Switch to ex VAT Switch to inc VAT
My Account
Shopping Basket
Family-run business
40+ years industry experience
5-star service
97% 5-star Google Reviews
Free samples
Request a free, genuine sample
Fast UK delivery
Choose your delivery day


Wood Flooring 'Grades' - A Buyers Guide

Selecting the appropriate grade of flooring for your property is important in helping you achieve the look that suits your style and interior design. Within this guide, we will explore the intricacies of the grading system for engineered oak flooring in the hope it assists you towards making a well-informed decision that suits your tastes and requirements.

What are the Engineered Oak Flooring grades and what do they mean:

The grading system for wood flooring, including engineered oak, is used to describe the amount of natural characteristics that are featured within the board. Here are the common grades you’ll encounter:

prime grade

Prime grade engineered oak flooring is characterised by its refined and elegant appearance. This grade features wood planks with minimal knots, grain variations, or other natural characteristics. Key features of Prime Grade Engineered Oak Flooring include:

Character: One of the defining characteristics of prime grade oak is the scarcity of knots and features. This offers a consistent and clean appearance throughout the surface which can be said to create an elegant and clean look.

Colour Variation: Prime grade oak tends to have lighter colour tones, contributing to a bright and airy feel in the room. Although colour variation from what one board to the next will always be somewhat present when purchasing a natural product, it’s much less in a cleaner Prime grade

Contemporary Appeal: The refined aesthetics of prime grade engineered oak flooring can make it well-suited for contemporary settings and can said to complement modern furniture and décor.

Select Grade

Select Grade sits between Natural and Prime. Like Prime grade, Select features fewer knots and cleaner planks however more colour variation is present. The key features of Select Grade Engineered Oak Flooring:

Character: While not entirely free of knots or characteristics, Select grade oak minimises these features. The knots present are typically small and add a touch of character without dominating the overall look.

Colour variation: Select grade engineered oak may have some colour variation, contributing to a natural and authentic appearance.

Balanced appeal: Select grade oak strikes a balance between the more pristine appearance of Prime grade and the more authentic charm of Natural grade.

Natural Grade

Natural grade engineered oak is the most popular grade we offer and is often described as the “happy medium” of gradings. Natural grade offers a very traditional allowing for a rich display of the oak’s natural characteristics, including knots and grain variations. Key features of Natural Grade Engineered Oak Flooring:

Character: Unlike higher grade options, Natural grade oak proudly displays knots and distinctive grain patterns. These elements contribute to the charm and character of the flooring.

Colour variation: Natural grade oak will feature some variations in colour from board to board, enhancing its organic appearance.

Natural appeal: With the inclusion of knots, mineral streaks, and other natural features imparts a characterful charm to the flooring. This makes natural grade engineered oak an ideal choice for those who appreciate the warmth and character associated with traditional timber floors.

Rustic Grade

Rustic Grade

Rustic grade engineered oak flooring offers a charming and characterful appearance, embracing the natural features and ‘imperfections’ within Oak. This grade is intentionally designed to showcase pronounced knots, sapwood, mineral streaks, and variations in colour, creating a floor that exudes a warm and inviting ambiance. Key features of Rustic Grade Engineered Oak Flooring:

Character: Rustic grade oak flooring stands out for its abundance of natural characteristics offering numerous of knots which will vary in size.

Colour variation: Offering larger colour variations with larger filled knots. Deeper colours and natural mineral streaks giving a range of colours within this grade.

Rustic appeal: Rustic oak flooring gives the appeal of a floor with knots offering character and variations of colours in boards. This offers an appealing choice for those who are looking for a characterful traditional style of flooring and can be popular for cottages or barn conversions.

Antique or Distressed Grade

Distressed grade engineered oak flooring is a distinctive and intentional design choice that imparts an aged, weathered, and worn appearance to the wood. This flooring category aims to emulate the charm and character of reclaimed or antique wood, making it a popular choice for those seeking a very rustic and vintage aesthetic in their living spaces.

Character: Featuring large knots, splits and variations in texture, this gives a deliberately weathered finish look to the flooring.

Colour Variation: Offering higher variation in colour with lighter and darker tones of oak which Feature filled knots and splits.

Weathered and Aged appeal: The beauty of distressed flooring lies in its intentional imperfections, aged appearance, and the unique story it tells. This gives a flooring option that not only adds visual interest but also creates an atmosphere of authenticity and charm.

Choosing the right grade - what to consider

Personal Aesthetic Preferences:

Your personal taste plays is the most important role in deciding which grade will work best for you. Some individuals appreciate the authenticity of knots and variations, while others prefer a cleaner, more polished look.

Budget Constraints:

Generally speaking engineered oak floors that are supplies in a cleaner grade cost more to source whereas more rustic boards, which require less selection, are more affordable.

Interior Design Style:

Consider the overall style of your home. Select grades and prime grades could be better suited to more modern, minimalist settings, while natural, rustic or distressed grades complement traditional or farmhouse styles. There is not right or wrong here though, often installing a natural oak floor which includes knots and features can add a true warmth and character to a modern home.

Grading FAQs

Does a lower grade mean lower quality?

In short, no. The quality of your flooring would be determined by the construction, materials used and accuracy of machining. You can get a very high quality floorboard in a very rustic grade and likewise you can get a very clean grade of oak in a very poorly made floorboard. Quality and grade are two entirely different considerations.

Does the grade effect durability of the floor?

The grade of engineered oak flooring doesn’t directly impact the durability of the floor. The durability of engineered oak flooring is more influenced by the finish that is applied. This being said, some low quality floors can use low quality filler. In the case of a more rustic board which would contain more knots, and therefore filler, this may need to be considered.

Are higher-grade engineered oak floors more expensive?

Generally, the higher the grade with fewer imperfections the more expensive the product. Prices can also depend on construction quality, width of the board, and how thick of a wear layer veneer the flooring has.

What grade would be right for my house?

There is no right or wrong grade for any property. Selecting the right grade of engineered oak flooring for your house depends on several factors, including your personal preferences, the design aesthetic you’re aiming for, budget and practical considerations.


There is no right or wrong when selecting the right grade of engineered oak flooring. It can be a very personal choice in selecting a grade that meets your style. An understanding of each grade’s characteristics gives you the chance to make a well-informed decision. Take the necessary time to explore the different grades and how they would suit your space.

About the author

Tom Fanthorpe. Director, JFJ Wood Flooring Ltd

Tom is one half of the father & son team behind JFJ Wood Flooring. An experienced wood flooring specialist with over a decade in the industry, Tom is following in his father John's footsteps as a true expert in his chosen field. Having absorbed much of John's 35+ years of experience in the joinery and timber trade, Tom now leads the wood flooring department and holds ultimate responsibility for everything from customer service to sales, logistics to quality control.