Flooring Terms – Quick Reference Guide

The world of buying, installing and maintaining flooring can be a little overwhelming at times. Installation instructions from flooring suppliers, floor covering warranties and even just speaking with your supplier or professional flooring installer, here is an easy to reference guide of terms used in the industry. If we missed any key terms please drop by our Richmond, BC warehouse location and let us know, or send us a note and we will add. This is intended to help the Vancouver BC (Richmond, Surrey, Burnaby, etc) flooring buyer, but obviously it works for any region.

For consistency of international use of terms, the default is to American spelling (molding vs moulding). As mentioned, we serve the Vancouver, Canada flooring buyer, but all warranties and installation instructions tend to follow the American spelling, so we have done the same in this post.


Above-grade

A suspended floor above ground level with at least 18 inches of ventilated air space. This is usually over a basement or crawl space. Almost all flooring can be installed above grade

Also see: below-grade and on-grade


Abrasion Resistance

The resistance or toughness of a surface against damage due to friction or scuffs; test abrasion using the coefficient of friction (COF). When buying laminate flooring, look for the term AC rating to learn about that products abrasion resistance

Also see: AC Rating


Abrasive Finish

A rough, non-reflective finish for ceramic & porcelain tile or stone tiling. Helps to reduce slips on the typical smooth tile surface


Absorption Rate

Percentage of moisture that tile or wood will absorb moisture. Tile (like ceramic & porcelain) can have a specific rating called moisture rating.

Here are four different moisture ratings for tile absorption, Impervious being the one with the highest waterproof characteristics. All of these terms are used for Tile:

• Non-vitreous (Low density) – Tile product with water absorption of more than 7.0 percent

• Semi-vitreous (Medium density) – Tile product with water absorption of more than 3.0 percent, but not more than 7.0 percent

• Vitreous (High Density) – Tile product with water absorption of more than 0.5 percent, but not more than 3.0 percent

• Impervious (Extremely dense) – Tile product with water absorption of 0.5 percent or less. Most porcelain tile is in this range, and why it is often the best choice for high moisture environments like bathrooms and kitchens

Also see: Moisture Rating


AC Rating

A rating of 1 to 5 to illustrate the level of scratch resistance laminate flooring has. AC1 being the least resistant, AC2 being acceptable for residential use, AC3 being ideal for residential use and light commercial, AC4 being medium commercial and AC5 being appropriate for full commercial environments


Acclimation

How well a wood floor can adjust or “acclimate” to its environment in terms of moisture and humidity. Example use of this statement: ‘Your wood flooring should acclimatize for 7 days in your location before installation’


Acid Wash

Treatment on stone or concrete that gives it a distressed look


Acoustics

The sound of the floor traffic; how much does the floor absorb or echo noises?


Acrylic Resin

A synthetic resin that dries transparent and helps the floor resist discoloration, moisture, acids, and oils


Acrylic Wood

A name for wood-plastic composites where acrylic monomers are infused in wood cells for added durability


Adhesion

The property that causes materials to bind to one another; for flooring, adhesion depends on the coating, seal, proximity, and chemical interactions


Adhesive

The substances that hold materials together, like epoxy, cement, glue, mastic, or paste

Also see: epoxy


Aggregate

A hard material used in concrete to add texture and unique graining; fine aggregate is less than 1/4” in diameter, like sand, and coarse aggregate is up to 1.5” in diameter, like crushed gravel


Aluminum Oxide

A strong, durable, popular flooring finish, often used as protection for hardwood


Baseboard:

Finished, exposed board around the floor on the wall. Serves both a pratical function for hiding gap on a floating floor and a design function, giving the room a framed look, finished look. Baseboards can be matching color to the flooring or often are painted white. Baseboards can be made of various types of materials, including MDF, Plastic, Finger-joint Pine, among others

Also see: Quarter Round Molding, expansion space, base shoe


Base Shoe

Molding attached to baseboard that covers expansion space. It can be used similarly to a quarter round molding, they have similar characteristics.

