Character Grade Flooring

With an appearance dotted by knots, streaks, and color variation, character grade flooring literally adds character to a room. A name given to #3 common flooring, character grade hardwood offers several benefits. Sold 50-percent less than standard-grade hardwood, character flooring allows homeowners to affordably have the look of real wood. Nearly all manufacturers, as well, have solid and engineered character grade flooring in their product lines.

Finding #3 common flooring, however, can be difficult, as most retail stores do not carry it. Even at distributors who offer character grade flooring, selections may vary and are dependent on a monthly list of species and types of hardwoods from mills. Nevertheless, The Timberland Collection™ by Bruce Hardwoods and Robbins and Hartco products by Armstrong are popular lines of character grade flooring.

Although considered #3 common flooring, character grade hardwood is not an inferior product. Grading for unfinished hardwoods pertains to the appearance. Higher grades, such as Clear and Select, have even appearances with few to no character marks. Lower standard grades, such as #1 and #2 Common, have more color variation and still pass a manufacturer's standards. Most character grade flooring has an abundance of knots, mineral streaks, and color variety.

Hardwood may be given a character grade because of poor milling, however. The wood may have voids, visible tree bark edges, missing tongues, splits, checks, and windshake. Many of these features create problems in installation. As ends may not always be square, boards may not fit together, or the finished surface of the floor may end up uneven. Because of this, find out why a particular shipment of flooring has a "character grade" label, and purchasing an additional 10 to 15 percent more to compensate is recommended.


Even with this risk, character grade flooring is still very affordable at $0.89 to $1.19 per square foot. #3 common flooring, on the other hand, does not come with a manufacturer's warranty.


Grading for unfinished hardwoods is based on standards by the National Wood Flooring Association, but prefinished flooring grades are set by the manufacturer. Because of this, prefinished character grade hardwood is seldom #3 common flooring. Prefinished character grade flooring, instead, is distressed, which raises the product's price tag. Value-grade prefinished flooring has the same types of characteristics as unfinished hardwood, but a grade may be given before or after a finish is added.