioned above, the official UK system only has three grades. However, if you take the time to look for more information, you will find that some companies offer options like ‘Select’ or ‘Extra Rustic’. Now, what does that mean? Well, the thing is that the UK imports wood from all over Europe and the world, including China. When imported pieces enter the UK, they sometimes don’t truly fit any of the official categories. To somehow fix this mess, the floor suppliers use the big letters to signify the quality of the wood. Prime, for example, is always AB.
It Is Up to the Manufacture
It is interesting to note that every manufacturer makes his own rules. What for one is an A grade material, for others can be only B. You must have a good idea of who you’re dealing with and what kind of products they offer.
Let's have another example here. Manufacturer X says 'My rustic (CD) wood only has knots of up to 35 mm and no more. Manufacturer Y disagrees ‘Nah, the knots of my rustic timber can go above that'. And here is where you can pay for two similar products but receive different quality.
Prime Grade. The Best of the Best
True prime grade timber is supposed to be completely and utterly free of any flaws. This is what "A" should stand for. If your supposedly prime floor is classified as AB, it means that the ‘real’ prime pieces are mixed with some which have (even the smallest in size) knots or some other minor flaws. Prime grade flooring is synonymous with careful selection, quality control, straight grain and uniform appearance. As you can expect this comes with an appropriate price tag.
Natural Grade. The Perfect Middle
On a natural or ABC grade, you can expect knots, as well as different textures, grain patterns and colour variations. There is a big disparity in the quality of the timber here. You can find pretty much anything from A to C or even D. Overall, however, the floor is fairly consistent in appearance. Some floor manufacturers use coloured fillers to hide natural imperfections and further improve the look.
Rustic Grade. The Best Wood Is a Natural Wood
It is also known as CD grade and is characterised by mineral streaks, a large number of knots and a wide variation of colours. Rustic flooring is relatively cheap compared to the other grades and doesn’t look as uniform. However, that is not necessarily a downside.
One of the main benefits of wood flooring is the fact that it is natural. Rustic floors are not made from carefully selected pieces to achieve certain looks. No, they show how wood truly is in its natural state. Depending on the person, it is either something bad or a part of its charm.