How do you know what Black Locust Lumber Grade you need for your next project?

Lumber grades can be technical and detailed, it can be confusing and complicated when you are trying to figure out what grade you need for your project. Different species have different grading systems. Hardwood lumber grading is classified by the National Hardwood Lumber Association in the US and Canada.

Their purpose is to establish uniform appearance and grade hardwood lumber standards. Most manufacturers will use terms such as FAS, Select, and No1 Common or No2A Common to determine lumber grades. However, due to Black Locust Lumber’s unique characteristics, the use of NHLA’s grading system might leave you with lumber with several defects and increased costs and waste. 

This is why, as a company that has decades of experience in lumber and forestry, we recommend using Black Locust Lumber’s own grading system. The grading system is based on 45 years of experience in the lumber industry. Our published Grade Rules help our clients and act as a guide in making their choices. It also allows the purchaser to specify quality control. In our blog post, we will explore what NHLA’s grading rules mean, why Black Locust wood’s characteristics require an even stricter grading system than NHLA’s, and introduce Premium and Landscape grades to ensure you select the best quality Black Locust Lumber for your next architecture project. 

Black Locust Lumber: unique species with unique characteristics

Black Locust wood has a life expectancy of 50+ years, making it an extremely durable type of hardwood. Its Janka hardness compares favorably with other woods. At 1700 lbf (7,600 N), it’s better than red oak (1,290 N) and it is rated as very durable in regards to rot-resistance and has anti-fungal properties. Black Locust trees are relatively small in diameter. From the experience of a lumber professional, they will produce a Black Locust sawlog at an average length between 8-12 feet. 

A Black Locust sawlog has an average length between 8-12 feet without influencing the quality. 

Visually, Black Locust wood is associated with knots, streaks, and checks. It is a beautiful and durable type of wood but if you use the NHLA’s grade rules, you can have large defects in the middle of your deck boards. We at Black Locust Lumber realise the limitations of the NHLA’s grade rules and developed our grade rules over 20 years ago. Black Locust requires unique grading rules to ensure you get the best quality wood. 

If you purchase Black Locust lumber under NHLA grade rules, approximately 16% of the material can be off-grade: meaning holes, rots and large knots are allowed. This would generate a deck with shorter pieces and narrower boards. 

You could have a minimum 16% waste material just in the raw material and you will have to do additional cutting during installation which will result in 25% waste cutting or even more. This will make your next project’s costs skyrocket therefore be cautious of using low pricing as a guide to your purchases. At Black Locust Lumber we are proud to be able to suggest a trim allowance as low as 3%. How do we do that? The secret lies within the grading rules we use that will ensure you get the best quality Black Locust wood without waste. 

Why NHLA grading does not apply to Black Locust Lumber?

NHLA’s grading guidelines are based on the percentage of clear cuttings in a single piece of board. This is a great way to determine the quality standard of smaller lumber parts that can be used for furniture such as chairs or cabinets. However, when you are looking to acquire longer lumber decking boards in the case of Black Locust Lumber you will find the NHLA’s grade guide is not applicable. To understand this better, take a look at this picture of an unsound knot for example, which is not considered a defect in NHLA’s grading rules. Would you like to have this in the middle of your deck?

An unsound knot that is not considered a defect in NHLA’s grading rules and allows this characteristic in all grades. 

If a hole or unsound knot is not considered a defect in the NHLA’s highest grade called FAS, then imagine having a Black Locust decking surface with a hole in the middle. This is simply unacceptable and I recommend staying away from salesmen who do not have a strong specialist background and use NHLA grading for Black Locust wood just as for any other hardwood. 

Here is an example of NHLA grading rules, please notice the minimum area of clear cuttings column required.

To understand NHLA grading in more detail, please take a look at American Hardwood’s explenatory video:

Please visit our Grading Guide on our website. Our many decades of history in the Black Locust Lumber industry have taught us to develop our own grading rules that will enable our customers to choose the most suitable Black Locust Lumber for their architecture project needs. 

To sum up, the NHLA classifications are mainly created for the furniture industry. In case of Decking & Boardwalk, Site Furnishing, Rainscreens and Brise de Soleil, we recommend using the Black Locust Lumber Grade Guide to make the best choice for your next architectural design project. Don’t let low cost fool you, consult with a specialist at Black Locust Lumber supplier, with deep roots in the Black Locust industry. We have the knowledge of how to achieve that flawless finish you are looking for. With a global supply network and a passionate team, we are here to answer your questions and help you elevate your design.

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