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What Do Flooring Grades Mean?

What Do Flooring Grades Mean

All oak flooring planks fall within a certain grade, so this article will hopefully help you to clearly define what natural features are included within the flooring you are considering.

Some companies prefer to use a name for the flooring they supply, like ‘rustic’ or ‘character’ but this can be misleading at best. At Oak Floors Online we choose to clearly state which grades are included and also what type and size natural features are allowed within each of those grades. No matter what name is ‘made up’ for a batch of oak flooring, it WILL contain a mix of grades from A to D and sometimes below.

An incredibly common mistake that people make when considering the purchase of oak flooring is to confuse grade with quality. To demonstrate this point, it is possible to purchase very high quality oak flooring that includes many different grades.

Grade is what controls the number of natural features allowed in an oak flooring plank, which will therefore define what the finished floor will look like.

This means that an oak flooring plank selected as Grade A will have very few, if any, natural features and defects within it, producing a finished floor appearance that is clear and consistent in colour. Other grades like B, C and D will have more natural features like knots and colour variances within them, so when added will create a more natural and ‘oak-like’ finished floor.

Flooring Grades What Do They MeanThe occurrence of less natural features in higher grade oak flooring means that these flooring planks are in limited supply, but this is not due to them being higher quality, instead it is due to the fact that less than 30% of the timber contained within an oak tree will meet the necessary requirements of these grades. Next time you pass a growing oak tree, imagine cutting it up into planks and see how many clear planks you could source from it.

Due to the fact that grades A and B are in limited supply, forests and timber suppliers usually charge a premium price for them, which results in the actual oak flooring itself being more expensive. Having said that, an oak floor with little or no natural features may not even look like an oak floor, so possibly a different timber species should be considered instead?

Most oak flooring supplied by Oak Floors Online is a mixed ABCD grade, which is chosen to create a natural looking oak floor that contains all of an oak tree’s natural features like knots, colour, and grain variance, as well as some filled features. Should a more clear finished floor appearance be required, then this can be achieved by further ‘self-grading’ on site, which involves cutting out any unwanted features from single planks and the remainder of those cut planks being used to start or end a ‘run’ to minimise waste. Obviously this will require an extra percentage of flooring to be initially ordered, depending on the amount of features you want your finished floor to include.

Outline of the different wood grades that we use at Oak Floors Online and their features:

Grade A:

This grade of timber includes the following:

  • An average oak tree will provide no more than about 10% of Grade A timber, so this grade is usually limited in availability, and when it is available, it is usually very expensive.
  • Grades Flooring MeaningThe timber contains very few knots if any, and no sapwood is allowed.
  • The grain pattern is both clear and consistent.
  • The timber will contain very few natural features, if any.
  • Only slight colouring variation is allowed.

Grade B:

This grade of timber includes the following:

  • An average oak tree will provide no more than 15-25% of Grade B timber, so this grade is usually limited in availability and expensive.
  • A number of small, live knots are allowed in timber of this grade, up to a size of 15mm.
  • This grade will include a natural variance in grain pattern and can contain some filled knots no bigger than 15mm.
  • More natural features are allowed in this grade than in Grade A timber.
  • More natural colour variation is allowed in this grade than in Grade A timber.
  • Sapwood is allowed, but no more than 10% of the oak face.

Grade C:

What Is The Meaning Flooring GradesThis grade of timber includes the following:

  • Unlike Grade A and Grade B timber, Grade C is more commonly available from within an average oak tree.
  • This grade allows larger knots within the oak, some of which may have been repaired with filler and then sanded.
  • Naturally occurring grain patterns, variances and differences are allowed in timber of this grade.
  • More significant colour variation is allowed in this grade.
  • Sapwood is allowed, but no more than 15-20% of the oak face.

Grade D:

This grade of timber includes the following:

  • This grade is more commonly available from an average oak tree.
  • Timber of this grade can feature large knots, some of which may have been repaired with filler and then sanded.
  • All naturally occurring grain patterns and variances are allowed in this grade.
  • Most naturally occurring features are allowed in this timber grade.
  • All colour variances are allowed but sapwood must be no more than 40% of the surface area.

Celtic Character Rustic:

This grade of timber includes the following:

  • Contains all of the above grades and also lower grades
  • Lower grades allow open natural defects that are repaired with dark filler before being sanded and finished
  • All natural features allowed
  • All colour differences allowed
  • All sapwood variances allowed

So where does quality come in?

What Do They Mean Flooring GradesQuality is completely different to grade, and is the measurement that determines and demonstrates the actual quality of the timber, the products, the machinery, and the workforce used during the manufacturing process. The combination of these factors essentially determines the standard to which the oak flooring is constructed and the level of performance that it will provide following its installation. All oak flooring supplied by Oak Floors Online is fully compliant with the EU Timber Regulation, so this in itself emphasises the quality control procedures required.

Unfortunately, an industry challenge is that some companies who provide oak flooring will deliberately lower the quality of their products in order to make them appear competitively priced. The truth being that any oak flooring of poor quality is not cost-effective because it will fail and need to be replaced very soon after installation.

We wish to assure you that here at Oak Floors Online, we consider the quality of our flooring far more than any desire to cut corners in an aim to appear more competitive in price alone. This is due to our companywide ethos that quality is of the upmost importance when installing an oak floor, because when installing an oak floor, you want to do it once not twice!

Please send your questions or enquiries to sales@oakfloorsonline.co.uk or call 0800 043 3073.


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