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What To Expect

We all want to see value with any purchase we make. The best hardwood flooring from a reliable source can be one of the most beautiful and valuable investments made to your home. Customers’ expectations, though, can be vastly different. Some people like uniform coloration within hardwood flooring, others like a lot of color variation. Some do not like knots and/or pinholes, others think this adds beauty. Quality differences between all wood flooring can be considerable, depending on the type and grade of hardwood flooring purchased as well as who the manufacturer is.

Commonly, the consumer is under the assumption that their new wood flooring will look exactly like the small sample they have seen at the flooring store, but this is not always true. Wood, as we all know, is a "Product of Nature." Each individual board is like a fingerprint: no two are exactly alike. Hardwood has natural varied grain patterns, color variation, and character such as knots, pinholes and mineral (darker) streaks. Different wood species and the region of the country they are grown in create certain nuances in the resulting character of a board. This is part of what makes wood flooring so appealing to so many homeowners.

Making The Grade

When hardwood lumber (raw material) is cut from the forest, the boards are segregated by appearance, color and clarity within the graining and labeled with a grade. The most expensive raw material has a lot of clarity and uniformity in color and are usually gobbled up by very high-end furniture companies. The remaining grades are then purchased by other manufacturers, including those within the hardwood flooring industry. Wood flooring manufacturers will purchase these other grades with respect to the cost, quality and/or grading they want their specific flooring collections to have. Within this article, I will focus on Oak which is the most popular wood flooring species sold. The same references and guidelines for Oak mentioned here are also typically true for most all other wood species available, All wood species will have different grades and appearances specific to that particular tree. Some species, for example Hickory, have highly varied coloring naturally and unique character no matter what grade they are put into. Maple hardwood flooring which has different grading rules than oak flooring will have small dark mineral streaks within the boards. 

At the manufacturer's plant, the raw material continues to be graded into more specific categories. Usually, hardwood flooring manufacturers produce 3-6 grades within their entire line of hardwood collections. The names wood flooring manufacturers give these grades/collections can be unique to the particular manufacturer, but as a rule of thumb the Clearest most uniform grade in coloring of hardwood flooring is typically called Clear. The next best wood flooring grade is typically called Select and Better which contains a bit more color difference between boards. Then comes the Select or Selected grade which the manufacturer may even call Prime has even more board color variance . Middle grades may contain the names Traditional, Pacific, Rustic, Country, Cottage etc. Lowest graded flooring is typically called Cabin, Value or Tavern. All of this grading happens on a production line, where we are all at the mercy of the graders who are trying to follow that particular manufacturer’s grading guidelines. But, as we are all human, some boards may slip by the inspection process and end up in an incorrect grade.

The beauty and true value of having wood flooring in your home is extraordinary, but if you want something very particular, we would suggest that you choose a man made (laminate or vinyl) floor covering option other than real wood flooring, as, like we mentioned before, wood flooring is a product of nature that can contain imperfect boards or character that is not appealing to everyone.

What's In A Name?

Use the listing below only as a guide to help explain the differences in the names and appearances of the grades. Remember that manufacturers can name their wood flooring grades anything they like. The guide below basically reflects NOFMA industry grading standards, to which most (but not all) higher quality, brand name manufacturers adhere to. Most manufacturers also offer grades called seconds that have imperfections within the boards and cannot be sold under the grades named below. These 2nds are typically purchased and sold by liquidation-type retailers. Not all wood flooring manufacturers belong to NOFMA, so their grading and appearance can vary greatly.

I also do not want to lead you to believe that boards with a lot of character and knots are any less quality than the clearer grades. Somerset Character Collection <(solid and engineered available), for instance, produces a very high end specialty character floor that duplicates that older style rustic charm and offers some of the highest quality product made within the USA.

All the brand name manufacturers' flooring that we retail here at Hosking Hardwood Flooring is 1st Quality hardwood flooring (the same hardwood flooring sold in high end retail stores nationwide). The only difference is our low pricing. We can heavily discount the product we sell because of our purchasing power, low profit margin and high volume sales and we pass these savings down to you.

