Floor Shopping Quick•Step Highlights

Key Terms: Laminate and Engineered Hardwood Flooring Glossary

We take pride in being the experts on flooring, and now you can be one too! Get the definitions of terms used throughout the floor shopping process with this flooring glossary. What’s an underlayment? What are surface finish options? How do floating floors work? We have the answers to these frequently asked questions and more to help ease your experience in finding the right floor.

AC Rating  Being only applicable to laminate, the AC Rating is a representation of the products, resistance to wear on a scale from 1 to 5.

AC 1: Home use with little foot traffic
AC 2: Home use with medium foot traffic
AC 3: Home use in all foot traffic areas
AC 4: Home use in all foot traffic areas and can meet some commercial standards
AC 5: Will withstand heavy commercial traffic 

Acclimation Because wood expands and contracts depending on the level of moisture in the air, wood and some laminate flooring should sit in your house for two to three days before installation so it has a chance to come into equilibrium with your home’s moisture content.

Circular Saw   For making straight cuts, like cutting a plank to length, nothing beats a circular saw. Just make certain you know how to use it and wear a dust mask and safety goggles.

Click-Lock Installation This type of flooring installation is done without nails or glue. Instead, the system allows the installer to lock the two planks together — with a click — creating a strong, stable joint.

Colorfastness The ability of a flooring material to retain its original color after exposure to light or other sources of degradation (i.e. light resistance).

Core The base of a laminate floor, typically constructed from perpendicular plies of (high density fiber) engineered wood. The core gives the laminate plank or engineered hardwood strength and stability.

Décor When fancy people (and the French) refer to this, they’re talking about your furniture, drapes, flooring and accessories. When we talk about it, it’s the top layer of wood or paper on an engineered or laminate floor.

Dimensional Stability The ability of material a flooring product to resist changes in measured dimensions, such as thickness and width, caused by changes in environmental factors like moisture or temperature.

Edge/End Treatment The transitional characteristic around the perimeter of each plank. Certain edge/end treatments, like the square edge/end, allow planks so seamlessly transition from one to the other, while other treatments, like the micro-bevel or rolled bevel, offer a more pronounced look, emphasizing the outline of each plank.

Engineered Hardwood A floor whose pre-finished top layer is made of hardwood and whose core is plywood or high-density fiberboard for stability and durability.

Expansion In flooring, expansion refers to the swelling/compression of natural fibers (like wood) as they gain/lose moisture. A wood floor can expand by several millimeters during humid months.

Expansion Gap A space necessary between fixed objects – like walls – and the flooring planks. This gap allows for movement of the material during expansion and compression.

Floating Floor Sounds whimsical, but it’s really floor panels that are held together by some kind of locking system and that aren’t attached to the subfloor in any way.

Grain Each wood species has a distinctive pattern that is created by the tree’s growth rings and the way the tree is cut. These lines are called the grain.

Hand-scraped This once-common technique has made a comeback recently. Woodworkers would use a draw knife instead of sandpaper to smooth the plank. Properly used, the draw knife actually creates a smoother surface, and gives the wood a distinctive, old-time warmth.

Hue A shade of a color. Flooring products can contain hues from across the color spectrum – from yellow or red hues to deep blues and even greens.

Jig Saw This cutting tool is a good choice when you need to cut curves or small notches. It should always be used with safety equipment, like a dust mask, safety goggles, common sense, caution and intelligence.

Laminate Flooring Flooring made up of multiple plies bonded together for strength and dimensional stability. Using an ultra-realistic photographic process the top layer is printed with a pattern that can replicate everything from oak and maple to exotic hardwood or even concrete.

Moisture Content A measure of the amount of moisture in wood.

Molding A decorative piece of wood that runs along the base of each wall and along the transition line between two rooms to help to hide the expansion gap in hardwood and laminate flooring. Popular moldings include: quarter rounds, t-moldings, thresholds, reducers, and wallbase.

Plank Look at a finished hardwood floor. It is made up of many pieces. Guess what each of those pieces is called? You got it.

Plies Engineered hardwood and laminate flooring is made up of various layers, called plies. Each ply runs perpendicular to each other for added strength and dimensional stability.

Safety Goggles Your eyes are important. Safety goggles protect your eyes. Wear safety goggles when using power tools.

Solid Hardwood Pretty simple: these floors are one solid piece of hardwood from top to bottom. Before there were laminate and engineered hardwood floors, this was it.

Subfloor If you were to rip up your flooring and then any underlayment, what you’d find is the subfloor – typically either a concrete slab or plywood sheeting.

Surface Finish So many things go into the finish of hard surface flooring. Wood floors can be wire-brushed, hand-scraped, embossed, or distressed. Other options include a matte finish — very popular right now — or a gloss or semi-gloss finish.

Thickness The height of each laid plank from the floor. Thicker planks can help reduce bending from unevenness in the subfloor and also help reduce noise.

Tone Tone is a measure of how light or dark a wood is. A blonde floor will have a light tone, while a dark-stained walnut floor with have a dark tone.

Tongue and Groove This common woodworking joint is used to connect many hardwood and laminate flooring planks. Each piece of the flooring plank has a slot that recedes (the groove) cut on one side and ridge that sticks out (the tongue) cut on the other side allowing two planks to fit together when laid side-by-side to create one flat surface.

Underlayment Used primarily with floating floors, this soft material can come in roll or fan form, or underlayment can come pre-attached to your flooring product. A good underlayment provides insulation, acts as a moisture barrier, eliminates minor subfloor imperfections, and helps floors sound more like solid wood.

Wear Resistance The ability of a laminate product’s surface to resist wear through its décor layers.

Wire-brushed Wire-brushing pulls the soft grain from the wood leaving the harder heartwood exposed while still maintaining a smooth surface.

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