Hardwood Flooring Glossary
Refers to flooring installed above ground level, with a minimum of 18 inches of well-ventilated space available.
Refers to the act of wearing away at a hardwood floor finish, thereby damaging the wood.
Refers to the hardwood’s adjustment to the environment it is in, in terms of moisture and humidity.
Refers to flooring which has had liquid acrylic (and stain) injected into and throughout the surface of the flooring to add more durability.
is a clear wood finish known for its ease of use, fast drying times, and low odor.
is an amphoteric oxide of aluminum, commonly used to finish flooring because of its strength. Second in hardness to diamond, it serves as a hard protective coating for many hardwoods and bamboo.
uses older wood recycled from buildings to manufacture the flooring. Or, is distressed either by hand or machine to create an antique look.
is an acronym used for the American Standard Testing Methods.
Refers to a type of molding used in areas where expansion is needed, such as by sliding glass doors and to transition to carpet.
Refers to the molding installed at the base of a wall designed to cover a portion of the wall and floor. It is typically seen as quarter round, though other styles are available.
Refers to a type of molding designed to attach to base molding to cover any expansion space.
See “Rift Sawn”.
Refers to flooring installed in below ground areas such as the basement of a home. Solid hardwood cannot be installed below grade, whereas engineered hardwood can be installed below grade.
Refers to a type of edge available in hardwood flooring. With a distinct and deep “v” shaped groove, the beveled edge hardwood is commonly used in informal settings. Also used where subflooring imperfections exist, as it helps to conceal them as well as slight differences in plank thicknesses.
is a type of molding used to transition from a hardwood floor to a carpeted room.
Refers to the process of forcing nails into the grooves of tongue and groove flooring planks. The nail is put in at a 45 degree angle and made flush by using an electric flooring hammer because most types of wood flooring, including bamboo, are too hard to be nailed together by hand.
Refers to a design technique when installing a hardwood floor that includes a pattern around the outside of the hardwood flooring. These borders can be simple or complex, and even premade.
Refers to warped and weakened hardwood as a result of conditions such as excessive moisture.
Refers to a type of trim installed on a wall.
Refers to a swirl or twist of the grain of the wood that generally happens close a knot, but does not contain a knot.
Refers to a type of joint made by forcing two ends together. Though it is the simplest type of joint to make, it is also considered the weakest because there is no support other than glue to hold the joint together.
Refers to a more advanced finishing technology using ceramics to increase abrasion resistance of the hardwood.
Refers to patterned markings on the floor caused by the use of a drum sander.
Refers to a type of sealer that is acid curing and resistant to stain and spotting.
Refers to engineered hardwood planks stacked on top of each other, in alternating directions, creating dimensionally stable flooring less affected by moisture and changes in humidity.
Refers to a type of warping where the center is higher than the sides.
Refers to warping where the sides are higher than the center.
Usually refers to how the solid hardwood veneer for an engineered floor is cut. There are three cutting methods: dry solid-sawn, rotary-peeled and sliced-peel.
The action of allowing the finish to completely dry and reach its fullest hardness potential. Different finishes will cure at different rates.
The ability of the hardwood to retain its dimensions throughout its lifetime, avoiding warping, swelling and contracting in response to moisture and changes in temperature and humidity. High dimensional stability means the floor does not significantly warp, shrink or expand due to environmental changes.
Distressed Hardwood Flooring
Refers to the intentional scratching, scraping and/or gouging of a flooring surface to create an antique look. This is accomplished either through hand scraping or by machine. Floors that are distressed by hand will be unique – no two floors will be alike. Floors distressed by machine will likely have a repetition of pattern which may take away from the natural look of the floor. This flooring will add seasoned character to an interior and can easily hide finger marks and scratches, which is an excellent choice for high traffic areas.
A type of sander used to smooth the surface of hardwood before finishing, known to leave chatter marks.
A cutting method for the real hardwood veneer that is glued on the top of engineered hardwood flooring. It involves letting the wood dry out slowly with a low humidity level to keep moisture from inside the wood cells intact, reducing the risk of cupping. It is the most expensive type of veneer for engineered flooring. It produces a veneer that resembles solid hardwood and generally costs more than other cutting methods.
involves letting the wood dry out slowly with a low humidity level to keep moisture from inside the wood cells intact, reducing the risk of cupping. It is the most expensive type of engineered flooring, but looks and acts more like a solid.
Refers to a type of edge available in hardwood flooring which is slightly shallower than a beveled edge and slightly rounded versus “v”-shaped.
