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Select Grade vs Character Grade Hardwood Flooring: Key Differences & Pros/Cons

Delving into the realm of hardwood flooring, the debate between select grade and character grade options stirs curiosity. The choice between these two types involves considerations beyond mere aesthetics. Select grade exudes uniformity and sleekness, while character grade boasts unique knots and patterns that add charm to spaces. Understanding the nuances of each aids in making an informed decision tailored to personal preferences and practical needs. Whether seeking a pristine, modern look or a rustic appeal with natural imperfections, exploring the disparities between select grade and character grade hardwood flooring unveils a world of design possibilities waiting to grace your living environment.

Key Differences in Appearance

Select Grade

select grade engineered hardwood flooring

Select grade hardwood flooring is known for its consistent and clean appearance. This grade features minimal color variations and few imperfections, making it highly sought after for a sleek and modern look. The boards in this grade typically have longer lengths, creating a more uniform and elegant aesthetic.

No. 1 Common Grade

No. 1 Common grade hardwood flooring introduces more natural characteristics compared to Select grade. It showcases small knots, slight color variations, and unique markings that add character to the floor. While it may not have the same uniformity as Select grade, No. 1 Common offers a warm and inviting feel with its distinct features.

No. 2 Common Grade

rustic character grade hardwood flooring

In contrast, No. 2 Common grade hardwood flooring embraces a more rustic charm with pronounced knots, significant color variation, and varying board lengths. This grade highlights the natural beauty of wood by showcasing its diverse characteristics, giving the space a cozy and traditional ambiance.

Importance of Appearance Grading

  • Choosing between different grades of hardwood flooring is crucial as it directly impacts the overall look of your space.

  • The grading system helps homeowners select flooring based on their desired aesthetic, whether they prefer a clean and contemporary style or a more rustic appeal.

  • Understanding the visual distinctions between grades allows individuals to make an informed decision that aligns with their design preferences.

Quality Assessment of Hardwood Grades

Select Grade

Select grade hardwood flooring is characterized by uniform color, minimal imperfections, and consistent grain patterns. These planks are sourced from the center of the tree, resulting in a more even appearance. The boards are typically longer, allowing for a smoother and more elegant finish.

No. 1 Common Grade

No. 1 Common grade hardwood flooring features a slightly higher number of visible imperfections compared to Select grade. These imperfections include small knots, mineral streaks, and occasional variations in color. Despite these characteristics, No. 1 Common grade still offers a natural and rustic look that appeals to many homeowners.

No. 2 Common Grade

No. 2 Common grade hardwood flooring is known for its pronounced natural characteristics such as larger knots, more prominent mineral streaks, and varying color tones. While some may view these features as flaws, others appreciate the unique charm they bring to a space. The shorter length boards in this grade can create an interesting visual effect.

Select grade hardwood flooring tends to be the most resilient due to its minimal defects and high-quality selection process during grading. On the other hand, No. 2 Common grade may have more vulnerabilities over time due to its inherent imperfections like knots and mineral streaks that can weaken the wood structure.

Grading significantly impacts not only the quality but also the aesthetic appeal of hardwood floors. Homeowners seeking a clean and modern look often opt for Select grade for its sleek appearance with fewer distractions on the surface. In contrast, those desiring a cozy and inviting atmosphere may prefer No. 1 or 2 Common grades for their warm character and natural beauty.

Suitability for Various Spaces

Residential Areas

When deciding between select grade and character grade hardwood flooring for residential spaces, consider the room's lighting. Rooms with ample natural light can showcase the beauty of select grade floors with their uniform appearance. In contrast, character grade flooring, with its unique knots and patterns, can add warmth to cozy cabins or rooms with dimmer lighting.

For smaller rooms, such as bedrooms or studies, opt for select grade flooring to create an illusion of more space due to its clean and sleek look. In larger living areas like open-plan kitchens or living rooms, character grade hardwood can bring a sense of charm and character to the space.

Commercial Settings

In commercial settings like restaurants or taverns, where durability is crucial due to high foot traffic, consider installing select grade hardwood flooring. Its smooth surface and minimal imperfections make it easier to maintain in busy environments.

Character grade hardwood can be a standout choice. The distinct patterns and knots in this type of flooring can make a bold design statement that complements modern interior decor styles.

Matching Grades with Room Size

For small rooms like bathrooms or entryways, choose select grade boards as they create an illusion of spaciousness. The uniformity in board size and tight knots adds elegance without overwhelming the limited area.

In larger spaces such as expansive living rooms or commercial lobbies, character grade planks offer visual interest and a welcoming feel. The varying board lengths and sized knots contribute to a dynamic look that enhances the overall ambiance of these sizable areas.

