Decoding the Jargon: Understanding Flooring Terminology

Decoding the Jargon: Understanding Flooring Terminology

Tiffany Stevens

When shopping for flooring, you may come across a variety of technical terms and industry jargon that can be confusing. Understanding these terms is important for making informed decisions and picking the right flooring for your home or business.

In this blog post, we will decode common flooring terms, make sense of the jargon and empower you to understand the world of flooring with confidence. 




The subfloor is the structural floor beneath your chosen flooring material. It serves as the base for the flooring installation and provides stability and support.

  • Before installing any flooring material, it's important to ensure that the subfloor is clean, dry, and level.
  • Different types of subfloors, such as concrete or plywood, may require specific preparation or underlayment.
  • To address moisture or sound issues, some subfloors may need a specific underlayment.
  • To prevent issues like warping or mold growth, concrete subfloors need moisture testing and moisture barriers.
  • Inspect plywood subfloors for stability, and make any necessary repairs before moving forward with the installation.



Installers install a thin layer of material called underlayment over the subfloor. The underlayment smoothes out minor imperfections, reduces noise spread, and provides additional support and insulation for the flooring above.

  • Underlayment materials can vary, including foam, cork, or rubber, each offering different benefits such as noise reduction or moisture resistance.
  • Some underlayments have built-in vapor barriers to protect against moisture from the subfloor.
  • Foam underlayment provides cushioning and helps absorb minor subfloor imperfections. The underlayment helps to reduce noise transmission between floors.
  • Cork underlayment offers excellent sound reducing properties and can provide added thermal insulation.
  • Rubber underlayment is highly durable and provides superior impact resistance. Commercial settings and areas with heavy foot traffic commonly use it.


Various tree species provide the natural wood that makes hardwood flooring. Hardwood flooring is durable, timeless, and refinishable.

  • It's important to consider the hardness of different wood species. Some species, like oak or maple, are more resistant to wear and tear.
  • Hardwood flooring is available in different grades, which determine the overall quality and appearance of the wood.
  • The thickness and width of hardwood planks can vary, making different installation methods and design possibilities.
  • When choosing hardwood, consider factors such as plank width, texture (smooth, hand-scraped, wire-brushed), and finishes (natural, stained, or prefinished).


Laminate flooring is a synthetic flooring material made of multiple layers. The top layer has the appearance of hardwood, while the inner layers provide stability and durability. Laminate flooring is affordable and resistant to scratches and stains.

  • Laminate flooring often features a click-lock installation system, making it DIY-friendly and easy to install.
  • It can mimic the appearance of various wood species or other materials like stone or tile.
  • Some laminate options come with attached underlayment, meaning you won't need a separate underlayment installation.
  • Installers can install laminate flooring in basements and areas prone to moisture, which makes it a good option for homeowners with these types of spaces.


Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is a versatile and durable option available in both sheets and planks. Synthetic materials produce a wide range of stylish and affordable vinyl flooring designs. Vinyl flooring is water-resistant, easy to maintain, and affordable.

  • Vinyl flooring can be categorized into luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and luxury vinyl tile (LVT), offering realistic visuals and textures.
  • WPC (wood plastic composite) and SPC (stone plastic composite) vinyl flooring are highly durable options that offer excellent resistance to moisture and scratches.
  • Luxury vinyl flooring can closely mimic the appearance of natural materials like wood or stone.
  • It is available in different installation types, including peel-and-stick, click-lock, or loose lay, providing flexibility for different projects.
  • Some vinyl flooring products have enhanced noise properties, making them ideal for reducing noise in multi-level buildings or rooms with high foot traffic.


Tile makers use ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone to create a variety of tile flooring options. Tiles are also durable, look great, and easy to clean, and they are usually square or rectangular.

  • Different types of tiles, such as ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone, have varying levels of durability and maintenance needs.
  • Different tile materials have varying levels of porosity. Natural stone tiles may require sealing to protect them from staining or water damage.
  • When choosing tile for areas with high moisture, like bathrooms or kitchens, it's important to select tiles with low water absorption rates.
  • To achieve a desired style, installers can install tiles in different patterns, such as herringbone, subway, or mosaic.
  • Grout lines can be different colors, helping the tile design to stand out or create a seamless look.


Tile Grout

Grout is a mixture of cement, sand, and water that is used to fill the gaps between tiles. Additionally, it provides stability, prevents tiles from moving, and protects the edges of the tiles from wetness.

  • Grout color can significantly impact the overall appearance of tiled floors, with options ranging from matching to contrasting colors.
  • Regular sealing of grout lines also helps protect against staining and extend the life of the grout.



Carpet is a soft flooring option made from fibers, such as nylon, polyester, or wool. It offers warmth, comfort, and noise . Carpets come in various styles, textures, and colors, to match your space.

  • Carpet is labeled into different pile types, such as cut pile, loop pile, or a combination of both, each offering different textures and looks.
  • When picking a carpet fiber, consider factors like durability, stain resistance, and maintenance.
  • Carpets with higher density tend to be more durable and less likely to crush or mat.
  • Carpet padding is important because it provides cushioning and affects the overall comfort and life of the carpet.


VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that can be emitted from certain flooring materials. They can have short- or long-term health effects. Also, it is important to choose low-VOC or VOC-free flooring options to promote indoor air quality.

  • Low-VOC or VOC-free flooring options are recommended for better indoor air quality and to reduce potential health concerns.
  • Additionally, many flooring manufacturers now offer eco-friendly and low-VOC products to meet consumer demands.

Wear Layer

The wear layer is the topmost layer of certain flooring materials, such as laminate or vinyl. It provides protection against scratches, stains, and wear and tear, and extends the life of the floors.

  • The wear layer's thickness determines the level of protection against daily wear and tear, including scratches, scuffs, and stains.
  • Thicker wear layers provide durability and a long life for the product.



You can confidently communicate with professionals by getting familiar with these flooring terms. However, if you're confused about any aspect of the flooring process, seek advice from professionals who can guide you in selecting the best flooring option for your home or business.

Don't let the jargon stop you—now that you have decoded the language, you have the knowledge to embark on your flooring journey with clarity and confidence.

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