Grades are the way that wood flooring is categorised depending on the amount and size of knots and variation that it features. The idea is that this helps customers understand how the floor will look once laid – wood flooring grades is not a description of quality.
A rustic grade floor for example could be expected to feature large and small knots as well as plenty of natural colour variation. A luxury grade would normally feature very little colour variation and few if any knots.
So far, so good, but there is a slight complication – grades are not standard, and different countries and companies have different grading conventions a rustic floor from one supplier may not be at all comparable with a rustic floor from another, despite being described as the same grade. Often people don't explain their grades, and where they do the details are typically quite technical and hard to relate to the way a floor will actually look once fitted. That is why at Broadleaf we have our own names for our grades and define these in plain English with minimal technical terminology.
The other key thing to understand about wood flooring grades is that they can never be exhaustive. Timber is, unashamedly, a natural product. There may be more knots in once batch than in another, or more or less colour variation. A wood flooring grade is a spectrum, and a floor should be expected to fall within it, not necessarily to contain every element, in a fixed and predictable quantity.
Finish is also key to the way a grade of wood flooring will look once fitted. A rustic wood floor that features plenty of knots and colour variation will look very different if finished in a rich, nut brown tone than with a wash of white. Whilst the first will mask most of the knots, blend much of the colour variation and overall give the finished floor a much less rustic look, the second will show these off and if anything enhance the rusticity of the end result. This is why floors of the same grade, in different finishes, can look at first glance as though they have quite different natural characteristics.