Considerations for Design Preferences

When selecting between select and character grades based on design preferences, board length, filler usage also plays a crucial role. Select grades are ideal for those who prefer cleaner lines and minimalistic designs while character grades cater to individuals seeking more rustic charm in their interiors.

Select Grade Hardwood Explained

Premium Quality

select grade hardwood floor installation in home

Select grade hardwood flooring is renowned for its minimal imperfections and uniform appearance. This top-tier wood grade offers a premium quality that appeals to many homeowners.

The select grade hardwood stands out due to its superior aesthetic appeal, making it an ideal choice for those who prioritize a clean and consistent look in their living spaces. The uniformity of select grade flooring enhances the overall ambiance of any room.

Higher Cost

While select grade hardwood boasts exceptional quality, it comes with a higher price tag compared to other wood grades. The increased cost reflects the meticulous selection process required to ensure only the finest pieces make it into this category.

Homeowners investing in select grade hardwood flooring can expect to pay more upfront but will reap the benefits of its longevity and timeless elegance. Despite the initial expense, many find the durability and beauty of select grade flooring worth every penny.

Advantages for Homeowners

For individuals seeking a high-end finish with flawless aesthetics, select grade hardwood flooring is an excellent choice. Its pristine appearance adds value to any home, creating a sense of luxury and sophistication.

The advantages of select grade extend beyond visual appeal; this premium wood type requires minimal maintenance while offering exceptional durability. With proper care, select grade hardwood floors can last for generations, making them a worthwhile investment for homeowners looking for long-term value.

Character Grade Hardwood Insights

Natural Features

character grade hardwood floor installation

Character grade hardwood, including No. 1 Common and No. 2 Common, showcases more natural features compared to select grade. These features often include knots, mineral streaks, and color variations that add a unique touch to the flooring.

Character grade wood is known for its rustic charm and distinctive appearance. The presence of knots, wormholes, and other character marks gives each plank a unique personality, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a one-of-a-kind look in their space.

Visual Appeal

Some homeowners prefer character grade hardwood flooring for its distinct visual appeal. The natural imperfections found in character grade wood add warmth and character to a room, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

The unique markings in character grade flooring tell a story of the wood's history, adding depth and interest to any space. Whether it's the rich patina of heartwood or the intricate patterns of grain variation, character grade hardwood brings a sense of authenticity to interior design.

Choosing Based on Preferences and Budget

Design Goals

When selecting between Select and Character Grade hardwood flooring, consider your design goals. If you aim for a sleek, uniform look with minimal variations, Select Grade may be the ideal choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a more rustic or natural appearance with unique knots and grains, Character Grade could better suit your design preferences.

Maintenance Requirements

Evaluate the maintenance requirements of each grade before making a decision. While both grades are durable and long-lasting, Select Grade typically has fewer imperfections, making it easier to clean and maintain over time. Conversely, Character Grade, with its diverse patterns and textures, may require more frequent maintenance to preserve its distinct charm.

Affordability Considerations

When weighing your options based on budget constraints, it's essential to understand the cost implications of each grade. While Select Grade hardwood flooring tends to be pricier due to its uniformity and higher quality appearance, Character Grade offers a cost-effective alternative without compromising on durability or longevity.

Balancing Aesthetics with Affordability

To strike a balance between aesthetics and affordability when choosing between Select and Character grades, consider opting for a combination of both. You could use Select Grade in prominent areas like living rooms or hallways where a polished look is desired while incorporating Character Grade in less visible spaces such as bedrooms or home offices to add character without exceeding your budget.

Pros and Cons of Select Grade


Select grade hardwood flooring offers uniformity in appearance, making it visually appealing for those seeking a consistent look throughout their space. With fewer defects such as knots, mineral streaks, and color variations, Select grade flooring provides a clean and sophisticated aesthetic. This quality makes it an excellent choice for modern or minimalist interior designs.

The enhanced resale value is another significant advantage of Select grade hardwood flooring. Its premium quality and pristine appearance can attract potential buyers looking for high-end finishes in a property. Homeowners investing in Select grade can potentially see a higher return on investment when selling their home due to the appeal of this top-tier flooring option.


One of the main drawbacks of Select grade hardwood flooring is its higher costs compared to other grades. The superior quality and meticulous selection process involved in producing Select grade planks contribute to its elevated price point. Homeowners with budget constraints may find it challenging to justify the additional expense associated with choosing this premium grade over more affordable options.

Another factor to consider is the limited availability of Select grade hardwood flooring. Due to its stringent quality requirements and the need for flawless boards, manufacturers produce fewer planks that meet Select grade standards. As a result, finding sufficient quantities of Select grade material for larger projects can be difficult, leading to potential delays or compromises in design continuity.

