Flooring Glossary - An A-Z of flooring terms
Purchasing a new wood floor can be daunting, not least because of all the jargon that comes along with it. From acclimatisation to warping, read our guide to get your head around some of the more tricky terminology and take the stress out of your buying journey.
AC Rating is also known as ‘abrasion class’ and it’s a method of rating laminate flooring based on its durability. The ratings range from AC1 to AC5, with AC1 boards being suitable for residential spaces with low foot traffic, and AC5 is suitable for commercial spaces such as shops with high foot traffic.
This is the process of leaving the wood floor in the area you are going to install it for a few days. It allows the natural moisture content of the wood to adjust to the surrounding conditions and helps to stop buckling, swelling and gapping after installation.
Sticky paste or glue used for attaching the flooring to the subfloor. The best adhesives are flexible and allow the wood floor to move a little depending on the natural variations in humidity.
A form of damage that can happen to wood flooring. Rather than being flat, the plank curves inwards or outwards to create an uneven surface.
A more serious type of damage than bowing, where boards pull up from the floor, sometimes by several inches. Usually caused by excessive water damage.
Care and maintenance
A crucial part of wood floor ownership where the owner uses the correct materials and methods needed to ensure their floor lasts for a long time.
A modern fitting method usually seen on laminate flooring. It allows two boards to fit and ‘click’ together, making it easier for non-professionals to lay their own floors.
Damage to the boards causing them to become convex in appearance. Usually caused by excessively damp atmospheric conditions whilst the subfloor remains dry.
The opposite of crowning and more commonly experienced. It is caused by moisture in the subfloor pulling the bottom of the board downwards, making the edges rise above its centre.
Damp proof membrane
A layer of material that is fitted between the flooring and the subfloor to prevent moisture causing damage. Many underlays come with a built-in damp proof membrane.
The process of causing slight damage to wood flooring so that it has a fashionable worn look. The damage caused is very superficial and doesn’t affect the longevity of the boards.
Engineered wood flooring
A type of flooring composed of several layers of plywood or high-density fibreboard layered together to form a plank, with a solid wood layer on top. This type of board is stable enough to cope with changes in temperature and humidity.
This describes the final coating of the wood that gives it its overall look, usually done with oil, lacquer or varnish. The finish will give it a matt or shiny look and can have a coloured tint.
One of the main installation methods for wood flooring, a floating floor isn’t glued or nailed down but is left unattached to the subfloor when fitted.
Glue down floor
Glue down installation uses an adhesive to firmly fix wood flooring to the subfloor. Most commonly used with solid wood flooring.
The naturally occurring lines in wood that give it character and uniqueness. Laminate flooring has grain artificially created to make it look more authentic.
Usually found in kitchens and bathrooms and a very important factor to consider when fitting a wood floor. Too much moisture in a room can cause damage to a wood floor.
A layer of material that is usually built into the subfloor to provide a barrier for heat and noise.
A wooden strut used to support a floor to which the boards are usually nailed.
Timber used to make wood flooring is usually dried in a kiln to reduce its moisture content to below 10%. This level is chosen because it’s the moisture content wood flooring usually assumes in buildings in the UK.
Knots are imperfections in the grain of wood where a branch once grew. Minor knots are often attractive and add character to a wood floor.
A clear or coloured varnish used to seal a floor, producing a hard, durable finish that can be further polished if required.
A multi-layered man made flooring product fused together in a lamination process with a printed image on the top to give the appearance of wood.
A matt finish makes wood flooring look non-reflective and therefore more natural. Highlights the wood’s colours and shows scratches less than gloss finishes.
Nail down installation
A simple and effective method of fixing down a wood floor, but one that can be time-consuming.
Commonly used on stairs with wood flooring, nosing hides corners where planks join, creating a smoother finish.
A method of finishing a floor that offers protection and moisture resistance whilst still allowing the wood to breathe.
Parquet flooring is usually laid in a herringbone or chevron pattern to create a stylish look and usually made from solid or engineered wood.
Used in flooring next to skirting boards to cover the allowed expansion gap (which enables the flooring to expand and contract as necessary).
Floorboards that have been used previously and have a pleasantly worn or distressed look.
Usually refers to the grade of the timber being used in flooring. Rustic grades tend to have more colour variation, splits and other features.
A process which removes the top layer of a wooden board, creating a smooth surface for finishing. Boards can be sanded and refinished multiple times.
Physical examples of how a wood floor looks which can be sent to your home so you can see how it might look in situ.
Screed is usually made of sand mixed with cement and is used to level a concrete subfloor before a wood floor is fitted.
Solid wood flooring
Solid wood floors are made from a solid piece of timber as opposed to layers used in engineered wood floors. The floorboards are cut from a single piece of wood.
A piece of shaped wood placed in a doorway so that floors of different heights can be smoothly and finished together.
Tongue and groove
A method of fitting boards together to create one continuous floor. A protruding edge, or tongue, is slotted into a groove on the adjacent plank.
Underfloor heating is compatible with some types of wood flooring but you should always ask your flooring provider before going ahead and laying the boards.
Wooden boards that haven’t been varnished or lacquered prior to fitting. A good choice for people who wish to stain or oil their floor themselves.
Veneer is a layer of solid wood found on engineered wood floors. It is decorative and also adds protection to the engineered core beneath.
Damage and distortion caused to wood flooring, usually by excess moisture or fluctuating temperatures.
The top layer of a wooden board which receives the most foot traffic. The quality and longevity of an engineered wood floor depends on the thickness of the wear layer, which can range from 0.6mm on low quality boards up to 6mm on high quality ones.