June 5, 2023

Hardwood Flooring Terms You Need to Familiarize Yourself With

Japanese pine wood for furniture and floor finishing

The flooring industry provides numerous options to buyers, but in terms of class, charm, and longevity, hardwood floors stand out the most due to their timeless elegance and appeal. With more people embarking on their hardwood flooring journey, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with some terms used in this industry. This article will explore the essential hardwood flooring vocabulary to help you communicate effectively with contractors and suppliers.


Hardwood is the most common term in the hardwood flooring industry. It refers to the type of wood that comes from deciduous trees, such as oak, maple, and walnut. These woods are denser and more resilient to wear and tear, unlike softwoods, such as pine and fir, making them an ideal choice for flooring.

There are two types of hardwood buyers need to familiarize themselves with, and they’re domestic and exotic. Domestic hardwoods are any wood that comes or grows within Europe and North America. The most notable domestic hardwoods are oak, maple, and ash.

Exotic hardwoods are wood species from other tropical countries and continents, like Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. Unlike domestic hardwood planks, these trees have unique graining patterns, more pigmented hues, and special characteristics, like high water resistance. Some of the best exotic species are Teak, Brazilian Cherry, African Blackwood, and Mahogany.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood planks are a hardwood flooring type composed of a thin layer of hardwood on top of several layers of other woods, like plywood. It offers the elegance of hardwood while providing more stability and resistance to heat and humidity changes. In addition, they’re easier to install and a more cost-effective option for homeowners with limited budgets.

Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood floors come from single, solid wood pieces, already sanded and cut in lumber mills after harvesting them from tree farms. They are known for their durability, beauty, and the ability to be refinished multiple times throughout their lifespan.


Pre-finished hardwood planks are sanded, stained, and sealed hardwood strips from the factory. These floorboards require lesser installation time and have more durable finishes.


Unfinished hardwood flooring is installed raw and then sanded, stained, and finished on-site. These wooden planks allow for a high level of customization but require more installation time.


This process involves adjusting the wood to the environment where you need to install them. Wood is a natural product and expands or contracts depending on the humidity and temperature. Acclimation helps prevent issues like warping or gapping after installation. 

Janka Hardness Scale

The Janka Hardness Scale is a durability measurement marker the North American Flooring Industry uses to determine a hardwood species' resistance to denting and wear. The higher the Janka rating, the more durable the wood. For instance, oak, a common choice for hardwood flooring, has a relatively high Janka rating, indicating its robustness.

Plank Width

Hardwood floors come in various widths. Narrow strips are less than 3 inches and give the room a long look, while wide planks are more than 3 inches, offering rooms with a more rustic feel.


This refers to the final protective layer applied to the hardwood. The most common finishes used in households include oil-based polyurethane, water-based polyurethane, and hard-wax oil. Each offers a different level of protection, sheen, and maintenance needs.

Quarter Sawn

This method of sawing wood produces planks with a straight grain pattern and better stability. It reduces the hardwood plank's tendency to twist, warp, or cup. It's also more expensive due to the manufacturing process, but the best option for high-quality flooring.


Distressed hardwood floors are intentionally scratched, scraped, or antiqued to give rooms an old and rustic look. This style can hide minor damage and wear over time, making it a perfect choice for high-traffic areas. 

Tongue and Groove

Tongue and groove is a wood installation method of fitting similar objects together, edge to edge. In hardwood flooring, one side of the plank (the tongue) gets fit into the other (the groove), allowing for a smooth and secure installation.


The subfloor is the foundational layer where you install the hardwood floor onto. It provides structural strength and serves as the base for the final flooring. 


Underlayment is a layer placed between the subfloor and the hardwood floor. It provides soundproofing, moisture protection, and additional comfort. 

Hardwood Flooring Terms You Ought to Know

This hardwood flooring jargons are an essential must-know vocabulary. Understanding these terms will give you a head-start in your hardwood flooring project. They will not only help you make informed decisions but also ensure you're more comfortable during discussions with professionals in the industry.

To get more ideas about wood floors in Austin, contact Kelly Hardwood Floors today!