How is Wood Graded?

How is Wood Graded? | Alabama Sawyer

October 14, 2019

Since we at Alabama Sawyer use urban wood instead of traditional wood, our lumber isn’t graded traditionally. That said, the system for grading hardwood is still valuable information that you as a consumer could benefit from learning about.  

What is the purpose of grading hardwood?

Hardwood is graded so that consumers know what they are getting when they purchase the sawn hardwood lumber. Basically, hardwood is graded for quality assurance.  

Who created the system that’s used to grade hardwood?

In the US, most hardwood is graded according to the National Hardwood Lumber Association’s (NHLA) grading system. 

How would I determine the grade of a hardwood?

Here are just a few things you’ll have to figure out about the lumber in order to grade it:

→Species of the wood

→Surface measurement (SM) 

→You’ll need to know the poor face, which simply refers to the side with the lowest grade

→Select a grade, and then see if the lumber could possibly fit into that particular grade

→See if the lumber size requirements for that grade could apply to the wood you’re working with

Keep in mind that these aren’t all of the things you’d need to know in order to grade lumber. 

What are the different grades?

As of the writing of this blog post, there are a total of 8 different hardwood grades:

→FAS, which is shorthand for “First and Seconds.” FAS is considered the highest grade of hardwood lumber. 

→FAS 1-face or F1F. A ‘Select’ piece that is six inches or wider. 

→Select. The second best grade that hardwood lumber can be assigned. This grade is determined by the “better” face of the board. 

→No. 1 Common. Generally considered an upper grade of lumber, and is suitable for furniture. 

→No. 2 & No. 3 Common. These grades tend to be used for things like hardwood flooring to wooden pallets. Considered not as high grade as No. 1 Common lumber.     

Sources & Further Reading

Alexander, Tania, and Brian Anderson. “Urban Wood - Wood Grading.” UFEI,

Wagner Meters. “Hardwood Lumber Grading Explained.” Wagner Meters, 14 Aug. 2018,