A Brief Explanation of Hardwood Grading

A Brief Explanation of Hardwood Grading

When you buy hardwood from local hardwood suppliers for your mill, production facility, or distribution center, you will see grades intended to identify the quality of the wood. These grades were developed by the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA), a membership-based trade association.

The NHLA was faced with developing standards for grading lumber from its very first meeting in 1898. By the end of that meeting, lumber grades were established and in 1901, inspection standards were developed for applying the grades. The NHLA established an Inspector Training School in 1948 to train lumber inspectors and has continued to train new inspectors to this day. This is the only hardwood lumber inspection training program in the world./p>

Lumber presently makes up over 40% of building materials but the use depends on the grade. Broadly speaking, grading includes a visual inspection, collection of measurements, and a few calculations:

  1. Determine the species of wood
  2. Measure the wood and calculate the surface measurement
  3. Determine the poor face of the wood
  4. Identify and measure any defects and calculate the percentage of clear wood
  5. Check the better face and determine the grade

Applying this process results in a grade for the lumber. Here is an explanation of the grades you might encounter when purchasing wholesale hardwood flooring from local hardwood suppliers:

Firsts and Seconds (or FAS)

FAS is the highest grade possible. FAS is most often used for applications that call for high-quality wood, such as wood furniture, interior joinery, and solid wood moldings.

For a board face to meet the FAS standard, at least 10/12ths (or 83 1/3%) of the board must provide clear cuttings. The defects that must be deducted from the surface measurement to calculate the number of clear cuttings include:

  • Bark pocket
  • Bird peck
  • Check
  • Decay
  • Knot
  • Split
  • Sticker stain
  • Wane
  • Worm hole
  • Pith
  • Grub hole

Both faces of lumber must be FAS for the lumber to be graded as FAS. If the poor side is not FAS, the lumber cannot be FAS.

Number 1 Common (or No. 1C)

No. 1C is a lower grade than FAS and is often called “cabinet grade.” For a board face to meet the No. 1C standard, between 8/12ths (or 66 2/3%) and 10/12ths (or 83 1/3%) of the board must provide clear cuttings. Moreover, only clear cuttings at least three feet by three inches or four feet by two inches are counted toward the number of clear cuttings. For a board to be graded No. 1C, both faces must meet the No. 1C standard.

FAS One Face (or F1F)

F1F is the grade that is applied if one face meets the FAS standard but the other face only meets the No. 1C standard. This grade is often suitable for wholesale wood flooring and can be acquired from hardwood flooring suppliers. F1F boards are often shipped in the same bundle as FAS. Bundled this way, it’s usually marked F1F and better, face and better, or FAB. All these terms mean the same thing.


Selects are the same as F1F. That is, selects have one face that is graded FAS and one face that is graded No. 1C.

The difference between F1F and select is the size. Selects can be as narrow as four inches and as short as six feet while F1F must be at least six inches wide and at least eight feet long.

Because boards the size of selects are ineligible for FAS grading, selects are often bundled with boards in which both faces meet FAS grading. These bundles are referred to as selects and better or SAB. Every board in a selects and better bundle has at least one FAS face, and some will meet FAS standards on both faces.

Number 2A Common (or No. 2AC)

No. 2AC is often referred to as “economy grade.” For a board face to meet the No. 2AC standard, between 6/12ths (or 50%) and 8/12ths (66 2/3%) of the board must provide clear cuttings. If either face only meets the No. 2AC standard, the lumber must be graded No. 2AC even if the better face meets a higher standard. No. 2AC lumber is allowed to have smaller dimensions than selects at three inches wide and four feet long.

It is key to understand hardwood lumber grades when you are searching for “local hardwood suppliers near me.” These grades define both the price and the applications for lumber acquired from local hardwood suppliers. For more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to GrafBro today.

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