Maple Floor Grading Rules

Making The Grade With Maple Flooring

It’s common for the relative humidity of a gym to rise when we discuss maple floor grades with our customers. The pros at Quality Hardwood Floors often notice the anxiety begin to pool. Most customers think we’re giving their floors a passing or failing grade. In reality, QHF is simply discussing maple floor grading rules as it pertains to the aesthetics and performance of your gym flooring. 

You just want a quality sports floor that looks great and performs perfectly for your athletes. But which floor grading is better to choose? The anxiety about cost and quality of the wood can leave an ugly feeling in your brain and stomach. Stop! Knowing the grades of maple wood flooring isn’t in your wheelhouse.  Lucky for you, maple floor grading rules are in ours. The professionals at QHF can explain the differences to help you decide the best flooring option for your gym.

Maple Floor Grading 3rd grade

Understanding The Grade

Let’s discuss which maple flooring grade is best for your gym facility. Here, QHF will explain what the maple floor grading rules measure and what they should mean to you. Once you have a better idea of the grading differences, you will feel more confident in your flooring decision.

Go With The Grain (Variations)

Maple floor grading (or any lumber for that matter!) describes the variations of minerals and grain in the hardwood. Naturally, milled wood will show variations in the form of darker grains, knots, etc. Since we can’t control the nature of the wood, grading rules were defined to help us sort the natural output. That’s about it, really!  The grading rules refer to the natural character variations.

First Grade

MFMA's highest standard. First grade maple is hand-selected to give a very 'clean' aesthetic. The maple's character variations are minimized.

Second and Better

Second-and-better grade maple shows more color, or variations, than first grade. This grade is the most common for gym flooring.

Third and Better

Third-and-better grade adds even more character variations and can be used outside of a second-and-better playing area to contrast aesthetically.

Third Grade

Third grade maple flooring has the same structural integrity as the other grades. Simply, third grade allows a contrasting natural look and feel.

QHF follows the industry standard maple flooring grading rules established by the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA).

Moisture Content

The different grades will all perform the same as far as strength, but the existence of mineral variations can have an affect on the maple wood moisture content. Maple grades such as 2nd grade or 3rd grade will have more variations that allow the wood to hold more moisture inside. Thus, high moisture-content levels will lead to more flux in your gym floor boards that in-turn lead to shorter periods between refinishing. 2nd and 3rd grade maple flooring can be maintained, gyms use these grades all the time.

QHF is simply saying that over time maple flooring with high moisture content will flux and cause peeling in the gym finish. This is not safe for your athletes and facility maintenance crews should keep a watchful eye for peeling areas.

Court Layout Aesthetic

The MFMA grading rules simply measure character variations; how the wood looks.  In a previous article we’ve discussed court layout design.  The maple floor grade option you choose can influence this over all court aesthetic. 

The QHF pros will never influence your court design, after all it’s your court.  If anything, QHF simply believes sports courts should represent the look and feel of the team they literally support. Here are a few points to consider when ensuring your team has the (aesthetically pleasing) homecourt advantage: 

  • First grade flooring provides a ‘clean’ court, much like a blank canvas. The higher the grade, the more character variations or contrast.
  • Some facilities choose Third Grade maple to highly contrast painted areas such as court graphics or stain.
  • Smaller rooms for dance, racquetball or aerobics may choose less variation (second-grade) to give the feel of a larger room.
  • Both dark and light wood staining will accentuate the characteristics in the maple flooring.

Take a look...

Want to see floor grading in action? Take a look at QHF’s pinterest board dedicated to court layouts and their use of different maple floor grading.

Cost Variations

They say you pay for what you get and the costs for maple flooring will differ by grading selection.  Try to remember the economics-101 principle of supply vs demand. Certain growth conditions affect the natural variations of milled and kilned maple flooring.

Additionally, supply-chains problems (*cough* COVID *cough*) can affect certain maple grade availability from year to year. Though rare, it is not uncommon to see third grade wood with a higher price tag than the hand-picked first grade. It’s always important to check with your sports floor professional about the current costs of maple flooring grades available.

Make The Right Call

By now, you hopefully have a basic understanding of maple floor grading rules and their differences of variation. Apply this knowledge to enhance the overall aesthetic your facility and athletes deserve. Make the right call and your team will champion the home-court advantage.

Be sure to check out our portfolio page to see how different grades were used in the many recent court layouts the QHF team completed.

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