A-Z of Timber Flooring

4 Dec 2019

This A-Z of timber flooring list will help ensure that you have a full understanding of the specifications, characteristics and requirements of the timber flooring product you choose. Timber flooring, like any specialised industry, has many technical terms that can be a little confusing or even intimidating if you are not familiar with the lingo.

We've put together a list of the most common terms you will come across when choosing your timber flooring product to help you navigate the in's and out's of the timber flooring world. 


Adhesion - The process of stocking one material to another. Adhesion is affected by the condition of the surface. The surface should allow a certain amount of penetration, be chemically clean and not too smooth, hard or non-porous.

Annual Growth Ring - The layer of wood growth formed on a tree during a single growing season.


Basket Weave - A parquetry pattern typically created using herringbone, basket weave is any pattern where the wood flooring is laid in a way that makes the wood appear to be woven.

Basket weave pattern using Havwoods HW3571 Mosman Herringbone timber flooring. Project by Cahill Building Group

Bevelled Edge - The edge of a plank, which has been chamfered off in the manufacturing process to create a groove or 'v' joint between boards when they are laid.

Bleached/White Washed Floors - Floors lightened in colour by the application of either wood bleach, or a white stain, or both. View our white wood flooring range.

Block - Commonly used for referring to parquet flooring individual strips, for example 'herringbone blocks'.

Borders - Simple or intricate designs, which frame and customise a flooring installation.

Bowed - The distortion of timber in which frame and customise a flooring installation.

Brushed - A manufacturing process applied to the timber to add textures to the surface, usually carried out by copper brushes.


Chamfer/Chamfered - Sometimes defined as a bevelled edge, a chamfered edge is where a right-angled edge has been cut away to create a symmetrical sloping edge, often at a 45°, between two adjoining faces.

Chevron - A parquetry pattern of wood flooring blocks that when laid, create a chevron or 'V' shape. 

Chevron pattern using Havwoods HW16604 Pallido Chevron timber flooring.

Colour Change - Visual changes in the colour of the wood species caused by the exposure to light, deprivation of light and air, or some chemical reaction.

Crowning - Individual strips with the centre of the strip higher than the edges. The opposite of 'cupping'.

Cupping - A concave or dished appearance of individual strips with the edges raised above the centre. The opposite of 'crowning'.

Character Grade - Refers to the characteristics present and structural properties of raw timber being of 'character grade'. Typically, character grade timber will include both heartwood and sapwood and allows a wider range of colour variation. Knots are larger and you should expect checks (cracks across the growth ring). Filler will be used, the colour of which is carefully selected to complement the wood rather than to match it exactly. (Read more about timber flooring grades here.)

Checks - These are cracks across the growth ring of the timber. These usually occur where there are also shakes (see 'Shakes), most often at the end of a board and may be cut off. 

Classic Grade - See 'Select Grade'.

Click System - Click system is a method of installation of timber flooring. Planks that have a click system have specially-profiled edges that allow the planks to "click" into each other. Click system planks are typically faster to install than planks with a traditional tongue and groove profile. 


DPC - Damp-proof course. See DPM.

DPM - Damp-proof membrane (often abbreviated to DPC, damp-proof course) is a horizontal barrier in a wall designed to prevent moisture rising through the structure by capillary action - a phenomenon known as rising damp.

Delaminating - The seperation of layers in a laminate or engineered floor, through failure of the adhesive or between plies, or between layers of stain and/or coating.

Distressed - A process used to give a lived in look. Various techniques are used to create surface damage, dents, scratches and imperfections to edges and face. Boards are often then finished with oil to soften defects and give the appearance of a well-worn, though not necessarily period, floor. 


End Joint - Where two pieces of flooring are joined together end-to-end.

End Matched - A male projection milled on one edge of a strip, plank, slat or unit to be engaged with a female counterpart on an adjourning unit.

Engineered - A multi-layered wood flooring board comprising of a surface veneer of real wood, bonded to a central softwood core and a counter balancing backing of softwood.


Feature Strip - A strip of wood used at a threshold or to border a room or to otherwise serve as an accent. Usually of a contrasting colour or species.

Figure - Inherent markings, designs or configurations on the surface of wood produced by annual growth rings, rays, knots and deviations from regular grain.

Filler - A substance used to fill the holes and irregularities in planed or sanded surfaces before applying finish coatings.

Finish - Protective coating applied to a wood floor.

Flecks - The wide irregular, conspicuous figure in quarter sawn oak flooring.

Floating Floor - A method of installation where the flooring is not nailed or glued to the subfloor. Typically, the flooring panels are connected together by adhesive or mechanical connectors and recommended to be installed over underlay. 


