Flooring Glossary


Flooring Glossary

There are hundreds of different products to choose from which can make choosing a new floor a daunting task. You want to make sure you are getting the best quality product for your budget. We wanted to help by providing a glossary of fairly common flooring terms so you can understand better as you shop.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The more you know, the easier it will be to make the choice that’s best for your home. Learn even more by visiting our Flooring 101 page chock full of free downloads.

Engineered Hardwood

Above Grade: Construction above ground level.

Acclimation: Refers to the hardwood’s adjustment to the environment it is in, in terms of moisture and humidity.

Adhesive: Another word for glue, adhesive is a chemical compound that bonds planks to one another, in addition to attaching wood flooring to its subfloor.

Aluminum Oxide: The most common finish type for pre-finished hardwood flooring. Includes minuscule particles of aluminum in one or more of the coats of finish, which create a more durable and scratch resistant surface than standard polyurethane finishes.

Antique Flooring: Older wood recycled from buildings to manufacture the flooring. Or, is distressed either by hand or machine to create an antique look.

Baseboard: A type of molding which connects the wall and floor. It also protects the wall from damage as well as serves as decoration. It should be attached to the walls and not the flooring.

Below Grade: Construction below ground level.

Beveled Edge: Also known as an eased edge, many pre-finished hardwood floors feature this type of finish. Rather than straight edges with 90-degree angles, the edges are gently beveled using 45-degree angles.

Chevron Pattern: Chevron is a pattern that’s most commonly used for parquet flooring. Boards are laid together to form a true point, forming a number of ‘V’ patterned lines. Once the whole floor is fitted, it creates a beautiful and uniformed zig-zag pattern.

Color Variation: Hardwood flooring is created from a product of nature where each board can have color variations. Sometimes a particular wood species will have slight to moderate to heavy color variation from board to board. The level of color variation is dependent upon the type of wood species and the grade of the flooring. A higher flooring grade will generally have more uniform color from board to board. All wood flooring will have, to some extent, varying coloration.

Contraction: when the home’s atmosphere is dry, moisture can evaporate from the cells of the hardwood flooring and causing the boards to contract in size. Engineered hardwood boards are less affected than solid boards. Slight seasonal gapping between boards may occur --- this slight gapping is to be expected and is considered normal across the industry. To minimize this contraction the home’s relative humidity level should be maintained between 30–60%.

Cross-Ply Construction: A technique where wood layers are stacked on top of each other in opposing directions. The result is a wood floor that is dimensionally stable and less affected by moisture. Allows the plies to counteract each other, thus prohibiting the plank from shrinking or expanding under humid conditions. These floors can be installed over concrete and/or below grade.

Crowning: damage to a hardwood floor resulting in the edges of the planks curling down. Usually due to the presence of excessive moisture in the environment from above the floor or a cupped water damaged floor that was sanded and refinished before the flooring was allowed to dry out.

Cupping: Damage to a hardwood floor resulting in the edges of the planks curling up and forming a U shape. Usually due to the presence of excessive moisture coming from below the floor.

Waterproof Laminate

Dimensional Stability: 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.

Distressing: Various methods, using hand tools or machinery, create chatter marks and other markings on hardwood to create a time-worn visual. Distressing is created on laminate and luxury vinyl floors using embossing technology.

Eco-Friendly Flooring: Refers to flooring options that are sustainable. These flooring options are made from renewable resources and often have sustainable manufacturing processes. Popular eco-friendly flooring options include hardwood and engineered hardwood.

Engineered Hardwood: Engineered hardwood is a manufactured alternative to solid hardwood, wherein a core of layers of various wood types are fused together and then topped with a surface veneer of the desired hardwood. Engineered hardwood is a great alternative to solid hardwood as it can be less expensive and more resilient than traditional solid hardwood.