Evaluating Your Needs

When deciding between different grades of hardwood flooring, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully based on your specific requirements and preferences. Consider factors such as your budget constraints, design goals, and long-term investment strategy before opting for Select grade over other available options.

Ultimately, if you prioritize uniformity, minimal defects, and increased resale value in your flooring choice, then Select grade may be the ideal solution for achieving a polished and upscale look in your home or commercial space.

Pros and Cons of Character Grade

Unique Aesthetics

Character grade hardwood flooring offers distinctive and unique aesthetics that can add charm and character to any space. The natural knots, mineral streaks, and color variations create a rustic and warm ambiance.


One of the primary advantages of character grade hardwood is its cost-effectiveness. Compared to higher grades, such as select grade, character grade flooring is often more affordable, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious homeowners.

Versatility in Design

Character grade hardwood provides homeowners with a wide range of design options. Its natural imperfections can complement various interior styles, from traditional to modern, allowing for creative expression in home decor.

Variability in Appearance

While the unique features of character grade flooring are appealing to many, they can also be a drawback for some homeowners. The inconsistencies in appearance, such as knots and color variations, may not appeal to those seeking a more uniform look.

Maintenance Challenges

Maintaining character grade hardwood floors may require extra care compared to higher-grade options. The natural imperfections can trap dirt and dust more easily, requiring regular cleaning and maintenance to preserve the floor's appearance.

Lower Resale Value

Another consideration when choosing character grade hardwood is its potential impact on resale value. Homes with character grade flooring may fetch a lower price on the market compared to homes with higher-grade floors due to perceived maintenance issues or aesthetic preferences.

Making an Informed Decision

Key Factors

Prioritize preferences: When deciding between Select and Character grades, consider the level of uniformity you desire in your hardwood flooring. Select grade offers a more consistent appearance with minimal color variation and fewer knots, ideal for a modern and sleek aesthetic. On the other hand, Character grade boasts unique knots, mineral streaks, and color variations that add warmth and character to a space.

Budget constraints: Evaluate your budget carefully as it plays a significant role in choosing the right hardwood grade. Select grade tends to be pricier due to its pristine appearance, while Character grade offers cost-effectiveness without compromising on quality. Consider how much you are willing to invest based on your desired look and long-term satisfaction.

Seeking Expert Advice

When faced with uncertainty or conflicting preferences, consulting with hardwood flooring experts can provide valuable insights tailored to your specific needs. These professionals can assess your space, lifestyle factors, and design goals to recommend the most suitable grade for your home or business. Their expertise ensures that you make an informed decision aligned with both aesthetics and functionality.

Personalized Guidance

Engaging with experts allows you to delve deeper into the nuances of each grade's characteristics beyond surface-level observations. They can explain the milling process, highlighting how it influences the final product's appearance and quality. Understanding these technical details empowers you to appreciate the craftsmanship behind each plank of flooring before making a selection.

Consulting professionals also enables you to explore additional finishing options that complement your chosen grade. Whether you prefer a glossy finish for added elegance or a matte finish for a more natural look, their guidance ensures that your flooring aligns seamlessly with your overall design vision.

Long-Term Satisfaction

Ultimately, when weighing the decision between Select and Character grades of hardwood flooring, prioritize long-term satisfaction above immediate trends or preferences. While current styles may influence your choice initially, selecting a grade that resonates with your personal taste over time is crucial for enduring enjoyment of your investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key differences in appearance between select grade and character grade hardwood flooring?

Select grade hardwood typically has a uniform appearance with minimal imperfections, while character grade hardwood showcases natural characteristics like knots and color variations for a more rustic look.

How can one assess the quality of select grade and character grade hardwood flooring?

Quality assessment involves inspecting factors like grain patterns, color consistency, and presence of defects such as knots or mineral streaks. Select grade is known for its clean, consistent appearance, whereas character grade embraces natural variations.

In what spaces are select grade and character grade hardwood flooring most suitable?

Select grade hardwood is ideal for formal areas like living rooms due to its refined look, while character grade suits more casual spaces such as rustic-themed rooms or cottages where a unique charm is desired.

Could you explain what select grade hardwood entails?

Select grade represents premium quality wood with a uniform appearance free from major imperfections. It offers a sophisticated aesthetic that appeals to those seeking a clean and elegant finish for their floors.

What insights can you provide about character-grade hardwood flooring?

Character-grade hardwood features natural imperfections like knots, mineral streaks, and color variations that add charm and uniqueness to the floor. It's favored by those who appreciate a more rustic or traditional look in their living spaces.


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