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Flooring Terminology


The process of scraping or wearing something away such as the top wear layer of laminate or vinyl plank, or even just wearing down hardwood flooring over time. This can happen from moving furniture, pets (particularly their claws), or dropping heavy items.


Most flooring, especially hardwood, laminate and vinyl plank flooring has to adjust to the environment it’s being installed in to. If not, the flooring may shrink, swell, or warp after installing. When you take flooring home, make sure you bring it into your home and let it ‘rest’ for about 3 to 7 days before installing. Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct amount of acclimation time.


This is the bottom-most layer of many types of flooring. This layer often separates the flooring from the subfloor to protect and help add comfort, reduce sound transfer, and generally extend the life of the floors.

Carpet Pile

This defines the height of the carpet fibres from the carpet surface. A carpet can be high (more than ½ inch), medium (¼ to ½ inch) or low pile (less than ¼ inch).

Ceramic Tile

This type of tile is made with a mixture of water, sand, and clay and baked at a lower temperature than porcelain. There are three types of ceramic tile: floor tiles, wall tiles, and glazed ceramic tile. Ceramic tile is naturally waterproof which makes it a great option for bathrooms, kitchens, and the poolside.


Cork flooring is biodegradable, so at the end of its life, it can be broken down into the environment unlike other flooring options. Cork flooring is, however, more susceptible to some types of damage like the dropping of heavy objects or moving of furniture. However, cork is a great insulator, provides a soft cushioned surface to walk upon, is hypoallergenic, and can be refinished, extending its life.


How close together the fibres of a carpet are. The denser the carpet, the more it can withstand foot traffic.

Distressed Hardwood Flooring

When plank flooring is intentionally scuffed, scratched, or scraped to make it look rustic.

Embossed In Register

This is a stamping process that produces texture that follows the pattern in the design image. This is used on non-natural products such as laminate or vinyl to make them appear as though they are made of wood.

Engineered Hardwood

Instead of a solid wood plank, engineered hardwood has multiple layers. The core is actually made up of high-quality plywood. There is a clear protective finish on top of the hardwood layer for extra protection. Engineered hardwood cannot be refinished, but with proper maintenance, can last up to 30 years.

Floating Floor

This is when the flooring material does not attach to the floor - instead it floats above it. Usually it is snapped or joined at the end joints.


This defines how reflective the floor is. Satin or matte styles have very little reflection, while semi-gloss and high gloss means the floor is very shiny and reflective.


When you look at wood and you see a vertical pattern in it, that's the wood grain and it typically refers to the orientation of the wood-cell fibres. The size, type, and arrangement of the wood cells will vary depending on the species of tree the wood came from. 

Hand Scraped

This is one way of adding texture to hardwood flooring that involves scraping the surface of the wood by hand, making it “pre-worn”, before adding oil or lacquer. This type of flooring won’t have a smooth look or feel to it, but will create a rustic aesthetic.


Hardwood is made of a single solid piece of wood. There are a lot of options for the type of wood you can use, from pine, cedar, and walnut to birch, oak, maple, and more. Hardwood flooring involves nailing the wood planks to the subfloor, so it takes some skill to get them installed. An advantage of hardwood is that it can be sanded and refinished many times over its lifespan.

IIC/STC Sound Ratings

This is the testing for impact noise and evaluating the level of sound isolation between spaces (think of footsteps from the floor above you or the sound of furniture moving).

IIC stands for Impact Isolation Class and measures a floor's ability to absorb impact sound (like footsteps). 125mm concrete has an IIC of 25, while most buildings require an IIC of at least 50 if not more. This is why underlayment is so important when installing flooring as it helps increase the floor's ability to absorb sound.

STC stands for Sound Transmission Class and measures airborne noise transfer. A recording studio which is built to block out all sound from outside would have a high STC rating of 50-65 while an apartment with only drywall would have a lower rating, around 33. 


Laminate is composed of many layers but has a fiberboard wood core (highly compressed wood fibres) and comes with a scratch-resistant wear layer. It’s a suitable replacement for hardwood at an affordable price. Although it is considered more durable than hardwood, laminate can be prone to warping due to moisture.


First introduced in the 1800s, linoleum floors are made of linseed oil, gums, cork, or wood dust and pigments.

Loose Lay

This is actually just like the name sounds, where flooring is loosely laid on top of the subfloor. Typically used in vinyl flooring installation, it can be easily removed and reinstalled and works well in basements, laundry rooms (where flooding might occur), and on surfaces such as painted concrete.

Luxury Vinyl 

Coming in both plank and tile forms, luxury vinyl is completely synthetic and the base layer is (often) made of fibreglass which is then coated in PVC. It holds up well in high traffic areas and is often waterproof. However, while it’s more water-resistant than laminate, it’s not quite as scratch-resistant.


Usually made from glass, stone, tile, etc. and is arranged to create a pattern or picture. Think of little bathroom tiles designed to make a nice pattern in the shower.


This type of tile emulates natural stone, brick, or even wood without any of the maintenance. Porcelain is made of clay that’s been put through a special heating process. It does not contain any ‘pores’, making it extremely resilient to moisture and humidity. This unique property prevents the tile from cracking or freezing, so porcelain is perfect for use both inside and outside your home. There are different classes of porcelain, so be sure to know if the porcelain you’re buying is appropriate for flooring or if it’s meant for tiled walls.

Refinished (Refinishing)

This involves sanding down the upper most layer and reapplying a fresh stain or lacquer. Refinishing can be done on hardwood and cork flooring.

SPC/WPC (Subcategories of Luxury Vinyl Flooring)

SPC (Stone Plastic Composite): This luxury vinyl flooring typically features a core that is made of limestone, making it more rigid and cooler to the touch. It makes minimal noise when walked on, is completely waterproof, and has great sound insulation.

WPC (Wood Plastic Composite): Closely resembles SPC but features a more wood core and retains warmth more readily. WPC is DIY friendly and though more affordable than real stone or hardwood, it tends to be slightly more expensive than SPC.


The subfloor is the important middle layer of a flooring system. The purpose of a subfloor is to offer a structurally sound flat surface to hold up the underlayment and finished floor.

All houses have a subfloor and it is what rests on top of the joists of the house. Subfloors are a structural part of your home and they provide strength and rigidity to your home’s flooring. When a subfloor becomes loose or warped, it can be the cause of a squeaky floor.


The underlayment is the layer of flooring that sits directly under the finished floor. The underlayment is not considered a structural element and you may not always need an underlayment, because it isn’t always required for your flooring. The underlayment provides a smooth surface on which the visible finished floor sits.

Underlayment is what protects your floor covering from moisture, helps soundproof your flooring, and offers cushioning to your feet. Underlayment is floating and should never be glued down to the subfloor underneath in case it needs any repair in the future.


Similar to underlayment, underpads are used when installing carpets. They are used to extend the life of the carpet and to add more softness, reduce sound transfer, and provide insulation. 

Wire Brushed

Typically done on hardwood, wire brushing is the process of taking a hard-bristle wire brush and scraping the surface of the wood. This process removes the grains and leaves the top with a more textured finish. This look is used by people who want to give their home or room a traditional feel and is great at hiding scratches or other damage since they blend in with the already rough finish.

Flooring Product Comparison

This flooring product comparison lists the different types of flooring that are available to you, everything from carpet, tile, hardwood, cork, area rugs, luxury vinyl tile and others. A quick reference guide for the main differences and benefits to each.