Clear grade (rare to find) hardwood flooring has the most color uniformity, longer board lengths, no knots or black mineral streaks. A 5% waste factor should be added to your actual square footage to cull any boards you may not want to use. Cabinet quality flooring with a very formal clean look. Full warranty offered. Not many manufacturers offer a clear grade.

Select and Better grade of hardwood flooring (sometimes called Prime) has some color variation, longer board lengths, Generally has some minor infrequent dark mineral streaks and tiny knots. A 5% waste factor should be added to your actual square footage to cull any boards you may not want to use. This grade is the most popular style with consumers. Full warranty offered. Find great deals on 2-1/4 IN. Red Oak Natural, 3-1/4 IN. Red Oak Natural.

Select grade of hardwood flooring (sometimes called Selected) has more color variation, longer board lengths, most likely will have more dark mineral streaks and tiny knots than a Select and Better grade. A 5% waste factor should be added to your actual square footage to cull any boards you may not want to use. This grade is a very popular style with consumers. Full warranty offered. Many manufacturers will use the Select Grade for stained products, as the stain helps to reduce color variation from board to board and this Select Grade is typically less expensive. This keeps costs down, in turn, for the end consumer (you).

#1 Common grade  Or Middle Grade of hardwood flooring (sometimes called CharacterTraditional Exclusive or Cottage) offers moderate color variation between boards, with some dark mineral streaks, and small to medium knots and possible pinholes. A 5-10 % waste factor should be added to your actual square footage to cull out boards you may not want to use. This style can be very unique and interesting. Usually little or no warranty offered.

#2 Common grade of hardwood flooring (sometimes called Rustic or Country) offers a lot of color variation between boards, shorter board lengths with dark mineral streaks, possible pinholes and medium size knots. A 10 % waste factor should be added to your actual square footage to cull out boards you may not want to use. Usually sold with no warranty.

"Seconds" of hardwood flooring offers full light and dark color variation between boards, short board lengths, dark mineral streaks, medium to large open knots with possible pinholes, checks, chips and splits,  A 15 % waste factor should be added to your actual square footage to cull out boards you may not want to use. This type of flooring is usually sold by Liquidation retailers with no warranty.

Don't Come Up Short

When measuring your rooms for hardwood flooring, it is standard practice to add 5% or more as a waste factor, depending on grade chosen. This waste factor is to allow for boards that you may not want to use. Remember that customer expectations can vary and all wood flooring is not perfect.You may receive some boards that have slipped by the inspection process at the mill and do not quite meet that particular grade. Professional installers will use most of these boards by cutting the defect out and using the rest of the board. The waste factor also includes the cutting and fitting waste. 

When evaluating your new wood flooring the National Oak Flooring Association states that all wood flooring inspections be done at a standing position, (not on your hands and knees). The installer must use reasonable selectivity, as the waste factor is not covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. 

Another important thing to remember is that all manufacturers’ “milling” of their wood flooring is not the same. Some manufacturers spend a great deal of time making sure their milling machines are accurate and produce near perfect milling, but others do not.

Hosking Hardwood Flooring has been in business for over 70 years. We only retail 1 st Quality flooring. We have used hundreds of different types of hardwood flooring and are able evaluate the overall quality of a particular manufacturer

Matching Moldings

There are few flooring manufacturers that make their own moldings. In cases where molding production is subcontracted out by these hardwood flooring manufacturers, these transitional pieces are made by independent molding companies. This means that moldings are pretty generic and may not be an exact match to your flooring color. Moldings are sold as a complimentary item and are matched as closely to the flooring color as possible. We suggest planning your installation ahead of time and installing particular floorboards that best match the molding color next to where the molding is going to be installed for a gradual color match. Moldings may have slight design variations depending on the manufacturer and the time in which they were produced.

