Wood Flooring Shorts

Using flooring shorts is one option for cutting down on the costs of installing a hardwood floor. Wood flooring shorts are often sold as #3 common flooring but are not always characterized by knots, mineral streaks, and color variation. In fact, flooring shorts are often considered scraps, or leftovers, of higher-grade hardwood. In either instance, wood flooring shorts are eight- to 12-inches long, although they may be longer, and are priced lower than their longer counterparts. If shorts are an option for your floor, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using them?

The smaller size makes shorts perfect for installing flooring into narrow areas, such as closets or some hallways. To take this approach, planning must be done in advance. Before purchasing any wood flooring shorts, calculate the length the boards need to be and how many will be added. Additionally, if you are planning for a random length staggered floor, shorts can be juxtaposed with longer planks to cover an area.

On their own, on the other hand, shorts are less traditional, and the abundance of lines on one set length staggered floor can create a choppy appearance. Similarly, if wood flooring shorts are being installed over a larger area, more fasteners will be needed. For installing shorts yourself, calculate ahead of time the amount of nails or staples required.

Various product lines start planks at 12-inches long, the general maximum length for shorts. Shorter boards may be found as #3 common flooring and may or may not have character marks. If a shipment of shorts has an abundance of character marks, keep in mind the same points as for purchasing longer #3 common grade flooring: While knots, mineral streaks, and color variation do not affect the wood physically, some #3 common flooring is labeled as such because of poor milling. Although wood flooring shorts allow you to save significantly, check with a distributor as to why a particular product is given a #3 common grade: Were the shorts scraps, do they have a greater presence of character marks, or were they poorly milled?


“Cabin” or “tavern” grade prefinished flooring, however, has the same qualities as unfinished factory seconds. This flooring may, in fact, be graded as unfinished hardwood, and the finish is later applied. This is not always the case, and finished hardwood that does not meet the manufacturer’s standards will also be given a “value grade” label and sold as economy flooring.


Economy flooring has certain advantages. The cost per foot may be 50-percent less than the manufacturer's standard prices, for example. For installation, however, economy flooring does not come with a warranty, and because of irregularities, more than one box, or at least 10 percent more, of hardwood needs to be purchased.