Hardwood Flooring Terminology - 

Making Sense of Terms and Phrases Related to Wood Flooring

January 22, 2019

BY Laura Anzures

Hardwood Flooring Terminology
Above Grade Installation: Basically, the ground is considered, "grade" in this term. Rooms above the ground are said to be, above grade. Basements are considered, "below grade". Solid hardwood flooring must be installed above grade.
Abrasion: In flooring finishing terms, abrasion is the term used for sanding and screening. Daniels Floors no longer uses screens, but we do abrade between coats of polyurethane.
Acclimation: This is the process of staging hardwood flooring in the installation area to allow it to reach the moisture content level required for installation. Ideally, the moisture content of the wood flooring will be withing 3 points of the moisture content of the sub-floor prior to installation. Proper acclimation is incredibly important for a successful hardwood flooring installation.
Acrylic Polish: Many over the counter floor polishes contain acrylic. These polishes will put a shine on your floor, but are not . If you use an acrylic polish on a pre-finished floor, it will nullify your warranty. If you use an acrylic polish on a site finished floor, you will not be able to recoat that floor in the future. Polyurethane will not bond to an acrylic polish.
Adhesives: Some floors are glued directly to a concrete slab or sub-floor using adhesive or glue specifically formulated for bonding wood to concrete or wood to wood. When gluing wood flooring to a concrete slab, Daniels Floors uses an adhesive with a vapor barrier to protect the floor from moisture rising up from the concrete slab.
Aluminum Oxide: Aluminum oxide is a component added to floor finishes to protect flooring from stains and wear. It is commonly used on pre-finished flooring. A factory applied finish with aluminum oxide is the most durable hardwood flooring finish available. Many manufacturers are combining UV curing with aluminum oxide for unbeatable durability.
Balusters: The decorative rods or spindles that fill the space between handrails and treads and nosings are called balusters.
Below Grade Installation: Installation of hardwood flooring in a basement is considered, "below grade installation".
Beveled Edges: Flooring that has a factory applied finish may have some slight differences in thickness. To minimize these differences, most flooring manufacturers will add bevels to the edges. Bevels are available in either 2 sides of the flooring or all 4 sides.
Character: Every piece of wood flooring has a different appearance. Characteristics such as knots, holes, mineral streaks and other markings are referred to as, "character". Character is part of the natural beauty of wood flooring and should not be considered flaws. Most oak floors have strips or planks with character.
Clear Grade: There are several terms used when grading hardwood flooring. Clear means the flooring is basically without character traits such as knots, burls, mineral streaks, etc. Clear grade is also known as, "select" and/or "better". Clear flooring is also very uniform in color.
Cleat: A cleat is one of the types of fasteners used to install hardwood flooring. A cleat looks like an upside down golf club.
Cross-ply: This describes the manner in which most engineered flooring is manufactured. Engineered flooring is similar to plywood in that it is made by compressing thin plys of wood together with the grain of the wood of each layer crossing the grain of the layers above and below. This makes engineered flooring stable because the cross ply construction prevents expansion of the flooring.
Cupping: When solid wood flooring is exposed to water, moisture or high humidity, the sides of the planks tend to rise up. This shape, with the sides higher than the middle, resembles a cup. It is important to note that Daniels Floors will not sand any cupped flooring until it is completely dry.
Distressed Flooring: Some hardwood flooring is intentionally dinged up and scratched to give it the appearance of reclaimed wood. There is pre-finished hardwood flooring that is distressed and finished to appear worn. You can also use tools to distress site finished flooring. The advantage of having distressed flooring is any damage that occurs after installation won't be obvious.
Eased Edge: Pre-finished flooring has subtle differences in thickness, which are disguised with either bevels or eased edges. Bevels are deeper and eased edges are more subtle. Eased edges are available on either two sides or all four sides of the strips or planks of flooring.
Engineered Flooring: Wood is affected by changes in relative humidity. When the moisture content increases, wood swells. When the moisture content is greatly reduced, wood shrinks. You can compare this to a kitchen sponge, many of which are made from wood cellulose fibers. Engineered flooring is manufactured to withstand minor changes in relative humidity. Engineered flooring is real hardwood flooring. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor quality engineered flooring, which gives engineered flooring a bad reputation. Daniels Floors only sells premium engineered flooring.
Finish in Place: This term describes the process of installing bare wood flooring, which is then sanded, stained and finished or sanded and oiled after installation.
Floor Finish: The finish is a coating that seals and protects wood flooring. It is either applied in a factory or on site. Floor finishes are available in a range of formulas from water based, oil modified, aluminum oxide and oil penetrating.
