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 essential for making informed decisions and selecting the right flooring for your home or business.

In this blog post, we will decode common flooring terminology, demystifying the jargon and empowering you to navigate the world of flooring with confidence. 



The subfloor is the existing 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 transmission 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 proceeding with the installation.


Installers install a thin layer of material called underlayment over the subfloor. The underlayment smoothes out minor imperfections, reduces noise transmission, 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 insulation 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.


Hardwood flooring is made from natural wood that is typically sourced from various tree species. It's known for its durability, timeless beauty, and ability to be refinished.

  • 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, allowing for 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 composed of multiple layers. The top layer makes it resemble the appearance of hardwood, while the inner layers provide stability and durability. Laminate is known for its affordability and resistance 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, eliminating the need for a separate underlayment installation.
  • Installers can install laminate in areas where solid hardwood may not be recommended, such as basements or areas prone to moisture.


Vinyl flooring is a versatile and durable option available in both sheets and planks. It is made from synthetic materials and offers a wide range of styles and designs. It is known for its water resistance, easy maintenance, and affordability.

  • 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 acoustic properties, making them ideal for reducing noise in multi-level buildings or rooms with high foot traffic.


Tile flooring is made from various materials, including ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone. Tiles are typically square or rectangular and are known for their durability, aesthetic appeal, and easy cleaning.

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


Grout is a mixture of cement, sand, and water that is used to fill the gaps between tiles. It provides stability, prevents tiles from shifting, and protects the edges of the tiles from moisture.

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


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

  • Carpet is categorized into different pile types, such as cut pile, loop pile, or a combination of both, each offering different textures and aesthetics.
  • When selecting a carpet fiber, consider factors like durability, stain resistance, and maintenance requirements.
  • Carpets with higher density tend to be more resilient and better at resisting crushing and matting.
  • Carpet padding is an important component as it provides cushioning and affects the overall comfort and longevity 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. 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.
  • 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, ensuring the longevity of the flooring.

  • The wear layer's thickness determines the level of protection against daily wear and tear, including scratches, scuffs, and stains.
  • Thicker wear layers provide increased durability and longevity for the flooring.



You can confidently communicate with flooring professionals by familiarizing yourself with these essential flooring terms. However, if you're uncertain about any aspect of the flooring process, don't hesitate to seek advice from professionals who can guide you in selecting the best flooring option for your home or business.

Don't let the jargon intimidate you—now that you have decoded the language of flooring, you are well-equipped to embark on your flooring journey with clarity and confidence.

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