Distance to the wall, which has to be observed when laying hardwood flooring. The so-called elasticity joint ensures that the floor can contract or extract when climatic changes occur. The distance to the wall should be minimum 8 mm which should also be observed when heating pipes, door frames, or pillars etc. are involved.
Refers to the edge of the sides of the strips or planks. Square edge has squared edges. Beveled, eased, micro beveled and micro beveled edges have a “v”-shaped groove which help to hide imperfections in the subfloor as well as slight differences in plank thicknesses.
A term, which is very often used in product information. E1 means that the formaldehyde emission limit decreed by law of 0.1 ppm (= 0.12 mg/m3 air) is observed.
See “Baby Threshold”.
See “Butt Joint”.
Wood made of a thin layer of solid hardwood glued or laminated onto a core board such as plywood or high density fiberboard to make the planks of flooring. Due to its construction, engineered hardwood is more dimensionally stable than solid hardwood and can be installed below grade and over a concrete subfloor.
Refers to the factors about hardwood–or any other product–that make it easy on the environment.
Refers to the species of wood found outside of North America. These are typically more expensive due to their more limited availability.
Changes in dimension due to swelling and contracting of the flooring as a result of moisture.
Area of perimeter left to account for expansion.
The amount of space left at the baseboard to allow for expansion.
Refers to a nailing technique that secures flooring to the sub-flooring by using nails perpendicular to the surface of the floor.
Refers to the wax based or urethane coating over hardwood flooring.
Refers to wood cut in long planks where the rings run parallel to the board. Also referred to as plain-sawn.
A type of installation that does not require the flooring to be attached to the subfloor.
Used to level the height between a wood floor and another floor surface to transition from room to room.
Flush Stair Nose
Allows a smooth transition between the stair edge and the riser.
Stained edges of hardwood floor planks.
Refers to the reflection from the finish. Standard gloss levels are satin or matte, semi gloss and high gloss.
A device used to measure the gloss level of a floor’s finish.
Refers to a very easy do-it-yourself installation of engineered hardwood flooring. No glue is required to install the floor because everything “clicks” and “locks” into place.
Refers to the appearance of wood used to create the flooring, usually based on the number of visible knots and mineral streaks.
Refers to the alignment of the fibers in the wood, which designates the pattern seen on the flooring.
Hand Scraped Hardwood
Historically, floors were hand scraped on site to make the floors flat. Today’s hand scraping is usually done at the factory to give the floor an antique or vintage look. A truly hand scraped floor will be unique – no two hand scraped floors will look the same.
Hand Sculpted Hardwood
Similar to hand scraped hardwood, but a less distressed result.
The older, nonliving central wood of a tree or woody plant. Its cells usually contain tannins or other substances that make it darker and harder than the younger, surrounding sapwood. Heartwood is mechanically strong, resistant to decay, and less easily penetrated by wood-preservative chemicals than sapwood.
Hardwood installed parquet style to create a herringbone pattern.
High-density Fiberboard (HDF)
A type of core board used to make engineered hardwood. It provides more dimensional stability than plywood. It is made by compressing fibers of wood chips with an adhesive or binder at a high temperature.
The amount of water vapor in the air.
Device used to measure relative humidity.
The ability of a flooring material to resist fracture or damage from a falling object is termed as its impact resistance.
Refers to the likelihood that the flooring will not burn.
In-Floor Radiant Heating
See Radiant Heating.
Technique involving laying multiple pieces down to create a pattern inside the hardwood. For example, a border or a mosaic.
Refers to the methods used to install hardwood flooring. Options include: nail down, glue down, staple down, and floating.
Refers to the strength of the hardwood material based on a scale which determines the amount of force it takes to drive a .444 inch steel ball into a plank of wood .222 inches in diameter.
A parallel beam used to support flooring or ceiling weight loads.
Wood dried with artificial heat in a controlled environment as opposed to naturally air dried.
The dark marking where the branch jointed the tree trunk.
A varnish that dries by solvent evaporation.
Stands for Material Safety Data Sheet, a required sheet that lists any hazardous ingredients, safety precautions, and first aid information that a consumer should know about a product.
A design or image meant to be inlaid into a hardwood floor.
Micro Bevel Edge
Refers to a type of edge available in hardwood flooring which is similar to a beveled edge, but has a shallower “v”-shaped groove than both the beveled edge and the eased edge. It is well suited for helping to hide minor irregularities in the subfloor, such as uneven plank heights.
