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Hardwood flooring grades – Select grade vs. No 1 Common

What’s the difference among the different grades of hardwood flooring?  Which is better… select grade or Number 1?

westchester hardwood flooring and painting

Most customers don’t realize that there are different grades of oak flooring.  They just assume all oak flooring is the same.  For oak flooring, there are 3 main grades: select, Number 1 common and Number 2 common.  Select grade is generally considered the highest grade as it has the least color variation.  It costs the more.  This is followed by No 1 which has more color variation and some occasional knots, and that is followed by No 2 which has a lot more color variation and knots.  Sometimes, this is called character grade or cabin grade wood.

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Technically, the quality of the wood (as measured by hardness/durability) is the same across all the grades.  The differences between the grades are their appearances.  Some people prefer the higher color consistency that you find in select grade; others prefer more color variation that you find in Number 1 oak, and still others prefer a more rustic look and feel that it adds more character.  There is no right or wrong answer here; it is preference and it’s important to understand which you prefer.

Select grade (red oak)

Red Oak Select grade westchester NY

Number 1 (No 1) Common – red oak

Red Oak No 1 - Westchester County

Number 2 (No 2) Common – red oak

Red Oak No 2 westchester


The differences in the color among the boards are more obvious when the wood is natural (i.e. without a stain).  The darker the stain, the less you notice the color difference in the boards.


Red Oak Select grade vs No 1 common - westchester county

Here is a side by side of Select grade Oak vs. Number 1 Common (No 1) Oak.  These are pictures of red oak flooring (the same principle applies to white oak flooring.  Check out this article for more info on Red oak vs. white oak flooring.


When you are getting estimates from flooring contractors, it’s important that they specify what grade of wood they are using.  Sometimes, the main reason that one estimate differs from another is based on the hardwood being used.  And, if a contractor doesn’t specify, they are probably going to use a lower grade since it costs them less (and they may think that you won’t notice or won’t know any better.

Select grade (left) vs. Number 1 Common (right) – red oak

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5 thoughts on “Hardwood flooring grades – Select grade vs. No 1 Common”

  1. Completely opposite for me, I prefer the variations, which means I probably prefer the lower grades. Crazy! I think you are right that most people won’t know so they will just go on price.

    1. Thanks for the info. I wonder if the 3 grades you’re referring to correlate with the ridtsawn, quartersawn types of cuts. I have an appt to get an estimate and I’m trying to get clarity about what to ask for.

      1. Hi Melissa. No, those are different. Those are cuts of wood – the way the wood is sliced. Those are higher grade/more expensive. There is rift & quartersawn, rifted only and quartersawn only. All 3 are more expensive than select and all 3 can be used over radiant heat as there is less expansion/contraction. Rifted only or quartersawn only costs more than rifted and quartersawn as they need to sort through more wood. Quartersawn has rays in it; rifted looks more linear. I don’t have pictures to show (that I own). so, if you want to look at them, google that info and you can see what the cuts looks like.

    1. The official wood grades apply to solid hardwood. There are “grades” on engineered, but not regulated standard and all sorts of names that manufacturers use and often inconsistently. Also, many engineered woods, especially cheaper ones, are rotary sawn (think of an apple peeler) and these tend to be weaker and certainly look cheaper (i.e. the graining is a bit distorted due to how it’s sawn). They do this so that there is less waste and it’s cheaper for them.

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