Expansion: When the atmosphere contains more moisture in the air, the minuscule water molecules will fill the pores of the hardwood boards causing the planks to expand slightly. When flooring boards are installed, there should be expansion gaps left at all fixed objects like columns and walls.

Expansion Gap: The space left between the hardwood flooring and fixed objects in the room during installation (walls, cabinets, kitchen islands, etc.). The expansion gap makes sure there is enough room for slight movement during expansion and contraction. This gap can be covered after installation is complete with a quarter round or base molding.

Finishes: One of the most important flooring key terms! For hardwood flooring, we offer two finishes; urethane and oil. Both are known for their durability and longevity.

Floating Installation: When a flooring is not attached to the subfloor; but, rather, planks are attached to each other and as a whole are held down by gravity and the weight of the flooring. Floating floors typically require the use of an underlayment pad.

Glue Down: Securing engineered hardwood or other flooring directly to the subfloor using a flooring adhesive.

Grade: For our hardwood, the grade is what characteristics define the floor. This could range from a floor with little to no knots to a floor with a more rustic appearance which is speckled with rich graining and an artisanal color variation.

Waterproof Luxury Vinyl

Hand Scraped: A simulated antiqued look for hardwood flooring created with scrapers and other indentation tools. Hand scraping is sometimes done by hand, but most of the time, manufacturers incorporate the use of hand scraping machines.

Hardwood: Produced in two main types, solid and engineered, hardwood is an excellent, long-lasting flooring choice known for its beauty, durability, and timelessness.

Impact Resistance: The ability of a flooring material to resist fracture or damage from a falling object is termed as its impact resistance.

Installation: This describes how your flooring can be installed. Common methods include nail down, staple, glue down, or floating.

Janka Rating: Limited to floors with hardwood in them, this rating describes how much force is needed to induce wear and dents. Also referred to as hardness rating.

Joist: A parallel beam used to support flooring or ceiling weight loads.

Kiln Dried: Wood dried with artificial heat in a controlled environment as opposed to naturally air dried.

Knot: Darker than the surrounding area, knots are unique flooring designs that are created when a tree branch intersects with a tree’s trunk. This convergence causes the wood grain pattern to drift around the branch, rather than in its typical straight flowing pattern.

Laminate Flooring: A manufactured product sandwiching a backing material, visual element and a wear layer that simulates the look of hardwood, stone, or other natural or unnatural surfaces.

Luxury Vinyl Flooring: A vinyl tile that’s made primarily from PVC vinyl. Luxury vinyl planks are topped with a particularly realistic printed image, made to mimic a range of styles from wood to stone.

Moisture Barrier: A type of underlayment that protects the flooring from moisture coming from the subfloor (e.g. a concrete subfloor).

Moisture Content: 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.

Moldings: Used to cover expansion joints and to enhance the performance and appearance of a hardwood floor. Typically need to be removed for installation.

Nail Down: One of the most common installation methods for solid hardwood and engineered flooring. Requires a plywood subfloor.

National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA): A national organization in which its members strive to maintain professionalism and follow-up training in all things related to hardwood flooring.

Natural: Natural flooring can refer to unfinished. Unfinished flooring can be stained by your contractor to match an existing floor, create a customized color, and much more.

Custom Stair nosings

Oil Finish: A finish used instead of the standard urethane or aluminum oxide finish. Requires a bit more maintenance than standard pre-finished hardwood flooring but provides a more hand rubbed appearance and easier reparability. One benefit of an oil finish is the ease and flexibility of repairing slight damage such as small scratches and nicks.

Parquet: Wood flooring can be arranged in repeating patterns that are often geometric. Common types of parquet include Herringbone, Chevron, and Versailles.

Plank: A hardwood or other flooring board which is 3 inches or wider.

Quantity: Always order 10% minimum overage as recommended by industry standards. One of the must-know flooring terms!

Quarter Round: Sometimes used in conjunction with a wall base, sometimes used alone. A quarter round is used to cover up the necessary expansion gap around the wall of the room. Attached to the wall, not to the hardwood flooring.

