Maple Flooring: Making the Grade

Maple is the standard choice for sports flooring because it is a hard, durable wood that is resistant to wear and tear. Maple floor grading rules refer to the quality and appearance of the wood.

There are several grading systems used for maple flooring. QHF Sports follows the industry standard maple flooring grading rules established by the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA). This post aims to define the differences between maple floor grades and help you decide which one is best for your court.

Understanding Maple Floor Grading

Maple Floor Grade 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 help us sort the natural output from the mill. That's about it, really!

First Grade

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 Grade

Second and Better Grade

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 Grade

Third and Better Grade

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

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

Moisture Content

One school of thought is that maple grades such as 2nd grade or 3rd grade have more variations which hold more moisture inside. Moisture content in wood refers to the amount of water that is present in the wood cells, and is typically measured as a percentage of the wood's weight. Maple flooring with high moisture content will flux and cause peeling in the gym finish. This leads to shorter periods between refinishing. For this reason, facility maintenance crews should keep a watchful eye for peeling areas.

The truth is that a maple flooring grade does not have any effect on the moisture content of the wood. Hardwood sports floors across the world use any of the MFMA defined flooring grades. As we stated above, the grade of maple flooring referes to the natural variations found in the wood.

Court Aesthetic

In a previous article we've discussed court layout design. 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. The maple floor grade option you choose can influence this over all court aesthetic.

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.

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* Global Pandemics *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 Sports team completed.