Micron Bevel Edge
Refers to a type of edge available in hardwood flooring which is similar to a micro beveled edge, but with a shallower “v”-shaped groove. It can be difficult to distinguish from a micro beveled edge.
Mineral matter left in wood by sap, usually from injury during growth.
Wood flooring that also includes other elements such as slate or stone.
See “Vapor Barrier”.
The amount of moisture in wood. Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it gains or loses moisture until it is in equilibrium with the humidity and temperature of the air. This is why it is important for wood flooring to acclimate before it is installed.
A finish which requires moisture in the air before it can cure.
There are a number of different types of moldings (aka trim and transition pieces) that are installed to give a flooring project a finished look.
An installation method requiring nails to attach the wood flooring to the subfloor.
A clear finish that does not color the wood, but instead allows for the natural look of the wood to show.
An acronym for the National Wood Flooring Association.
Most common finish for wood flooring, available in various gloss levels.
An oil based finish for hardwood flooring.
Refers to the ground level of a building as it is at the same level as the surrounding ground.
Has one sloped side and one flushed side and is used to transition from hardwood to other flooring types.
An acronym used to describe oriented strand board, a type of subflooring material.
Used to transition between hardwood and carpet.
Overlap Stair Nose
Function as the finishing transition for the edge of a stair on a floating floor system.
A poisonous strong acid that occurs in various plants as oxalates and is used especially as a bleaching or cleaning agent and in making dyes. One of the strongest organic acids. Other chemical or common names include Dibasic acid; Ethanedioic acid; Acid of sugar.
A floor that is installed in a manner that creates a geometric pattern, such as a herringbone pattern.
A building material manufactured from with wood fragments, such as chips or shavings, mechanically pressed into a sheet and bonded together with resin.
Used to finish floors before the arrival of lacquers and varnishes. Since it never dries to a hard finish, it does not provide great damage protection, but can be used as polish to keep floors shiny and reduce the appearance of scratches. It will make the surface more slippery and may help prevent further scratches as objects can slide across the surface.
Penetrating Oil Sealers
These oil based sealers are spread across the floor, allowing them to penetrate the surface, offering a stain and a finish to protect it. Excess is removed with a sponge or cloth. They are usually comprised of tung or linseed oil.
As with penetrating oil sealers, without the use of oil.
A finish that’s been treated with a sealer, applied by penetration into the floor.
Refers to the likelihood a wood floor’s color will change as it is exposed to light.
A small hole drilled into a material to assist in making the larger hole the right width.
A knot no larger than ½ inch in diameter.
Making a series of parallel cuts into a log. This is known as the easiest way to make wood planks. Also referred to as flat-sawn.
Boards that are 3 inches wide or more.
Thin sheets of wood bonded together with adhesive to form plywood.
Dowels designed to mimic the Colonial “plugged” look.
Wooden material made by pressing together plies, or thin sheets of wood.
A power nailer that uses air pressure to operate, commonly used to speed the process of nail down hardwood installations.
Type of finish for hardwood that does not require waxing.
Flooring that is stained and sealed before installation, usually done at the flooring factory.
A type of trim used for vertical walls and the floor.
The log used to create wood floor planks is first cut into quarters and then cut into boards using parallel cuts.
A heating system installed below the flooring designed to improve energy efficiency in the home and keep the floors a comfortable temperature.
Some flooring is sold as random length, meaning that the boards are not all the same length. The shortest length and longest length are noted, and all other planks in the box are different lengths that fall between those two numbers. For example, a manufacturer may describe their flooring as random length 12″-48″.
Some flooring is sold as random width, meaning the boards are not all the same width. Typically, the each box of random width flooring is comprised of boards of 3 or more different widths. This creates a more traditional looking floor. Historically, floors were laid with random width boards so as not to waste any of the wood from the log. This vintage look is easily re-created today with random width boards.
Wood that is salvaged from an old building or structure or from a lake or river and refinished for use in another project.
See Screen & Recoat.
Used to join wood floors to other flooring surfaces.
Refers to the practice of sanding down a wood floor and finishing it again, to reduce the appearance of damage, wear, and tear. A solid wood floor can be sanded and refinished many times. However, an engineered wood floor can only be sanded and refinished if the veneer is 2mm or thicker.
Replacing sections of hardwood with new material to avoid having to sand and refinish the entire floor.
Resistance to staining
Allows an insight as to how the wood flooring will resist staining when subjected to a number of potential staining agents.
A method of cutting a log into boards that ensures each board has the same relation to the log, providing the same grain pattern. This is the most stable lumber. Also referred to as Bastard Sawn.
