Everything You Need to Know About AWI’s Premium Grade

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AWI premium-grade woodworking classification refers to a higher quality of craftsmanship and materials, as compared with economy and custom grades. 

The Architectural Woodworking Institute (AWI) provides a set of standards for woodworking projects that fall under this classification. Clients and contractors can agree on project specifications based on the three AWI grades, including economy grade, custom grade, and premium grade.


What Are the Different AWI Standard Grades?

The AWI grades for interior architectural woodwork cover the quality of materials used and aesthetics. These are based on the level of compliance with AWI’s Standards. These grades are applicable to the level of quality of all types of woodwork, including casework/cabinetry, wall paneling, trim, millwork, and stairs.

These are the three AWI grades:

  • Economy grade: Woodwork projects or products that belong to this grade comply with the minimum quality requirements. However, the materials or installation are not typically meant for public view. Woodworking products that are included in this list include things like mechanical rooms and utility areas. Such projects aren’t eligible for QCP certification. 
  • Custom grade: Woodwork products or projects that belong to the custom category are the “middle ground” in terms of quality. The quality of materials and aesthetics are higher than economy-grade projects but not as high as premium-grade projects. AWI sets custom-grade as the default standard because it covers most top-quality architectural woodwork. Custom grade products are well suited for large projects where layout and product are repetitive such as schools and hospitals. A project that is QCP-certified automatically qualifies for custom-grade level.
  • Premium grade: Woodwork products or projects that are classified as premium-grade have qualified for the highest level of standards. Premium grade woodworking projects are normally seen in high-profile areas such as hotel lobbies, reception areas, board rooms, courtrooms, and museums, etc. Projects that belong to this category have the highest level of quality in terms of materials, workmanship, and installation. About 90% of woodworking firms that have QCP licenses are working on premium-grade projects. 

Everything You Need to Know About AWI’s Premium Grade chart

Premium Grade Explained

AWI premium-grade classification means that woodwork projects comply with the highest level of standards. The aesthetics are top-notch. To achieve a high level of aesthetic appeal, many of these types of projects tend to use the highest grade of wood veneers for a high-quality finish.

The emphasis of premium grade is the high quality of craftsmanship, from the material process to the finish requirements. The requisites of premium grade are more detailed than other classifications and highly precise. For example, the material quality is more focused on veneer aesthetics, solid wood patterns, and minimizing the number of defects as much as possible. The allowed precision is also high, requiring a perfect match in wood grain continuity and colors.

Workmanship and tolerances are also tighter for premium-grade projects. For example, the gap tolerances between the panels are the tightest of all the grades, and the colors and patterns must be well-matched.

In terms of repairs and touch-ups, premium quality projects should be indistinguishable at 24 inches. As a point of comparison, QCP custom levels are indistinguishable at 48 inches. Therefore, if you’re a customer, you can easily specify the level of quality based on the AWI Standards for premium grade.


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