1. Introduction

Definition of Oak Grading

Grading is the process of evaluating and classifying Oak based on its characteristics, The purpose of Oak Grading is to ensure that the wood meets certain standards, and to assign a grade to the wood

Importance of Oak Grading in the wood industry

Oak Grading is an important aspect of the wood industry as it helps to ensure that the wood is suitable for specific uses, such as furniture making, flooring, and construction. Oak Grading also plays a crucial role in determining the price and availability.

The purpose of this article is to provide an in-depth guide to Oak Grading. It will cover the different grading systems used in the industry, how to identify different oak grades, and how grading affects the end-use and pricing of oak wood. The goal of this article is to educate industry professionals, and anyone interested in Oak Grading, on the importance of this process and how to effectively grade oak wood.

2. Understanding the grading system

Different Grading Systems

There are several different grading systems used in the oak grading industry, each with their own set of standards and criteria. The most widely used grading system is the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) grading system, which is used in the United States and Canada. Another widely used grading system is the European Oak Grading system, which is used in Europe. Both systems use similar criteria to evaluate the oak woo.

Evaluated Characteristics

During the grading process, several characteristics are evaluated, including:

Knots, Cracks, Sapwood, slope of grain, bore holes, ring shake and rot. The size and location of these defects affect the grade of the wood.

It is important for industry professionals to understand the different grading systems, and to be able to identify the characteristics during the grading process. This knowledge will help them to make informed decisions when selecting oak wood for their projects.

3. UK Oak Grades

The United Kingdom uses several different grading systems for oak wood, but the most commonly used is the British Standard (BS EN 1492-1:2013) grading system. It divides oak wood into several different grades based on the quality of the wood. The primary grades of oak used in the UK are:


Prime grade is the highest grade of oak wood. It is typically used for high-end joinery applications, furniture making and cabinetry where clean knot free boards are required

For example we use prime grade American white oak for our skirting and architrave.


Joinery grade is often used for general joinery with some knots but clear sections so frames or window and stair stringers can easily be cut.


Character grade is often used for traditional furniture and flooring where natural characteristics of the wood are particularly appreciated. For example we use character grade European oak for our oak sleepers and beams.


Rustic is the lower grade of oak wood. It is typically used for flooring and rustic furniture.

4. Oak Grading in Practice

When it comes to selecting oak for your project, the grade of the wood can make all the difference. Oak grading is an essential aspect of determining the quality, price, and suitability of the wood for your specific application.

As you might expect, higher grade oak such as Prime grade is typically more expensive and in shorter supply than lower grade oak. This is due to its superior characteristics, such as fewer knots and a more consistent color. This makes it more desirable for high-end applications like luxury furniture. On the other hand, lower grade oak such as Rustic grade is more affordable and readily available, making it perfect for construction and industrial uses.

5. Common Defects

Common defects that can affect the grade of oak wood include knots, cracks, and rot.

Knots – a knot results from the formation of a twig or branch and is generally considered as much of a natural occurrence in wood as color and grain. That being said, they are considered a defect and differing allowances are made for each grade of oak.

Sapwood – the two main parts of a tree that produce wood are the sapwood and the heartwood the sapwood is a lighter color and is often less desirable

Splits – as wood dries it can separate from itself which is known as a split. This typically happens lengthwise (with the grain)

Worm Holes – An Oak tree growing in the wild has natural defenses against predators but one that has been recently downed or one that is milled or in storage is very vulnerable to insects. These insects lay their larvae within the wood and those worms soon feed on the wood when hatched. The result is numerous holes ranging in size that looks like somebody took a poker to the surface. Small worm holes are allowed in Rustic grade.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, oak grading is an essential aspect of determining the quality, price, and suitability of oak wood for your specific project.

Knowing the grade of oak wood is crucial to industry professionals in making informed decisions when selecting oak wood for their projects.

When it comes to oak grading, it is important to also consider the certification of the oak wood. Look for certifications such as FSC or PEFC. This ensures that the oak wood is sourced from responsibly managed forests. This is particularly important for those working on projects that require environmentally credentials.

In addition to understanding oak grading and certifications, it is also crucial to work with a reputable supplier. A good supplier will have a thorough understanding of oak grading and will be able to guide you in selecting the right grade of oak for your specific project. They will also be able to provide you with samples of the different grades of oak so you can make an informed decision.

Therefore, whether you are looking for high-end furniture, flooring, or construction-grade oak, understanding the grading system can help you make the perfect choice for your project.

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