Grade - This is a term used to determine the characteristics present and structural properties of raw timber. (Find out more about wood flooring grades here.)


Hand Scraped - A process used to undulate the surface of wood floors to create an uneven surface, which replicates foot traffic and wear characteristics of an old floor.

Hardness - The property of a wood species or finishing material that causes it to withstand denting or being marked.

Hard Wax Oil - Surface-finishing treatment made from natural vegetable oils mixed with wax.

Hardwood - One of the botanical groups of deciduous trees that have broad leaves, in contrasting to conifers or softwoods.

Heartwood - The wood extending from the pith to the sapwood, the cells of which no longer participate in the life processes of a tree - usually darker than sapwood.

Herringbone - A traditional parquet pattern used to create an interlocking pattern of blocks of around eight inches long.

HDF - High-density fibreboard, which is an engineered wood product. It is similar to particleboard and medium-density fibreboard, but is denser and much stronger and harder because it is made out of exploded wood fibres that have been highly compressed.

Humidity - The amount of water vapour in the air (see 'Relative Humidity').

Hygrometer - An instrument for measuring the degree of humidity or relative humidity of the atmosphere. 

Herringbone pattern using Havwoods HW7360T Smoked Walnut Twist timber flooring.

HDF - High-density fibreboard, which is an engineered wood product. It is similar to particleboard and medium-density fibreboard, but is denser and much stronger and harder because it is made out of exploded wood fibres that have been highly compressed.

Humidity - The amount of water vapour in the air (see 'Relative Humidity').

Hygrometer - An instrument for measuring the degree of humidity or relative humidity of the atmosphere. 


Joist - One of a series of parallel beams used to support floor or ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls. 


Kiln-dried - Dried in a kiln with the use of artificial heat.

Knot - The portion of a branch or limb that has been surrounded by subsequent growth of the stem. 


Lacquer - A finish containing nitrocellulose, often used as a sealer. Using a solvent with very low flash point, which causes it to be very flammable, creates the fast curing properties of this finish. Ambers little, cures rapidly, but may water spot and become cloudy when applied in high humidity.

Laminate Flooring - Hard surface flooring with a fibreboard core and melamine wear layer.

Lamella - Refers to the top layer of timber on laminate timber flooring. 


Mineral Streak - Wood containing an accumulation of mineral matter introduced by sap flow, causing an unnatural colour ranging from greenish brown to black.

Moisture Content - The amount of moisture in wood expressed as a percentage of the weight of oven-dried wood.

Mosaic Parquet - Five fingers of wood to make up a basket; each basket is laid in an opposite direction to the next, each panel contains approximately 16 baskets.

Medullary Rays - Also known as pith rays or wood rays, medullary rays are cells that transport sap from the inside of the tree to the outside, radiating from the centre of the tree. Medullary rays run perpendicular to the growth rings. A natural feature of timber, they add character and beauty to timber through the creation of intricate and unique patterns.


Nosing - Hardwood moulding used to cover the outside corner of a step. 


Open Grain - A failure of finish to form a film over areas of low density, normally associated with the softer springwood. 


Parquet - Parquet or parquetry is commonly used to describe wood blocks/strips laid in a geometric mosaic pattern, particularly herringbone and chevron patterns.

Plain Sawn - The usual way of cutting a log, which gives a random mix of grain patterns.

Plank - Solid or enginered boards designed to be installed in parallel rows.

Plywood - Board or panel made of cross-directional veneers and/or layers of wood for dimensional stability.

Polyurethane - A type of finish used on hardwood to protect it from damage. Polyurethane finishes do not require waxing.

Prefinished - Floors that are sealed with a protective finish by the manufacturer to installation.

Prime Grade - Refers to the characteristics present and structural properties of raw timber being of ‘prime grade’. Typically, prime grade timber has few, if any knots, sapwood and filler. Any knots, sapwood or filler the timber does have will be minimal in size. There will be less colour variation than found in other grades. Due to the restrictions on these characteristics, prime grade timber can be more expensive as prime grade planks are selected by eye and harder to source in high quantities. (Information on grades can be found here.)


Quadrant - A convex shaped piece of timber supplied in around 2-3m lengths in various hardwoods. Used to cover expansion gaps left around the perimeter of a wood floor.


Rays, wood - Strips of cells extending radically within a tree and varying in height from a few cells in some species to four inches or more in oak. The rays serve primarily to store food and transport it horizontally in the tree. On Quarter sawn oak flooring, the rays form a conspicuous figure, sometimes referred to as flecks.

