Discount Flooring

Known as character, tavern, cabin, value, or #3 common flooring or factory seconds, discount hardwood flooring is dotted by noticeable knots, mineral streaks, and color variation. Because grades are based on appearance, discount flooring’s lack of evenness gets the lowest rating, but quality is not compromised. In fact, discount flooring often gives a rustic character to room and may even hide scratches and finish blotches better than Clear or Select grade hardwood.

Discount flooring, however, can be difficult to find in retail stores, although nearly all manufacturers offer this grade of hardwood. Species and types, however, vary. A distributor like Hurst Hardwoods receives a list from a mill of all discount flooring sold for that month. As a result, brand and product selections change.

In terms of appearance, discount flooring may be somewhat different from higher grades. Color variation, in particular, makes a difference. The patina of value-grade hardwood may have some greens and black added, and this quality gives discount flooring the name of “swamp wood.” As this flooring likely came from the outside of a tree, knots and streaks are consistent over the surface. Additional character marks include splits, checks, or windshake.

Wood, on the other hand, may be marked at a discount because of poor milling. Such features may include voids, tree bark edges, missing tongues, or irregular corners. The latter, in particular, causes problems in installation, as planks may not fit together. If you decide to purchase discount flooring for your home, make sure to order 10 percent or more in order to cover the occasional unusable plank, and investigate why a particular shipment from a mill is marked as “value” or “cabin grade.”

Pros and Cons

Discount flooring has a few pros and cons that depend on the needs of your space. Value-grade hardwood is cheap – $1.50 to $2.75 per square foot – but does not come with a manufacturer's warranty. Additionally, discount flooring may consist of shorts, a type of cabin grade wood only eight to 12 inches in length; typically, planks are 12 to 84 inches long.

Unfinished and prefinished hardwoods, however, have different grading. With more consistency, unfinished hardwood grades, including those used for discount flooring, are based on National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) standards. Grades for prefinished vary with manufacturer and are often marketable instead of indicative of quality. As a result, “Character” is used for distressed hardwoods, and all other terms, including “cabin” and “tavern,” are given to discount prefinished flooring.