What are Cabin Grade Hardwood Floors?

What is Cabin Grade Text on Wood Floor

We get asked that a lot!

No surprise, as only about 5-10% of all hardwood flooring is graded as Cabin grade. Due to the small percentage, and the unpredictability of available inventory, most stores do not stock Cabin grade floors. At ReallyCheapFloors.com, cabin grade flooring is a large percentage of our business. So, let’s answer the question, “What are Cabin Grade Hardwood Floors?”.

What constitutes a Cabin grade floor? Is it seconds?

Have you ever noticed that almost all of the eggs in the grocery store are grade A, Large? Ever wondered where the Grade B eggs go or what makes them a Grade B egg? If you want to know, eggs are graded on their appearance.
Hardwood flooring is much the same way. In a Cabin grade floor, natural defects such as mineral stain, wormholes, small knots, and shorter board length are allowed. How much is allowed depends on the quality of that particular manufacturer’s first quality line. The vast majority of our Cabin grade hardwood comes from Somerset Hardwood Flooring in Somerset, KY. Somerset produces the cleanest, most consistent running-line products in the country. That means that the fallout (Cabin) is cleaner than the other manufacturers’. We will be using our Winchester Cabin Grade from Somerset as an example.

Why Buy Cabin Grade?

There are multiple reasons to buy Cabin grade flooring. There are two big reasons that many of our customers share with us all the time. The most common reason is price

The Price

As a general rule Cabin will cost a little less than half of first quality flooring. Considering that both grades came from the same tree, were milled on the same line, and received the same finish, Cabin is a pretty good value!

The Look

Another reason people buy cabin is that they like the look of the finished floor. Some homeowners prefer a rustic, or country look to their floors. In the lighter colors of Cabin there can be a large amount of color variation, which results in the more rustic look. Cabin grade floors that have the darker stains exhibit significantly less contrast, as the stain darkens the lighter boards. Below you will see two natural Hickory hardwood floors side by side.

hickory cabin grade hardwood floors example

Cabin Grade (Above) 1st Quality (Below) Hickory Flooring

What Causes Cabin Grade to Look Different?

The bottom picture is of course the first quality. Keep in mind that these floors both came from the same manufacturer, the same milling line, and the same finish line. Heck, they could have came from the same tree! The apparent difference between the two floors is color. Color variation in hardwood flooring can come from

  • Heartwood
  • Knots
  • Wormholes
  • Mineral stain 

Nature’s Thumbprint

These “imperfections” come from mother nature’s unique touch on certain trees and where they grow. Here is a small list of common imperfections you would see in cabin grade flooring.

Heartwood

Can be seen on the furthest board in the picture. Knots can be seen the board third from the back. In this case, the knots don’t have holes, but they do offer some interesting coloration.

Wormholes

Will typically be small holes less than ¼” in width, and can run any direction. In some species, such as Maple, discoloration will accompany the holes. The closest Cabin board to us shows what to expect with wormholes.

Mineral Coloration

The last example of discoloration is mineral. Mineral coloration usually manifests itself as a gray color, and is common in Hickory and Oak, especially those grown in the Southern Appalachians. That is because that area contains more minerals in the soil, which manages to leach itself into the trees.

Board Length

Besides color, average board length is an important aspect of grading. In the first quality example, almost all of the boards are over 24” long, while the Cabin grade floor has more short boards. Over half of the Cabin boards are under 24”. Is this bad? It depends on who you ask! Some installers say short boards are more work, while other installers say they like shorts….shorts don’t have any bow!
Like anything else, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many customers that buy Cabin grade floors do so because they want a rustic look. In that case, the more boards you have, the more contrast you get.

In this picture we have two Maple hardwood floors. As you might have guessed, the top floor is Cabin grade.

maple cabin grade hardwood flooring

Cabin Grade (Above) 1st Quality (Below) Maple

Maple is unusual in that it does not contain many knots, and most discoloration in less of a contrast than a Red Oak or Hickory Cabin grade floor. It does usually contain more shorts, as this picture shows. As you look at the first quality wood in this picture, you notice that it has very little color. In the right house, a clean Maple floor is gorgeous!

This next photo is of a stained solid Oak hardwood floor, with Cabin grade on the bottom, and first quality on the top. Not much difference, huh? Makes you feel sorry for the graders at Somerset! They have it tough!

Stained Oak Cabin Grade Flooring Example

1st Quality (Above) Cabin (Below) Stained Oak

Are They Perfect?

With the exception of that one board in the bottom right, (which the installer will throw out or lay it in a closet) the first quality floor is perfect, with long boards and almost no color variation.
When you look at the lower floor, the Cabin grade, you will see it is perfect, with shorter boards and more variation. Why did I say that both are perfect, when they are obviously different?
That’s because both, like every other floor we sell, are perfect for someone.

Cabin grade hardwood floors, like all hardwood floors, are meant to be a mosaic. Any one piece, or in this case, a board, may look odd or out of place, but the entire floor installed will be perfect for the customer that has that need.
We believe that if your main consideration for flooring is color, price, or availability, we think our Winchester Cabin grade hardwood floors offer an outstanding value. Please do not hesitate to call us with any questions that you might have.

Here’s a video we made offering more information about Cabin Grade Flooring with Ted Cook.