Tavern Grade Flooring

With a patina of knots, color variation, and streaks, tavern grade flooring is unique and unusual. Usually cut from the outer part of a tree, tavern grade flooring has character marks that display the tree’s time in the elements. Tavern grade hardwood, however, is sold as value flooring and is carried by many manufacturers. Finding tavern grade hardwood can be a challenge, as many retailers do not carry it. Distributors like Hurst Hardwoods receive monthly lists from mills of discount hardwood sold, and this information changes the availability of certain types and brands.

Grading is a confusing issue for those looking at hardwoods. For unfinished flooring, grading is based on standards set by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and is based on appearance. Hardwood with a consistent appearance is labeled “Clear” or “Select.” Woods with the most visible character marks are given a “tavern” grade.

Color variation sets tavern grade hardwood apart from other higher grades. In addition to knots and mineral streaks, value-grade hardwood may have black and greens included, which vary or darken the patina of the planks. Other features seen on tavern grade are splits, checks, or windshake.

Some woods, on the other hand, may be labeled as “tavern grade” because of poor milling. This hardwood has voids, tree bark-covered edges, missing tongues, or irregular corners. Installation can be complicated by these boards, and if you are planning to add tavern grade flooring to your home, make sure to purchase at least 10 percent extra to compensate for damaged or unusable planks.

Pros and Cons

Tavern grade flooring has a few pros and cons. Many go for this flooring for the price, in addition to the appearance. A square foot of tavern grade hardwood may be $1.50 to $2.75 per foot – about 50 percent of a manufacturer’s standard costs. However, manufacturers do not offer warranties with discount flooring and may have a selection of shorts – planks that are eight to 12 inches long.

Prefinished flooring is quickly installed, but grading for it is confusing, as each manufacturer creates its own system. “Character” grade indicates a distressed appearance, while “tavern” grade is used for standard discount flooring. For prefinished discount flooring, hardwood may have been labeled “tavern” when unfinished, or after a finish was applied, the product was not up to the manufacturer’s standards.