Refers to a cutting method used to create a solid hardwood veneer for the top layer of an engineered hardwood floor. It involves boiling the log for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature to prepare the wood. After the wood has been prepared, it is scraped from the log with a blade working from the outside in and then pressed flat. It typically has a plywood-like grain and can have issues with cupping and warping to try to revert to its original shape.
Refers to the wood near the outside of a tree. Usually softer and lighter in color than heartwood.
Allows an insight how the laminate flooring will behave, when scratched. This is a very important quality criterion, which is derived from scratching the flooring with a diamond tipped instrument.
Screen & Recoat
The practice of adding another top coat of polyurethane to improve appearance of the floor, after abrading it slightly (using a mesh screen) so that the finish adheres better.
See “Gloss Level”.
A resin substance secreted by female lac bugs. Used to form a cocoon, the resin comes from India and Thailand. Processed as dry flakes, it can be added to denatured alcohol to create a liquid. This liquid is then used as a food glaze or floor finish. It’s a natural option which is highly resistant to stain and odor. It is a high gloss finish.
A type of molding that is humidity resistant and ideal for high traffic areas in a home.
The opposite of prefinished, unfinished hardwood is installed and then finished on site.
Refers to a cutting method used to create a solid hardwood veneer for the top layer of an engineered hardwood floor. It involves boiling the log for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature to prepare the wood. After the wood has been prepared, it is sliced from the end and then pressed to create a veneer.
A knot in the wood that is not over 1/2″ in diameter.
One piece made from lumber, unlike engineered hardwoods which use other materials to form the planks.
Solvent Based Urethane
Uses an oil chemical base rather than water in the floor finish.
A knot with an exposed section which appears elongated, as a result of a cut parallel to its long axis.
Refers to the type of wood, or the kind of tree it was harvested from. Many species are available such as oak, pine, cherry, and hazelnut.
Also known as “slip tongues” these are used to reverse or change the direction when installing tongue and groove hardwood flooring.
The edges of the floor boards flush together to decrease the appearance of lines between boards. This creates a uniform and smooth surface and gives the room a contemporary, formal feel.
Trim used along the walls of floating floors.
Coloration of flooring other than its natural color.
The degree to which a material resists permanent discoloration from exposure to household items, most notably liquids, is termed as stain resistance.
Stair Nose Molding
Used for transition when placing plank or strip on stairs, landings or step downs.
Thinner boards of wood, smaller than planks, 2 ¼” wide.
Support structure for walls and flooring.
A support surface below the flooring, such as plywood or concrete.
A finish which also serves to seal the wood to protect it, applied directly to the surface without penetration.
See “Conversion-Varnish Sealers”.
Refers to a molding piece that finishes the space between two areas of wood.
Refers to how thick the planks of hardwood flooring are.
Thin Profile Solid
A thin piece of solid wood.
See “Baby Threshold”.
Tongue and Groove
Also known as T&G, this refers to the profile construction milled to the panels’ sides allowing the panels to interlock easily with one another. The connection of tongue and groove is responsible for stable floor construction and protects the floor from moisture.
Moldings used to transition from hardwood to another flooring type.
A type of oil used to finish wood. It is extracted from the seeds of the tung tree.
The layer of material that is laid loosely between the sub-floor and and the main flooring. It serves one or more of the following functions: vapor barrier, padding, sound barrier and/or insulation. Examples of underlayment include foam, rosin paper/felt, cork, plastic sheathing or Quiet Walk.
Unfinished Wood Floor
Flooring that has not been pre-finished at the factory, meaning it must be finished on site after installation.
A transition used to join hardwood to carpet.
A chemical solvent used to seal and finish wood floors.
Cured with UV light rather than heat.
A type of underlayment that protects the flooring from moisture coming from the subfloor (e.g. a concrete subfloor).
A finish containing oils with a slow curing time that can be decreased by heat.
A thin layer of real, solid hardwood glued to the top of a core board to create an engineered wood floor. Veneers can vary in thickness from 0.6mm to 6mm. Veneer thickness dictates how many times an engineered wood floor can be sanded and refinished. If the veneer thickness is less than 2mm then the floor cannot be sanded or refinished at all.
Water Based Urethane
A solvent containing water in the formula.
See “Paste Wax”.
A cost effective finish option, a type of paint that takes a long time to cure.
A way to distress wood flooring by machine for an antique look.
The expansion and contraction of wood due to moisture content which must be accounted for during installation.