What Is NeLMA Grading?
“The Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NeLMA) is the rules-writing agency for Eastern White Pine lumber and the grading authority for the SPFs grouping of species that includes Eastern Spruce, Balsam Fir, Red Pine, and other commercially important softwood lumber species grown in the northeast and Great Lakes regions.” -NeLMA.org
Mills and manufacturers that are NeLMA certified must have at least one NeLMA-certified grader employed and agree to submit to regular inspections with a minimum of 12 per year with random follow-up inspections.
Why Is NeLMA Grading Important?
The importance of NeLMA grading lies in the fact that it establishes uniform grades for these types of lumber. This means that when you are looking to purchase lumber, you can be sure that you are getting what you expect in terms of quality and appearance. In addition, by using a standard grading system, it is easier to compare apples to apples when price shopping.
We frequently run into this at Homestead Timbers. We are the only NeLMA listed retailer in Michigan that stocks Eastern White Pine Tongue and Groove and Eastern White Pine Nickel Gap in a range of pre-finished colors including, Whitewash, Farmhouse glaze, Arctic White, and Blue stain pine. You can also special order a wider range of colors from us that will still be double-coated and UV cured for the best quality and appearance.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the grade of lumber refers to the overall quality and not just the appearance. This means that higher-grade lumber will have fewer defects and will be more stable than lower-grade lumber. So if you are looking for a material that will withstand the test of time, then you want to make sure that it is the best quality that makes sense for your project.
So what Are the Different Grades and What Do They Mean?
It is important to note that the rules describe the poorest piece permitted within a grade, it is highly unlikely that the maximum allowed would be present in any board. As you might suspect, the higher in grade the more expensive the material will be.
This is the lowest grade for NeLMA, it allows large characteristics in any combination as long as the full length of the board is usable. Sound and unsound knots, splits, cracks, pitch, wane, warp, wormholes, are all allowed. You would not want to use this material where strength and appearance are of concern.
Standard grade is a step up from industrial and starts to limit the knots, holes, and cracks. The specifics from NeLMA, “This grade allows for knots of any quality, in sizes ranging from 2 3⁄8” red knots and 1 3⁄4” black knots in a 4” board, to 6” red knots and 4” black knots in a 12” board. Knot holes must be no larger than 1⁄4 the width to a maximum of 2”. Holes smaller than the maximum size are allowed, however, within any 8 linear feet the total combined size of the smaller holes must not exceed the maximum size hole allowed.
Our most commonly stocked material, premium-grade is a good appearance knotty grade used in the same applications as Finish where larger and more numerous characteristics are desired. This makes it excellent for Tongue and Groove and Nickel Gap applications! Specifics for the knots from NeLMA, “This grade allows generally sound and tight knots ranging from 2” red knots and 3⁄4 ” black knots on a 4” board to 3 3⁄4 ” red knots and 1 1⁄2 ” black knots on a 12” or wider board. Black knots of maximum size are limited to one in pieces 6’ through 9’ and two in 10’ and longer or equivalent smaller. A 12” board allows one knot hole up to 1” in diameter and proportionately smaller knot holes for narrower widths.
NeLMA describes it, “Finish grade material is a fine appearance, knotty grade calling for sound, tight knots that can be finished to take advantage of the natural characteristics of the piece or to give a fine smooth painted surface.” This grade severely limits the number and size of knots.
D and Better Select
“D & Better Select is a combination of the top two Eastern White Pine grades, CSelect and D Select. Material of this high-quality grade combination is usedfor natural or stained finish applications, fine woodworking, or interior trim.” -NeLMA
"These grades consist of the most stringent requirements for knot size, color, and frequency. “D Select, which is the lower of the two grades, allows pin knots (maximum size is approximately 1⁄2”) and limits the total number of pin knots to one knot per surface foot.)"
The importance of using the correct grade for your project.
When it comes to choosing the right grade of lumber for your project, it's important to remember that not all grades are created equal. In general, the higher the grade, the better the quality and stability of the lumber.
So, which grade is right for your project? That depends on what you are using the lumber for. If you’re using it for the inside of a shed you can use the cheaper and lower grade material without worry. However, if you’re using it on the inside of your house, you’re going to want to go with our higher grade lumber. Going with the better grade will also allow you to get our pre-finished material which is a huge benefit for longevity, appearance, and cleaning! Our pre-finished material is easy to wipe down and will stay looking incredible.
No matter what grade you choose, make sure to use the correct measurements and specifications when ordering your lumber. This will ensure that you get the best possible product and pricing for your project.
Give us a call to discuss your project!
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The Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NeLMA) is the rules-writing agency for Eastern White Pine lumber and the grading authority for the SPFs grouping of species that includes Eastern Spruce, Balsam Fir, Red Pine, and other commercially important softwood lumber species grown in the northeast and Great Lakes regions. The importance of NeLMA grading lies in the fact that it establishes uniform grades for these types of lumber. This means that when you are looking to purchase lumber, you can be sure that you are getting what you expect in terms of quality, regardless of when you buy it. This quality and consistency is very important if you're trying to match material that is purchased at different times. In addition, by using a standard grading system, you can select the best material for your project ensuring that you’re getting the best value and performance. Rest assured we stand behind our product and will make it right if it doesn’t meet the standards we believe in.
Eastern White Pine Grading Video