Reclaimed - Timber salvaged from use in other locations to give the new environment an aged look and feel.

Relative Humidity - Ratio of the amount of water vapour present in the air, which the air would hold at saturation at the same temperature.

Rustic Grade - Refers to the characteristics present and structural properties of raw timber being of rustic grade’. a term used in the grading of wood flooring. This grade permits almost unlimited natural colour variation via sapwood, heartwood and knots. (Find more information on our gradings here.)


Sanded and Filled - Describes an unfinished product which has been factory prepared for treatment. The finish is smooth and all open knot and shanks have been filled.

Sapwood - The wood near the outside of a tree, usually lighter in colour than heartwood.

Scotia - A concave or half round shape of timber usually supplied in 2 - 3m lengths in various hardwoods. Used to cover expansion gaps left around the perimeter of a wood floor.

Screed - A latex levelling compound that is used to create a clean level subfloor when installing floors.

Select Grade - Refers to the characteristics present and structural properties of raw timber being of select grade’. Also sometimes referred to as Classic grade. Select grade is term used to describe timber selected for colour which includes minimal knots and will represent less colour variation in a whole floor. (Read more about timber flooring grades here.)

Shake - A separation along the grain, the greater part of which occurs between the annual growth rings.

Smoked - A process used to darken wood floors during the drying process.

Softwoods - A term used to describe timber produced from needle and/or cone-bearing trees (conifers).

Solid - Individual strips or planks of timber made from 100% hardwood.

Solid Flooring - Made from boards which are single pieces of wood from top to bottom.

Species - The type of tree, such as oak, cherry or walnut.

Square - Flooring with edges that are not eased or bevelled.

Staining - Changing the colour of the wood through the application of transparent or semi-transparent liquids made from dyes, finely divided pigments or chemicals.

Stair Nosing - A finishing piece applied to the forward edge of stairs, step-downs and landings, creating a rounded quality finish. (Explore Havwoods stair nosings and profiles here.)

Subfloor - What a floor covering sits on - either concrete, floorboards, chipboard or brick.

Stair nosings using Havwoods HW2130 Allevard Pureplank timber flooring.


Texture - Term to describe the surface look and feel of flooring. Texture can range from silky smooth to hand scraped and distressed. 

Threshold - A finishing piece applied to a wood floor where it transcends to another flooring level or type. 

Tongue and Groove - A tongue milled on one edge and a groove cut on the opposite edge, in a strip, plank and parquet flooring. As the flooring is installed, the tongue of each strip or unit is engaged with the groove of the adjacent strip or unit (see 'End-Matched'). 

Trim - The finish materials in a building, such as mouldings, applied around openings (window trim, door trim) or at the floor and ceiling of rooms. 


Underlay - Is a layer of cushioning, made of materials such as sponge rubber, foam, felt or crumb rubber, which is laid beneath the flooring to provide protection and support. (You can find underlay for your timber flooring from our Havwoods Accessories range.)

Unfinished - A product requiring sanding and staining/finishing after installation.

UV-Cured polyurethane - Special polyurethane cured by subjecting it to a dose of ultraviolet light. See polyurethane.


Vapour Barrier - A material, such as foil, plastic film or specially coated paper, with a high resistance to vapour, which is used to control condensation or prevent migration of moisture.

Veneer - Square edged leaf of hardwood bonded to provide surface face of engineered wood floors.

Valour UV Oil - A revolutionary ultra violet oil finish given to timber flooring planks. Valour UV oil delivers a natural raw oiled look to timber flooring that excels in scratch resistance, colour fastness, durability and sustainability. (Available in the Havwoods Valour range.)

Versailles - With origins in the French palace of Versailles and also known as the French pattern, Versailles is an intricate geometric tile-like pattern of precisely-cut timber blocks. Traditionally a labour intensive and costly floor to install, Versailles flooring became a sign of opulence. These days Versailles patterns are available in ready-made ‘tiles’, significantly cutting down installation time and cost. (See the Havwoods Versailles range here.)


Wide Board - Term used to describe board widths. (Discover Havwoods wide boards here.)

Width - The width of individual wood boards that make up a floor.

Wire Brushing - A method for imparting an artificial texture or distressed appearance to the surface of hardwood flooring.

Wood Species - The primary species from which the wood floor is made.

Get in touch to learn more about timber floors

The A-Z of timber flooring list covers the most common terms you will come across when researching and selecting your timber floor. If there is a term that you have come across that is not covered here, get in touch today and we can help you out! You will also be helping us to add new words to this list to in-turn help others who are needing clarification on any timber flooring terms.