What's In A Warranty?

If your hardwood flooring is sold with a warranty, you will be covered for anything that may arise within and under the guidelines of that particular manufacturers warranty. Hardwood floor manufacturer warranties DO NOT cover - damage to the flooring caused by abnormal environmental issues such as higher or lower than normal moisture conditions causing buckling, cupping or contraction within the wood, improper installation or indentation damage (including damage from spiked heels, scratching or any damage caused by items being dropped, rolled or dragged on the flooring). Please see our Floor care section of Hosking Hardwood Flooring for tips on proper care of your new hardwood floor. All products retailed by are, unless otherwise stated, warranted by their respective manufacturer. Hosking Hardwood Flooring makes no further implied or expressed warranty.

Remember: Even the best wood flooring will react to the presence of moisture. In the dry winter heating months, moisture leaves the wood causing the floor to contract, which can leave unsightly gaps between each plank. In the summer months when the humidity is higher the wood will absorb excess moisture and expand and the gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. This is why it is important when installing a wood floor to acclimate the wood to the home from 4 to 7 days or more prior to installation and to leave the proper expansion gap around the perimeter and at all fixed objects. It is also important to keep the home's relative humidity level at between 30 - 50% or what the manufacturer recommends. Doing this will help minimize any movement within the wood flooring later.

Under each of our manufacturers’ product listings at, we offer our own 5 Star Rating System to try and help you determine what the quality of this flooring is. If you click on the blue question mark located next to the star rating, you can read how we make decisions in the rating of a particular product.

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Hosking Hardwood Flooring

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North Attleboro, MA 02760
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Overall Rating: 4.5 stars - 17 reviews

Date: August 5, 2018
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
So, the grading doesnt mean less quality? Im trying to purchase hardwood flooring and always wondered the price differences even within the same species.
Reply by HoskingHardwood : The higher the grading (Select & Better) generally means you will see more uniformity in color between boards (depending on wood species) with no or less knots. The lower the grade you chose the more natural character you will get such as knots, shorter board lengths, darker boards and mineral streaks . There is a fairly wide allowance within each grade for boards that may fall out of that grade so when purchasing any wood flooring allow an extra 5-10% for cutting and culling waste. Some styles like wide board oak flooring with knots and character are in demand and are at premium pricing. Choosing which manufacturer to purchase from can also be tough unless you have experience with working with them and/or are capable of determining a quality product from a bad or mediocre one. Flooring contractors and retail store sales staff can have a wide array of opinions on their favorites.  
Date: March 25, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Wish I knew this before. I have many black knots on engerneared flooring just installed not expected when flooring delivered and opened. Only a few were opened. I dealt with it because the color was very important as well. Told the installer to put those under bed, closets, etc. told him my bedroom was the room I needed to be without as many. Unfortunately my bedroom was the biggest room and was done second to last. Mannington was the manufacturer. Now I have black knots I want to try and soften. Any suggestions? The floor does have cream/ white tone. Light floor but not whitewash or grey. Thank you
Date: March 5, 2018
Page Rating: (1.0/5)
Thanks for updating this nice and good blog. I really like it.It is very useful and informative blog. keep sharing more post like this.
Date: October 9, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Until I found your web site, I was not getting enough information about hardwood flooring to make the best decision to meet our needs. I know so much more now that I have used your site. Great prices, too.
Date: October 4, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Excelent article weighing pros and cons using information not many people know. Gives instructions on what to look for and how expectations can be met with careful planning. I came away with specific items to check for when I shop. Thats good!
Date: August 25, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very helpful information about grades.
Date: June 20, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Thoughtful, detailed information. Best article Ive read on wood flooring. It suggests that your company gives a lot of care in the selection of wood flooring.
Date: November 5, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very informative and well written.
Date: June 4, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
thank you, you provided us with very detailed and professional information
Date: March 15, 2014
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
Suggestions for hardwood with and without variations in color would be helpful.

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