top of page

the grade of wood flooring


It is essential to understand the grading of hardwood flooring before making a purchase!


Many of our customers are not aware that hardwood floors come in different grades when they purchase wood flooring products. When making choices about wood flooring, it is important for customers to consider the grade of the floor in addition to the species, color, and size of the plank. These factors ultimately determine the appearance of the flooring and have a significant impact on the overall interior design.

What is the grade of wood flooring?


The grade of wood flooring is the classification of the natural characteristics of the hardwood floor.  For the engineered wood floor, the grade is the classification of the natural characteristics of the wood on the top layer of the engineered wood plank.  These natural characteristics include, but are not limited to, the irregular grain of the wood, the size and number of knots, sapwoods, mineral streaks, color variation, and the presence of wormholes. Each grade also involves plank length requirements and processing defects. Generally speaking, the floor grade is an aesthetic category, rather than a division of floor quality, stability, durability, structural integrity or hardness. Therefore, understanding the grade details of the intended floor is crucial since it provides a general idea of how the significant area of the floor will appear. 

The grade of wood flooring issue is a pain point in the wood flooring industry!

A wood floor grading system typically consists of several grades (usually ranging from 3 to 5) of the same wood species.  The wood flooring business is a unique industry, as people appreciate the natural texture and color variation of real wood, as well as its feel underfoot.  Unlike many standardized industrial products, wood flooring is highly natural, and its high level of natural attributes means that there is no absolute standard in this industry.  For example, it is impossible to find two identical pieces of wood flooring planks in the natural world, let alone knots or sapwood and other characteristics of the same shape, size, number, or others.

Therefore, the grading standard of flooring is not a simple, single standard.  It is a range summary of the cleanliness of the flooring surface, and is a rough area.  This is why there is currently no universal standard for flooring grade systems in the world.  Different suppliers and manufacturers usually have their own standards and definitions of wood flooring grades.  It is necessary for customers to understand the grading system of their target hardwood floor before making a decision.

How Bentham Plank solve this pain point!

Currently, most flooring suppliers provide customers with a 2-foot by 3-foot floor sample, which may not fully represent the color composition and grade details of the flooring product. Suppliers and dealers should provide customers with detailed information about their wood floor grades and educate them about the pros, cons, and characteristics of each grade within their system.  At Bentham Plank, we provide our customers with detailed information about our own grading system.  To simplify the decision-making process for our customers, we also offer a range of visual marketing materials such as photos, videos, and large samples, as well as relevant professional technical analysis.  We encourage our customers to check out our physical and visual samples, which can help you better understand the different grades and make an informed decision.



Sapwood is the living part of the tree, through which water and sap flowed when it was standing in the forest.

Sapwood usually contains more moisture than the other parts of the wood, due to its function to transport sap and water in trees. As its composition is slightly different from that of the other parts of the wood, sapwood reacts differently to certain treatments such as fuming, smoking, and other wood coloring processes. This leads to sapwood often standing out more and depending on your preference, you may find it fit or not fit the ideal expectation of your flooring appearance.

Either way, it is a natural and unavoidable characteristic that you can expect with a genuine wood floor. Different products will exhibit more or less sapwood, so it is important to check with your wood flooring consultant to ensure the product you are selecting meets your desires.


2.Knots And Filler

A knot is a mark on the timber made from either the base of a side branch of the tree or a dominant bud, around which the grain has flown. Knots in timber can often be a sought-after feature, particularly for rustic design schemes, as they are a very familiar and beautiful characteristic of wood.

Often if a knot is quite large or deep, small holes can form in the plank. These are often (but not always, depending on the size and depth) filled with "filler" to maintain a relatively even surface.

The filler is chosen to compliment the timber coloring rather than match it and may be either white, gray, brown, or black.

AR5A0141 (1).jpg

3.Medullary Rays, Checks, And Shakes

Medullary rays are a white ribbon-like pattern that indicates that the plank has been crafted from quarter-sawn timber.

Checks and shakes are slight cracking along or across the grain of the wood and are a normal result of moisture in the wood before the drying process takes place.

Medullary rays, checks and shakes are not product defects and in no way compromise the quality or durability of your timber flooring. Rather they display the unique beauty of nature and are a natural characteristic to expect with real wood flooring.

AR5A0080 (1).jpg

4.Color Variation


Color variation between planks, cartons and batches is a natural characteristic of wood products and should be expected. Depending on the flooring product, color variation can be subtle or significant. Color variation should not be considered a manufacturing defect but rather a desired natural characteristic and appearance of a wood floor.

A professional installer will open several cartons of planks at the time of installation, and “dry-lay” the floor to ensure the colors are mixed throughout the flooring layout. Mixing up the planks from different cartons ensures an even spread of different tones and characters over your entire floor layout, giving you an overall naturally-arranged appearance.

bottom of page