Wood Glossary

Wood Flooring Terms You Need to Know

Wood flooring is a specialty and has a language of its own. Here is a glossary of terms and concepts that you will find useful when sourcing wood flooring.


Contraction and expansion

Solid wood contracts and expands with the weather. Warm and humid weather causes expansion. Cool and dry causes contraction. This is an important consideration in our Florida environment. 

Solid wood absorbs moisture. When it does, it expands and can buckle, giving it a wavy appearance. 

When exposed to a dry period, it contracts, sometimes opening gaps between the planks or along the wall.

Engineered wood flooring

A layer of wood on top of a substrate like plywood or a composite product. The wood layer is called the wear layer or lamella. Thin wear layers, ~1 millimetre can be refinished using a topical chemical. Thicker wear layers ~4-5 millimeters, can be refinished by sanding. Engineered floors are not as susceptible to heat and humidity as solid wood.

Diagram of a engineered wood flooring.

Engineered flooring is engineered to be dimensionally more stable to avoid the problems of solid wood. It's far less vulnerable to expanding and contracting and improves the performance of the floor. In addition it uses far less wood and conserves our natural resource.



Flooring from deciduous trees like maple, cherry, hickory, walnut and oak.

American traditional oak flooring.

Oak hardwood floor.



Also a generic term to describe any wood flooring.



A parquet pattern resembling, surprise, herring bones.

Wood floor in herringbone pattern

Herringbone pattern.


Polyurethane or Oil


Polyurethane is a protective coating that covers and seals. It renders the floor shiny, like a gymnasium. If that's the desired look, you can't do any better.

When polyurethane is scratched, the scratches are visible. Sooner or later, the polyurethane needs to be sanded up and reapplied.

Polyurethane can't be spot repaired.

Floor treated with polyurethane with visible scratches.

Floor treated with polyurethane with visible scratches.



Fine wood floors treated with oil have advantages. Oiled floors appear more natural. Repairs are much easier. Scratches can be spot repaired. Refinishing is much easier since sanding is rarely required.

Wood floor treated with oil at AddisonDicus studio. Five years old.

Oil treated floor at the entrance of the Addison/Dicus Tampa Showroom. It's over 12 years old and gets 45 hours of heavy traffic a week.


Planks are arranged in geometric patterns rather than parallel boards. 

A sunny bedroom with a dark, parquet floor



Literally, a wooden board. In the flooring business the word is used in many contexts: wide plank, narrow plank, dark plank, light plank, reclaimed plank, refinished plank and so on.

Reclaimed wood

Flooring from any wood that has been used previously. For example, wood from old buildings, factories, or sunken logs from old logging operations.

Engineered flooring made from reclaimed teak with a wire-brushed finish

Engineered flooring made from reclaimed teak with a wire-brushed finish.


Soft wood

From conifer trees like pine.

Pine floor showing great variety and contrast in the grain.

Pine floor showing characteristic variety and contrast in the grain.


Solid wood

Solid wood from top to bottom. Planks are usually ¾ inch thick and can be refinished several times. Solid wood can only be sanded to the top of the groove. Whether to undertake a close shave should be determined by a hard wood floor specialist.

End view of solid wood flooring planks showing tongue and groove.

Solid wood planks.