Also see: Expansion space, Quarter Round molding, Baseboard


Below-grade

Partially or completely below ground level

See: above-grade; on-grade


Bevel

The type of bevel edge (the side edge of the plank) used in hardwood, engineered, bamboo and laminate flooring; beveled edges have a “v” shaped groove; eased edges are slightly shallower, softer, and rounder than beveled edge; micro-beveled is the shallowest edge and best hides imperfections in the subfloor. Bevels add to the appearance, but a large bevel can capture dirt and make cleaning surface slightly more difficult

Also see: Edge Type


Blind Nail

A wood nailing technique that inserts nails at a 45-degree angle

Also see: face nail


Burl

A swirl or twist in the grain of the hardwood


Caulk

Type of adhesive; used often between floor and appliances, like around toilet or bathtub; can be acrylic, butyl, latex, and silicone urethane


Ceramic

A type of tile made from a mixture of clays and pressed at high temperatures; can be glazed or unglazed

Also see: porcelain


Cross-ply Construction

Stacking engineered hardwood planks in alternating directions for a more stable, moisture-resistant flooring

Also see: engineered hardwood


Crowning

Wood warping where the boards in the center are higher than those on the sides

Also see: cupping


Cupping

Warping where the sideboards are higher than the centerboards

Also see: crowning


Cure

The time it takes to allow a coating or seal to completely dry; different finishes cure at different rates


Dimensional Stability

The ability of a floor to retain its dimensions throughout a lifetime and avoid warping, swelling, and contracting in response to changes in humidity, temperature, and moisture; high dimensional stability means the floor won’t change much throughout its lifespan


Drum Sander

A type of sander that is used to smooth the surface of hardwood for restoration or finishing


Edge Type

The type of edge (the side of the board) used in hardwood flooring; beveled edges have a “v” shaped groove; eased edges are slightly shallower, softer, and rounder than beveled edge; micro-beveled is the shallowest edge and best hides imperfections in the subfloor

Also see: Bevel


Engineered Hardwood

A stable hardwood construction manufactured from multiple plies of wood and assembled in a cross-ply construction

Also see: cross-ply construction


Epoxy

A strong adhesive that is highly chemical- and heat-resistant

Learn how to maintain epoxy-coated floors here.


Expansion Space

The amount of space left for potential expansion, such as swelling and contracting of wood due to moisture


Face Nail

A wood nailing technique that secures flooring with nails that are perpendicular to the surface

Also see: blind nailing


Finish

The wax-based or urethane coating atop a flooring surface that protects from abrasion, stains, scuffs, marks, and fading

Also see: gloss level


Flatsawn

Wood, cut in long planks, where the rings of the wood are parallel to the board

Also called: plain-sawn


Floating

Type of installation where individual planks are glued together without direct attachment to the subfloor

Also see: subfloor


Gloss Level

The amount of reflection from the finish of wood or tile; can be satin, matte, semi-gloss, or high-gloss

Also called: sheen level, finish


Grade

The appearance of the hardwood based on knots, burls, and mineral streaks; a system to understand size, shape, and thickness of ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles


Grain

The alignment or pattern of fibers on a wood floor


Grout

Adhesive used between tiles


Hardness

The strength of material; how much force it takes to drive a steel ball through the flooring

Also called: Janka hardness (for wood)


Herringbone

A specific flooring pattern that creates a look similar to a “v” design

Chevron – another flooring install type, looks like V on top of V


Humidity

The amount of water vapor in the air; affects moisture levels in flooring, especially with hardwood


Impact Resistance

The ability of a floor to resist damage from impact, like a falling object or dragging a large item


Inflammability Class

The likelihood that flooring will or will not burn


Inlay

A laying technique that creates a pattern within the floor, like a border or mosaic


Lacquer

A hard, protective varnish that dries clear and creates a shiny look on wood


Limestone

Type of flooring made from natural rock; usually soft and porous


Marble

Natural stone tile in a variety of colors and veining patterns


MSDS

Material Safety Data Sheet; lists hazardous ingredients and safety precautions about chemicals and equipment


