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Hardwood lumber grades and grading rules have been established and are governed by the National Hardwood Lumber Association or NHLA. Flooring grades have been set and are maintained by theNational Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association or NOFMA.

Sawmills and their customers use the NHLA grading system, which describes the amount of usable clear material in a board. Boards with the highest grade—FAS—are long, wide and free of character marks. Select boards may contain slight character marks such as pinholes or small tight knots. The NHLA grading system includes:

NHLA Grading System
• FAS No. 1 Common
• Select No. 2 Common
No. 3 Common

The NOFMA standards grade oak and other species of flooring. This system is appearance-based with grades determined by the occurrence of character marks. These grades include:

NOFMA Grading System
• Clear No. 1 Common
• Select No. 2 Common

Clear and Select grades are further identified by the sawing method. NOFMA also has separate grading standards for pre-finished flooring–Prime, Standard and Tavern.


Hardwood logs become lumber by one of several sawing methods. Each gives hardwood boards a distinct grain pattern, along with performance characteristics you need to consider when specifying.

Plain-Sawn Lumber: cutting tangentially to a tree’s growth rings produces these boards. That creates the familiar “flame-shaped” or “cathedral” grain found in most hardwood flooring and millwork. This sawing method also produces the most lumber from each log, making it a cost-effective design choice.

Quarter-Sawn Lumber: This method means cutting a log radially, or 90-degree angle to the growth rings. This produces vertical graining, and results in fewer and narrower boards per log, which increases costs. Quarter-sawn boards are popular for decorative applications such as cabinet faces and wainscoting.

Rift-Sawn Lumber: Rift sawing at a 30-degree or greater angle to the growth rings produces narrow boards with accentuated vertical or straight grain patterns. These boards are often favored for fine furniture and other applications where matching grain is important. Rift-sawn lumber is available in limited quantities and species.

For Retail & Online Sales we offer FAS or Select & Better Grades

Grading Lumber

Grade Min Width Min Cut Size Usable Material
FAS 6in 4in x 5ft 83%
Select & Better 4in 4in x 5ft 83%
#1 Common 3in 3in x 4ft 66%
#2 Common 3in 3in x 2ft 50%

FAS: First & Seconds
This used to be two separate categories but was combined many years ago. FAS is the best grade of lumber meaning that it has the largest percent of clear area over all the other grades for this species of wood, thus it’s also the most expensive. A board must be at least 6″ wide and the poorer of the two faces is used to grade it.

FAS 1-Face: First & Seconds:
Similar to FAS except the better face is graded instead of the worst. It must also be 6″ wide.

Select & Better
Select is No. 1 Common on one face and FAS on the other. The board must be at least 4″ wide and like FAS 1-Face, the better face is graded. The price between the first three grades can be very similar depending upon the seller.

No.1 Common
This grade is often times just called No.1 or Common. This is still furniture grade material but more defects are allowed than the previous grades. Poorer side is graded and must be 3″ wide.

No.2 Common
You can still get short to medium size pieces that are furniture grade material. Poorer side is graded and must be 3″ wide.

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