Quarter Sawn: The milling of a tree trunk involving cuts on a diagonal from the core of the tree. This type of milling basically follows the grains of the tree straight on and creates a beautiful and more stable plank with long, linear lines and grain flecks. Quarter sawn milling does produce a lot more waste during the manufacturing process.

Reclaimed Wood: Often taken from old mills, barns or farmhouses that are being dismantled, reclaimed wood is re-milled and refinished into new flooring planks and offer an old, used, lived-in appearance.

Refinishing: If your flooring has a wear layer, then you can likely refinish it! This process typically involves sanding imperfections out and then coating the floor with a protective coating of finish.

Riser: The wood board part of a staircase positioned vertically behind the stair tread.

Scratch Resistance: Allows insight into how a 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.

Subfloor: This is the structural layer that will support your hardwood floors. On ground floors, it may be concrete or plywood; upstairs, it will usually be wood. The nature of your subfloor will help you determine what kind of underlayment you may need.

Sustainable: All of our hardwood flooring is sourced from replenished forests as we are adamant to ensure that future generations are provided with a healthy planet. This dedication extends beyond just hardwood, as our laminate and vinyl collection are composed of recycled materials.

Thickness: This refers to how thick the floor is and includes the top or wear layer.

Tongue and Groove: The molded edges of hardwood, laminate or luxury vinyl planks designed to create a locking system for concealing shrinkage and achieving a flush installation.

Tread: The horizontal part of a stair, which you step on. Pre-finished hardwood flooring stair treads are available and are easier to install than piecing a stair together with pieces of flooring. Quantum Floors manufacturers custom stair nosing for your laminate or luxury vinyl flooring.

Hardwood refinishing

UV Cured: Hardwood finishes cured in a factory with Ultra Violet lights versus heat.

Underlayment: A layer of material between the subfloor and your flooring. Depending on your subfloor and other factors, it may serve as a vapor barrier, padding, sound barrier, and insulation. Underlayment is comprised of foam, felt, cork, plastic sheathing or other synthetic materials.

Vapor Barrier: A plastic sheet, usually 4 to 6 mil thick, laid directly over a concrete slab to retard any moisture coming up through the subfloor. Many underlayments already have a vapor barrier attached, so you don't need to use a separate one. Vapor barriers are absolutely necessary for floating installation over concrete and below grade.

VOC: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals emitted from certain materials that can cause adverse health effects in large quantities. However, Quantum Floors takes pride in offering a majority of our products, encompassing hundreds of selections, with zero VOC.

Waste Factor: The amount of extra flooring that should be ordered to make up for square footage lost to cutting, fitting or discarding of boards that do not fit the grade ordered. Typically, a 5% waste factor is recommended. Increase that to 10% for rooms with unusual angles or if you want to be more choosey with which boards you install. It’s also a great idea to have extra flooring on hand should a repair need to be made.

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant: When discussing flooring, water-resistant means it won’t be penetrated by water to a certain extent. A spill would be okay, but submerging it would not be. On the other hand, waterproof means that no moisture or water can penetrate the flooring at all.

Wear Layer: The top layer of an engineered hardwood floor. Typically, the thicker the wear layer the better and the more value the flooring has. The wear layer dictates how many times an engineered floor can be sanded and refinished. Usually, the second layer from the top, in a luxury vinyl or rigid core construction floor, this layer performs against wear, rips, tears, gouges and indentations. The surface of this layer is covered with a finish that protects against scratches, scuffs and stains.

Wire Brushed: The process of creating texture on the surface of a hardwood floor which usually accentuates the grain patterns of a wood species. Wood Grade: The grade category that a hardwood floor is culled out from a batch of wood boards during the manufacturing process to determine the clarity, color variation and character marks.

Wood Species: the specific tree that the hardwood flooring is made of. Different wood species feature different coloring, grain patterns and hardness.