Buying Discount Flooring
August 3, 2015 Steven Murphy
When you want the look of hardwood but are working with a small budget, consider discount flooring. Labeled as “#3 common,” “character,” “tavern,” “cabin,” or “value” grade hardwood or as factory seconds, discount flooring is not found in retail stores. Instead, distributors often carry this type of hardwood. But, why would a particular type of flooring be sold as “discount”?
Grading for all unfinished hardwoods is based on appearance: The more even the look of the hardwood, the higher the grade. Lower grades, then, have an abundance of character marks and color variation. Some lower grade hardwoods, however, do not meet a manufacturer’s standards and end up being sold as discount flooring. Because of this, a distributor’s selection of discount hardwoods varies each month and depends on a list from a mill.
Appearance-wise, discount flooring has a distinct presence of knots, mineral streaks, and color variety. For the latter of these three, this may include a greater presence of sapwood or other shades, such as brown and green, not present in higher-grade flooring.
In some cases, however, hardwood ends up as discount flooring because of poor milling. This may include voids, tree bark edges, missing tongues, splits, checks, or windshake. These features, as a result, make installation difficult. Boards may not fit together, or the resulting surface is uneven.
In other rare cases, discount flooring comes as shorts, or pieces between eight and 12 inches long. Boards typically run between 12 to 84 inches in length, and a floor of too many short pieces has a tendency to appear choppy. Shorts, however, are helpful for random-length floors – combining longer and shorter planks – or small areas, such as closet spaces. In terms of appearance, shorts may also be #3 common or could be leftovers from higher-grade hardwood.
Before you seek out discount flooring for your home, keep the following points in mind:
• Discount hardwoods seldom come with a manufacturer’s warranty.
• Always inquire about the product before you buy: Why is this particular shipment “discount”?
• Purchase about 10 percent to one box more to compensate for any unusable boards.
• Be careful with prefinished flooring. As grading is determined by the manufacturer, and used solely for marketing purposes, a product labeled “character” – a common term for unfinished discount flooring – may actually be distressed hardwood.