Glossary Of Flooring Terms You Need To Know

Whether you’re new to floor care or an experienced pro, there are certain terms you should be aware of regarding installation and maintenance of your floors.

When creating a floor plan, it’s important to have an understanding of different contracting terms and what they’ll mean for your floor needs.

Don’t worry, though. During our Onfloor consultations, we take the time to explain each of these terms as we go through them.


A suspended floor above ground level with at least 18 inches of ventilated air space; usually over a basement or crawl space

See: below-grade; 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)

Abrasive Finish

A rough, non-reflective finish for tiling

Absorption Rate

Percentage of moisture that tile or wood will absorb moisture


How well a wood floor is able to adjust or “acclimate” to its environment in terms of moisture and humidity


Below 7 on pH scale; acidity will change the chemical makeup of certain floors

See: alkalinity; basic

Acid Wash

Treatment on stone or concrete that gives it a distressed look


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


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


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

See: epoxy


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


Neutrality; hovering around 7 on pH scale

See: acidity; basic

Aluminum Oxide

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

Glossary Of Flooring Terms You Need To Know


Finished, exposed board around floor on wall

Base Shoe

Molding attached to baseboard that covers expansion space

See: expansion space


Above 7 on pH scale

See: acidity; alkalinity


Partially or completely below ground level

See: above-grade; on-grade


A contract proposal for material and labor to install and maintain flooring

Blind Nail

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

See: face nail


A swirl or twist in the grain of the hardwood


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


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

See: porcelain

Combination Base

Molding piece where floor meets wall; usually both decorative and functional

Cross-ply Construction

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

See: engineered hardwood


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

See: cupping


Warping where the side boards are higher than the centerboards

See: crowning


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 lifetime and avoid warping, swelling, and contracting in response to changes in humidity, temperature, and moisture; a 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 subfloor

Engineered Hardwood

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

See: cross-ply construction


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 surface

See: blind nailing


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

Learn how to waterproof floors here.

See: gloss level

Glossary Of Flooring Terms You Need To Know brushing finish on wood

Flat sawn

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

Also called: plain-sawn


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

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

See: finish


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


The alignment or pattern of fibers in a wood floor


Adhesive used between tiles


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

Also called: Janka hardness (for wood)


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


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 a flooring will or will not burn


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


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


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


Natural stone tile in variety of colors and veining patterns


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

Moisture Content

Amount of moisture in the wood; wood is hygroscopic, so it gains or loses moisture based on the environment

See: acclimation

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


On the same level as the surrounding ground

See: above-grade; below-grade

Overlap Reducer

Transition between two types of flooring

See: overlap stair nose

Overlap Stair Nose

Transition between stair and floating floor

See: overlap reducer; floating


Rusting of stone or metal when exposed to water or air

Parquet floor

Geometric pattern in 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


A type of finish that doesn’t require waxing


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

See: ceramic


Flooring that is stained and sealed prior to installation

Glossary Of Flooring Terms You Need To Know refinish wood floor


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


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


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


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


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

Square Foot

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


Coloration of flooring, either applied topically or chemically altering surface

Learn how to prep and stain concrete here.


The support surface beneath the flooring, usually concrete or plywood


Feel or consistency of floor material


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


Traffic or walking volume on a given floor


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


A chemical floor solvent used to seal and finish floors


A sealing and coating that allows for easy cleanup as well as stain- and moisture- resistance

Learn how to waterproof floors here.


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

Don’t know or understand a term? Just ask!

At Onfloor, we’re here to provide you with all the answers and tools for stunning flooring solutions!

Contact us now to get the conversation going. 
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