Floating Floor: Most hardwood flooring is either nailed or glued to a sub-floor. Some flooring is not actually attached to the sub-floor, but is instead interlocked and lays on top of the sub-floor. This is typically either an engineered floor or a laminate floor. The weight of the floor keeps it in place. Floating floors are temporary flooring. Some floors are manufactured with interlocking edges made specifically for floating floor installation. Other floors can be floated by gluing the tongues and grooves together.
Glue Down Installation: When flooring cannot be nailed to a sub-floor, it can be glued down using adhesives specifically formulated for bonding wood to wood or wood to concrete.
Heart Pine Flooring: This is beautiful flooring milled from the heart of the Long leaf Pine trees. Heart Pine, also called Heart of Pine, was used extensively over two hundred years ago for flooring and for wood beams. Many older homes and buildings have original Heart Pine flooring. Long leaf Pine trees were over harvested. There is are no more of these ancient trees. Daniels Floors has restored this rare flooring in many historic landmarks and homes. The color of Heart Pine flooring varies from amber to a deep russet red. UV exposure deepens the color of this flooring.
Janka Hardness Scale: The hardness of wood used in wood flooring is rated on the Janka Hardness Scale. Wood with a higher rating is harder than wood with a lower rating. Although the wood may be incredibly hard, the ability to resist scratches and scuffs really depends on the finish.
Joist: The boards that make up the framework that supports the sub-floor are called, "joists". Daniels Floors installs screws in the sub-floor to secure it to the joists to prevent squeaks after the flooring is installed.
Laminate Flooring: One option for flooring that resembles wood is laminate flooring. Laminate is manufactured from a composite material compressed into planks that interlock for a floating installation. Laminate is not made from wood and should not be confused with engineered flooring.
Laminate Repairs: Laminate repairs are different than wood flooring repairs. With a wood repair, the wood is attached to the floor. We can surgically remove the affected planks and replace them. Laminate is a floating floor. Each piece is held in place by the surrounding pieces. They are installed row, by row, attaching the new pieces to the existing pieces. When there is damage, the flooring has to be removed from the point where the damage is to the edge of the room.If the damage in in the center of the room, so the entire room must be replaced.
Nail Down Installation: This is the installation method used for all solid hardwood flooring and some engineered flooring. Nails have been replaced with cleats and flooring staples.
Newel Post: Handrails are supported by newel posts, which are typically placed at the top and bottom of a staircase and on catwalks and landings where there are handrails.
Nosing: This is a stair component that is required at the top of landings and staircases in the place of a stair tread. It is also called a "bull nose". nosings are also present on the edges of catwalks, under handrails. Spindles are installed in nosings.
Nail Down Installation: This is the installation method used for all solid hardwood flooring and some engineered flooring. Nails have been replaced with cleats and flooring staples.
Oak Flooring Grades: Oak is the most common wood used for hardwood flooring. Oak flooring is grouped into the following categories: Select and Better, also known as Clear, is uniform in color and, for the most part free of knots, mineral streaks and other types of character. The planks are longer than in other grades. #1 Common. grade is mostly clear, with some variation in color and character. #2 Common grade has much more character, and shorter planks and strips. Cabin grade, or tavern grade is very rustic looking with some planks and strips with bark.
Oil Modified Polyurethane: Traditional oil modified polyurethane has a slight amber hue that developed over time. It protects hardwood flooring by providing a barrier between the floor and foot traffic. Oil modified polyurethane is also referred to as oil based polyurethane. It takes at least 12 hours to dry and 30 days to cure. You should wait at least 24 hours after the final coat of polyurethane to replace furniture, and at least 30 days to replace rugs.
On Grade Installation: Flooring that is installed at ground level is considered an on-grade installation.
OSB: Pieces of real wood are compressed into sheets for use in home construction. OSB can be used for sub-floors, but it does not hold flooring fasteners as well as plywood or wood planks.
Particle Board: This is a composite material formed into sheets. It is frequently installed on top of the sub-floor to raise the level of carpet, laminate or vinyl flooring to the same level as hardwood or tile flooring. Hardwood flooring should NEVER be installed on top of particle board. It crumbles and will not hold flooring fasteners.
Plain Sawn: Logs are sliced parallel to the center to achieve a loop graining pattern in flooring.
Polyurethane: Most hardwood floors that are sanded and finished on site are coated with polyurethane, a thick plastic
Pre-finished Hardwood Flooring: Hardwood flooring can be purchased with a finish that has been applied in a factory. It can be walked on immediately after installation. Both solid and engineered flooring are available pre-finished. Pre-finished flooring is available in variety of looks and sizes. The most durable flooring finish is found on pre-finished flooring.