Moisture Content

This is the amount of moisture in the wood; wood is hygroscopic, so it gains or loses moisture based on environmental conditions

Also see: Acclimation


Moisture Rating

A rating is given to tile products to illustrate their absorption levels

Also see: Absorption rate


Natural Stain

A clear finish that doesn’t color floor to maintain natural, organic beauty of wood or tile


Natural Stone

Organic tone materials used for flooring, like granite, marble, limestone, slate, sandstone, travertine


NWFA

National Wood Flooring Association. The NWFA produces many guidelines for wood flooring industry which have been adopted as industry norms. So following NWFA installation guidelines for wood flooring will often be required to ensure compliance with manufacture warranties


On-grade

On the same level as the surrounding ground

Also see: Above-grade and Below-grade


Oxidation

Rusting of stone or metal when exposed to water or air


Parquet floor

Geometric pattern in the floor that gives a tiled look


Penetrating Sealers

Solutions that penetrate the surface of the floor for staining and finishing


Photo Sensitivity

The likelihood the floor will change color or fade when exposed to light over time


Polyurethane

A type of finish that doesn’t require waxing


Porcelain

Made of feldspar materials and pressed at extremely high temperatures; durable and resistant to scratches, moisture, and temperature fluctuations

Also see: ceramic, Absorption Rating and Moisture Rating


Prefinished

Flooring that is stained and sealed before installation


Quarter Round Molding

Accessory used to hide the installation gap on a floating floor installation. Think of it as a very thin baseboard

Also see: Baseboard molding, base shoe


Reducer Molding

The transition between two types of flooring where one thickness of flooring is thicker than the other type of flooring

Also see: Stair nose


Refinish

Sanding down a floor to finish it again to reduce the appearance of damage, wear, and tear


Resin

Sticky, flammable substance insoluble in water; used as a sealant between stone and tile for watertight barrier


Resistance

The ability of the floor to withstand stains, scratches, and pressure


Shellac

A natural high-gloss finish that is highly resistant to stain and odor


Slate

Gray, green, or bluish natural rock used in slabs or tiles


Square Foot

Unit of measurement with the area of square equaling 1 foot on each side


Stain

The coloration of flooring, either applied topically or chemically altering surface


Stair Nose

Used on a step to finish the appearance, used in conjunction with a floating floor. Usually matched with the same visual appearance of the flooring

Also see: Reducer, T-Molding, floating floor


Stair Tread

A full unit, one piece of molding accessory that acts as both the flooring and the stair nosing. This is a preferable visual appearance vs stair nose & flooring combination, and it is easier to install. But as such, it is more expensive and often requires custom work to match the transition to other floorings in the room

Also see: Stair Nose


Subfloor

The support surface beneath the flooring, usually concrete or plywood


Texture

Feel or consistency of floor material


T-Molding (T-Moulding)

This is a molding transition piece from one flooring type to another flooring type. Usually one of the floors is a floating floor. T-Molding usually matches one of the floors visual appear. Commonly used with laminate flooring, hardwood floors, engineered floors, and LVT vinyl flooring

Also see: Reducer, Stair Nose, Quarter Round


Translucence

Stone tile that allows through some light; usually light-colored marble or onyx


Tread

Traffic or walking volume on a given floor


Underlayment

A layer of material between the subfloor and main floor that can be used as a sound or moisture barrier, padding, or insulation; made of foam, felt, cork, or plastic sheathing


Urethane

A chemical floor solvent used to seal and finish floors


Waterproof

A sealing and coating that allows for easy cleanup as well as stain- and moisture- resistance. Waterproof means complete protection from moisture absorbing into the product surface


Water Resistance

Water will bead on product surface for a period of time, but it is not waterproof, so water will eventually be absorbed. This type of flooring is inferior to waterproof flooring when measured for their ability to repeal moisture


Weathering

Natural or chemical alteration due to element exposure such as water, soil, ground minerals, and temp changes

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