Complete Guide to Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring

Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring

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When searching for the absolute cheapest hardwood flooring, there is one type that might escape your attention. Rarely is it advertised by flooring manufacturers or touted by flooring salespeople. Yet this flooring is 100-percent hardwood and it is usually inexpensive.

This flooring is called rustic grade hardwood and it just might find its way to your outbuilding, home gym, workshop, or mudroom floor.

Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring

Rustic grade hardwood flooring is solid hardwood that may include a greater than normal number of knots, pith, streaks, sharp color variations, and minor defects like small splits, broken or missing tongues, short pieces, and wormholes. Rustic grade hardwood is the lowest grade of hardwood flooring and it is usually modestly priced.

What Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring Is

Rustic grade hardwood flooring is usually different from most hardwoods that are identified merely as rustic. Within the flooring industry, rustic most often indicates appearance, not composition.

Nearly any type of flooring, even non-wood-flooring, can be labeled with this rustic designation: laminate, luxury vinyl plank, and even ceramic tile in plank form. When any flooring has a wood appearance along with a heavily distressed look, this usually means that it will have that designation: rustic.

But rustic grade hardwood flooring is different. It's an actual grade of wood, not a marketing term. This term is used by the flooring industry to denote hardwood just below the better natural grade flooring, which is suitable for all residential indoor installations.

Hardwood grades are not determined arbitrarily. Since 1898, the National Hardwood Lumber Association has established wood grading rules that are followed by the industry.

Grades of Hardwood

FAS Grade: Firsts and Seconds

FAS grade hardwood is top-tier hardwood that comes in long pieces that are free most defects and has a clear appearance. These top-grade boards are best for trimwork and building fine wood items like cabinets, chairs, or tables.

FAS1F or F1F Grade: One Face and Selects

FAS One Face and Select boards, sometimes called SAB boards, are sourced from the best face of the wood and are clear with good color consistency. FAS1F or F1F boards are best for doors and cabinet face frames.

No. 1 Common Grade 

No. 1 or #1 common grade hardwood can be used for a wide variety of projects. Minimum board size is 3 inches by 4 feet. Around two-thirds of the faces are clear.

No. 2A Common (or Rustic Grade)

Rustic grade hardwood sometimes is called #2, tavern, or cabin grade flooring. Its surface quality is poorer than natural grade flooring. Its random lengths can often be shorter than even regular commodity flooring, which itself can be short. About 50-percent of the cuttings are clear.

Quality of Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring Boards

The main feature that distinguishes rustic grade from natural grade solid hardwood and certainly from veneer-bonded engineered wood flooring is its surface imperfections. Rustic grade tends to have a large number of knots, knot holes, and other open spaces.

Rustic grade wood flooring also may have grease pencil or Sharpie marks, deeply engrained dirt, and watermarks that require heavy sanding to remove.

Structurally, rustic grade hardwood flooring may have broken tongues, broken grooves, split ends, and severely warped boards.

Because more of the rustic grade boards may not be suitable for installation, it's usually recommended that you purchase 20-percent more product than the area's square footage.

Where to Install Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring

Rustic grade hardwood flooring is not suited for all areas of the house. True to one of its alternate names, cabin grade, this type of flooring is often installed in spaces other than primary residences.

Rustic grade hardwood flooring may be acceptable for primarily residential use for some people. Most homeowners, though, will find it primitive for installation in their living rooms and bedrooms.

Generally, you would never want to install rustic grade wood flooring in any room where people are expected to walk in bare feet or with socks. Appropriate locations and uses include:

  • Workshops
  • Outbuildings
  • Home gym weight rooms
  • Cabins
  • Mudrooms

Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring Dimensions

Rustic grade hardwood flooring is found in the same dimensions as natural grade flooring, such as 3/4-inch by 2 1/2-inch. Other common widths for rustic grade hardwood are 3 1/4-inch, 4-inch, and 4 1/4-inch. Plank-width rustic grade hardwood flooring can be found, but the cupping of imperfect boards will be more pronounced than with narrower boards.

Lengths of rustic grade hardwood floorboards can vary from brand to brand, and even within a single brand. But this much is assured: Rarely ever will you find a bundle of long (and uniformly-long) floorboards.

Groups of random short and long boards are referred to as nested bundles within the flooring industry. Nested is an appropriate term because when you look at the bundle from a distance, it appears to be a set of long boards. Only on closer examination do you notice that some of these long boards are composed of two, three, or even four shorter boards set on-end.

Nested bundle rustic grade boards come as short as 10 inches and as long as 6 feet. Quantities of lengths should be evened out within the bundle so that you do not have far more of one length than another. If your nested bundle is composed of only short boards, it will compromise the appearance of your installed flooring. It will take longer to install and the finished project will look chaotic. Make sure ahead of time that you have plenty of long, medium, and short boards.

Where to Buy Rustic Grade Hardwood Flooring

 Search with a series of names, such as rustic grade, tavern grade, utility grade, and cabin grade. Some retailers have even begun to start referring to this type of flooring as character grade, presumably because it adds rustic character to rooms. 

Lumber Liquidators is a ready source of rustic grade flooring. Begin with Lumber Liquidators' Unfinished Solid Hardwood category, then search any of the sub-categories below.

Article Sources
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  1. NHLA Grading Rules. National Hardwood Lumber Association