Quarter Round: This is a small piece of trim that is installed to conceal the gap between the hardwood flooring and the baseboards. When the flooring is refinished, the quarter round must be removed so the equipment can sand up to the baseboards. Quarter Round is basically the same as shoe molding, except it is larger and has a flat side opposite of the curve.
Quarter Sawn: Logs are cut into 1/4s, then sliced to make flooring. The grain is straight, with the appearance of light flecks.
Random Width Hardwood Flooring: We are able to install hardwood flooring of varying widths for an interesting look. The most common combination of widths used together is 3 1/4", 4" and 5". There are manufacturers who make and package random widths together to eliminate the need to calculate the amount of flooring required in each width.
Reducer: A piece of trim used between two different floors. It connects the higher level floor to flooring that is slightly lower.
Rift Sawn: Oak logs are cut at a slight angle to produce flooring with a straight grain without the flecks.
Riser: Each step on a staircase has a tread - the piece of wood that you stand on, and a riser - the vertical piece of wood that faces you as you walk up the staircase. Risers are usually painted white, but are sometimes stained to match the tread.
Shoe Molding: This is trim that serves the same purpose as quarter round. Shoe molding is smaller than quarter round and should be used with shorter baseboards. Both shoe mold and quarter round are available in natural wood, stained to match the floor or primed white, ready to be painted.
Solid Hardwood Flooring: This is wood flooring that is milled from logs. Each plank or strip of wood flooring is a solid piece of wood. Solid wood flooring is available unfinished and pre-finished. Solid wood flooring should not be installed below grade, nor should it ever be glued down, except in the case of wide plank flooring which is nailed down with adhesive support.
Spindles: The decorative rods or balusters that fill the space between handrails and treads and nosings are called spindles.
Square Edged Flooring: Pre-finished flooring is manufactured with either a beveled edge, eased edge or square edge. Unfinished flooring always has square edges. The edges of the boards all meet up squarely.
Strip Flooring: Hardwood flooring boards that are from 1" wide to 2 1/4" wide is referred to as strips.
Sub-floor: As the name implies, this is the floor beneath the floor. The sub-floor is usually made of either OSB (oriented stand board) or plywood attached to floor joists. In older homes, wide planks are nailed to joists at an angle. Daniels Floors uses screws to stabilize the sub-floor prior to hardwood flooring installations. Please note: OSB is not the same thing as particle board. OSB is chunks of real wood compressed into sheets.
T-Mold: A strip of wood, shaped like a "T" that is used to connect two different floors.
Tongue and Groove: Wood flooring fits together using a tongue and groove system. Strips and planks of flooring have a protrusion, or tongue on one side which is designed to fit into the groove on the other side. When flooring is nailed down, the cleats or staples are inserted into the tongue at an angle.
Tread: Each step on a staircase has a tread - the piece of wood that you stand on, and a riser - the vertical piece of wood that faces you as you walk up the staircase. Risers are usually painted white, but are sometimes stained to match the tread.
Underlayment: A vapor barrier is required between flooring and the sub-floor. In the case of solid flooring, asphalt paper or resin paper are laid on top of the subfloor prior to nailing the flooring down. In laminate, a thicker underlayment is used to muffle the hollow sound of a floating floor in addition to being a vapor barrier.
Warping: This is the misshaping of wood due to exposure to water or high humidity.
Water based or Waterbourne Polyurethane: These finishes are the most durable polyurethane finishes available for site finished hardwood flooring. Water based formulas do not change color over time. If you want an amber hue to the finish, there are water based formulas that have a deep rich tone that mimics oil modified polyurethane. It only takes a few hours for water based polyurethane to dry. And, it is fully cured in only seven days. The only draw back to selecting water based polyurethane is the cost. They are considerably more expensive than traditional oil modified finishes.
Wear Layer: On engineered flooring, the veneer, or top layer of wood, is called the wear layer. When shopping for engineered wood, you should check the thickness of the wear layer, if you think you may want to sand the floor at some point in the future.
Wide Plank Flooring: Wood flooring that comes in widths of 5" or greater is considered wide plank flooring. Solid wide planks should be glued and nailed to the sub-floor. We recommend engineered flooring for planks 6" and greater.
Wire Brushed Flooring: Hardwood flooring is brushed with a wire brush prior to the application of a finish. This treatment gives the wood flooring texture in the form of linear brush marks.