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The grading of wood floor timbers can sometimes be rather confusing, with different manufacturers often having different terms definitions for their grades of timber. Also, grading may also differ between different species of wood where the grain, knot or colour characteristics of any given timber don't have an equivalent in another species.

Notwithstanding this, as a general guide, wood floors can broadly speaking be arranged into 3 grades;

prime oak grade_smallPrime or Classic Grade:

This is the highest grade and will generally be clean and straight-grained with no sapwood. Even tone and colouration. No knots, unless these are very specific to the aesthetics of the species and are deemed as desirable. Also, please note that some timbers with wide natural colour variation may be separated and sorted into several classic grades each with a different colour.

nature grade_smallSelect or Nature Grade:

Some grain variation, some colour variation, with up to 10% sapwood allowed in some species. Only small knots (generally less than 10mm diameter) allowed. Generally a relatively clean finish, and sometimes easily mistaken for Prime grade. Often preferred over Prime for the subtle grain characteristics.

 rustic oak plank_smallRustic or Character Grade:

Distinguished by an increase in the number and variety of size of knots (some up to around 30mm diameter). Other features may include unlimited colour variation, including sapwood and dark streaks. Large and cracked knots are most often filled with resin but are structurally sound. The most popular grade for its lively and authentic appearance.

  extra rustic oak plank_smallExtra or Super Rustic Grade:

Similar to Rustic grade, but distinguished by the inclusion of cracked knots, splits and shakes. Only available as an unfinished board, cracked knots and splits are unfilled but if particularly severe can be selectively filled at point of installation. Despite its gnarly appearance, a very attractive grade popular in barn conversions and cottages.

"antiqued" floors

A popular choice among designers and homeowners these days is the look of an old, worn and perhaps distressed hardwood floor. A distressed wood floor can add real character to a room, and at it's best can make a brand new floor look a hundred years old. Although many distressed wood floors have a rustic appearance, this should not be confused with the grading of the wood itself.

There are several means of achieving a time-worn appearance to a wood floor. The most common are hand-scraped, and mechanical or hand-distressed.

Hand-scraped Wood Floors

handscraped oak_smallThe history of hand-scraped floors is rooted in an old technique for finishing hardwood flooring that harken back to the 1800's in the United States, when, in the absence of either engineered, prefinished wood floors or industrial sanding equipment, craftsmen would fix unfinished solid oak (generally red oak) boards, and then level the planks in a planing technique using very sharp, heavy duty steel blades. The blade usually had rounded edges to prevent gouging the wood, and would have either a flat, or sometimes a convex shape, depending on what kind of finish was required. The floor would then be stained by hand and finished with a paste wax.

Traditional hand-scraped floors achieved by the above method are extremely rare these days, but fortunately there are more and more wood floors available that recreate this look, albeit through mechanical means at the point of manufacture. 

distressed oak_smallDistressed Wood Floors

Another way of achieving an old, worn look in wood flooring is through mechanically distressed hardwood flooring.

This method emulates the distinctive look of a wood floor that has been down for many years, with all of the small dents and knocks that it would accumulate in that time. There are a couple of different methods of achieving this appearance; one is where the timber boards are run beneath a roller with a variety of raised ....; effectively embossing the flaws into the wood. The other is where the boards are tumbled in a large drum filled with rocks or pieces of metal. We prefer the tumbled method as it provides a more realistic randomness in the damage sustained to the board, whereas the rolling method can sometimes have a give-away repetition to the distress marks.

Once a stain and varnish, or preferably a hardwax oil, is applied to the surface, the distressed characteristics of the floor are beautifully emphasised as the stain or hardwax oil pools in the dents and scrapes creating an old and truly unique appearance.