Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lumber Grades

When you start a building, remodeling or manufacturing project, you will want to choose the best quality materials and the optimal fit for the task at hand. First, you are going to look at the best species of lumber to use and then the appropriate grade for your specific project.

There is a wide variety of lumber grades with over 30 including general purpose and specialized use and it can be tricky figuring out the best fit for the project you’re working on.

Don’t worry, this is where we can help.

When it comes to grading lumber, excellence of appearance is one of the main factors.

Clear grades, (free from knots) are the highest factor in determining grade. There are other grades that are characterized by the number, size, nature and presence of knots within the wood.

Western Red, Alaskan Yellow and Other Cedar Lumber Grades for Boards

When you are looking at Western Red Cedar and other cedar species, they are available in five main grades; Clear Vertical Grain (CVG), A & Better Clear, C & Better Clear, D & Better Clear and Select Tight Knot (STK).

Clear Vertical Grain is the very best grade available and is great for visual applications such as paneling, siding, trim, cabinets, soffits and more.

A & Better Clear is the next grade down and is ideally suited to appearance applications where finishing requirements are not as exacting.

C & Better Clear lumber is still mostly clear but will have unimportant characteristics that will change coloring, have small pitch streaks and small knots.

D & Better Clear grade lumber will have medium pitch streaks, occasional small knots and more visual imperfections than the higher grades.

Select Tight Knot is characterized by the knots, burls and naturally occurring markings on the wood and add to the decorative character of the lumber.

Douglas Fir Boards & Timbers Lumber Grades

Douglas fir Boards usually come in three main grades; Clear Vertical Grain (CVG), D & Better Clear and Select Deck.

Clear Vertical Grain is the top quality grade available and is used when you want a top quality appearance.

D & Better is also an appearance grade used for paneling applications.

Select Deck is the lowest grade for Douglas Fir boards. Lumber of this grade is intended primarily for use in housing and light construction where it is exposed, as paneling, shelving and other uses where a knotty type of lumber with the finest appearance is required.

Douglas fir timbers are also available in three main grades; Select Structural, #1 and Better and #2 and Better.

Select Structural is used for timberframes and post and beam buildings that look great along with being structurally sound.

#1 and Better  is a great grade of wood to use when appearance and strength are both important.

#2 and Better is used in all general construction, designed for many uses where serviceability is important. 

Then, there are two main textures for wood, Surfaced and Saw-Textured.

With surfaced wood, unless otherwise specified, lumber, boards and patterns are sold with a smooth-planed surface, emphasizing the wood’s beauty of grain and color. With Saw-textured, one or more faces can be resawn for a rough texture effect.

4X4 Clear Western Red Cedar : Post and Beams : Rough Cut

The saw-textured surface increases lumbers natural finish-holding ability, resists or obscures smudges and scuffs and is recommended for exterior siding and less formal interior applications.

Ponderosa Pine and Spruce Lumber Grades

Ponderosa Pine (PP) is one of North America’s most abundant species and it is often used for interior and exterior applications. Such as paneling, trim, flooring, doors, windows, fascia, soffits and many more.

  • Pine – C & Better Clear – This grade is for the most part blemish-free. In demand for quality interior finishing material and for cabinet work.
  • Pine – #2 Common – Intended for use in housing for paneling, shelving, siding, soffits and fascia.
  • 3 – #3 Common – Used for shelving, paneling, fences, and siding.

Redwood Lumber Grades

Despite being one of the lightest of softwoods Redwood provides adequate strength for a wide variety of uses. Redwood is most often used for applications where high moisture levels are a problem for other types of wood. It is also specified for its exquisite coloring.

Redwood’s durability to insects and decay is graded by color for this species. Heartwood with a reddish brown hue contains extractives that make it resistant to many types of decay. Cream colored sapwood from the outer growth layer does not possess the same level of decay resistance.

Clear Sapwood is the same general quality as Clear All Heart but contains varying amounts of sap, and some imperfections not permitted with Clear All Heart. This is also normally Certified Kiln Dried but is also available unseasoned, surfaced or saw-textured. Clear Sapwood is great for siding, paneling, trim, cabinetry, quality decking and other above ground uses.  

Redwood grades; Clear All Heart Vertical Grain, Clear All Heart Mix Grain, AYE Clear, B Heart and Construction Heart.

These are normally kiln dried for the finest looking exterior and for interior architectural uses. No other wood compares with their beauty and dimensional stability. These are the ideal choices when it comes to siding, paneling, trim and cabinets where you require an attractive wood with tight jointery.

Clear All Heart is some of the finest architectural heartwood grades you can find. It is typically Certified Kiln Dried, well manufactured, free of defects and is available surfaced or saw-textured. This grade of heartwood is great for siding, paneling, trim, cabinetry, molding, fascia, soffits, fine decks, industrial storage, hot tubs and processing tanks.  

Now let’s look at garden grades.

These are going to be your Deck Heart, Construction Heart, Deck Common, Construction Common, Merchantable Heart and Merchantable, are offered seasoned or unseasoned. These are frequently used in decking, fences or garden structures where the knot count and appearance aren’t top of the line in importance.

When you’re handling a build that comes into contact with soil, it is essential to use a durable heartwood grade such as : Clear All Heart, Heart B, Deck Heart, Construction Heart or Merchantable Heart.

If your project is above ground where there is less threat of insects and decay, one of the sapwood containing grades—Clear, B Grade, Deck Common, Construction Common or Merchantable would all be great fits. Construction Heart/Deck Heart contains knots of various sizes and has slight imperfections. This is available seasoned or unseasoned, surfaced or rough.

Garden grades are great for use in decks, posts, retaining walls, fences, garden structures, stairs or other outdoor uses, especially near soil. Construction Common/Deck Common carries the same general characteristics as Construction Heart but contains a combination of heartwood and sapwood.

We hope this information is just what you were looking for in order to wrap any current or future projects you may find yourself working on.

As always, reach out if you have any questions or need help finding the perfect grade lumber for your project.

Just in case you are looking for some Western Red Cedar for your next building project, request a quote here and/or call us at (800) 597-7191 with any questions.

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