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cork glossary

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Above Grade

Any floor that is above ground level.


The wearing away and scuffing of the finish layer of a floor, generally caused by friction from dirt and debris.

Abrasion Resistance

The ability of a flooring surface to resist abrasion when in contact with abrasive materials.


The process of leaving flooring in the area where it will be installed for a length of time before installation, allowing it to adapt to the temperature and humidity of the area.


A chemical with a pH rating below 7.


The ability of one material to stick to another.


The adhesion of molecules or particles to a surface.


Dried by air without the use of special equipment.


American Standard Testing Methods, one of the largest international organizations that develops standards for materials, products, systems, and services.


Bark - The outermost layer of a tree trunk, branch, or twig. Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak tree.

Base Shoe

Base Shoe - Also known as a shoe mold, base shoe moldings are attached to the base molding to cover the expansion gap.

Below Grade

Below Grade - Any floor that is below the level of the ground.


Think of the volume of a piece of wood that is 12" x 12" x 1" or 144 square inches. A board-foot equals that same volume regardless of its surface area. So, a board-foot of a piece of wood that is over 1" thick will have a smaller surface area and you will need more board-feet than you would square feet to cover the same area. If the wood is less than 1" thick it is counted as 1" regardless. It is a little confusing which is why most flooring is sold by the square feet of the surface area and not by volume or board-feet.


The adhesion of one material to another.


A design inlaid in the floor which can be simple or intricate and visually frames the floor.

Brush Marks

Marks left in the finish when it is brushed after it has begun to dry.


The ability to apply finish or other material with a brush without leaving brush marks on other uncured layers.


Bubbles in the finish of a floor caused by air entering the finish before curing.


A machine used for fine sanding.

Build Coat

When extra coats of a finishing material are applied over the sealer or color to build up the fullness of the finished look.


Areas of a floor which experience less foot traffic and are less worn but are coated with finish as often as other areas, leaving a buildup of product and often resulting in a darker appearance.

Bull Nosing

A molding applied to the front of stairs and landings to create a rounded finish.

Butt Joint

The end of a plank or strip where it joins with the end of another plank or strip.


A product added to some finishes to make them more durable.

Chatter Marks

Marks caused by an improperly operated or maintained sanding machine, which appear as a ripple effect on the surface.


When a finish cracks into small segments that appear to resemble alligator hide. This is usually caused by applying coating too heavily or over other coatings that have not cured. It can also be caused by using thinners meant to speed drying time or by applying a layer of finish over another layer with less elasticity.


Chipboard is a type of low-density paperboard used for subfloors. It is not usually recommended for glue-down installations.


A problem caused by poor elasticity or adhesion to the base material where the film of the finishing material chips off in flakes.


The ability of a coating to hold together, also referred to as an inward force.

Color Change

The lightening or darkening of the color of flooring due to exposure to light, a chemical reaction, or deprivation of light and air.

Cork Flooring

A highly durable, natural flooring option made from the bark of the cork oak tree. It is a renewable source of flooring, as the tree is not harmed in its harvesting. It is equal in price to hardwood and less expensive than bamboo. It is available in an array of colors, patterns, and textures.

Cork Oak Tree

Formally known as Quercus suber, it is an evergreen oak native to Europe and Africa. It forms a very thick bark which can be harvested for cork flooring and other products without harming the tree.


To hammer a nail or screw in a screw so that it sits beneath the surface of the floor.


A measurement that describes the square feet of surface area a gallon of product will cover.


Bubbles in the surface of a finish that have popped but have not leveled, leaving a crater-like effect.


Small cracks or checks that interlace in the surface of a finish.


A type of crystallization where the lines join together at a centralized point.


A condition where individual strips or planks of flooring will appear convex where the center is raised above the edges.


A condition where individual strips or planks of flooring will appear concave with the edges raised above the center.


A term that is used when properties of an adhesive or cement are changed by a chemical reaction which allows it to reach its maximum strength. This is generally done by condensation, heat, or another catalyst.

Custom Floors

When a floor is ordered to your exact specifications including species, finish, and design.


When sanding a floor, each time a floor is passed over with a sanding machine it is called a cut.


Separation in the layers of a coating or separation from the substrate itself due to poor adhesion. It also refers to the separation of the secondary backing from the primary backing of carpet or the separation of the surface of concrete.


Another term for gouges made by an edger.

Dimensional Stability

The structural integrity of a floor and its ability to maintain its original dimensions.


The finely divided or colloidal solid material in finishing products.

Door Jam Saw

A tool used to cut a portion of the door casing off, allowing the flooring to fit underneath.


A material often made of organic salts of manganese, cobalt, lead, zinc or iron, which speeds the drying of oil or varnish.

Drum Sander

A floor sander similar to a lawn mower that's pushed along the floor's open areas.

Dry Tack-Free

See Dry to Touch

Dry Time

The amount of time it takes a finish or other product to become solid enough to apply another coat.

Dry to Sand

The amount of time it takes a finish or other flooring product to solidify enough to the point where it can be properly sanded.

Dry to Touch.

When the film of a finishing material has dried to the point where it can be lightly touched without leaving a mark or sticking to fingers.

Dry Wall

A material generally used to cover walls and ceilings which comes in sheets or panels and generally consists of gypsum between two heavy layers of paper.


The process of a liquid becoming a solid by evaporation, oxidation, polymerization or a combination of these.


The ability of a floor to withstand destruction.


Tiny particles of matter. Also a name for a grading or size of natural resin.


The point where a finishing product has dried sufficiently to the point where dust that settles on the surface will not stick.

Eased Edge

The cut of a 45 angle on the top edge of a plank or strip, forming a small V shaped groove when it comes together with another eased edge plank or strip on either side. It forms a slightly smaller groove than a beveled edge.

Edge Sander/Edger

Small hand sander that sands the areas close to the wall and around pipes and other obstacles that are missed by a drum sander.


Liquids that will not combine, such as water and oil.

End Matched

A tongue and groove system used on the ends of strips and planks so that when butted together, the tongue of one piece fits into the groove of the next piece.


The end of a plank or strip where it joins together with the end of another plank or strip.

Epoxy Ester

A combination of varnish and epoxy that creates a hybrid with the advantages of both.

Equilibrium Moisture Content

The ideal moisture content at which wood will not intake or expel moisture.


The ability of a floor to intake moisture, which causes it to expand.

Expansion Gap

A space left around the perimeter of the room and other obtrusions such as pipes and built in cabinets to allow for the movement and expansion of the flooring.

Expansion Spacing

Spaces placed between every two or three feet of flooring to allow the floor to expand and contract with changes to humidity and temperature.

Expansion Voids

Areas where no flooring or subfloor is installed to provide space for movement.


Fading - see Color Fading

Feather Edge

An edge that starts thick and becomes gradually thinner until it forms a point.

Feature Strip

A design feature similar to a border that is used as an accent to enhance a floor.


A broad term used to describe a material made from wood and other vegetable fibers glued together with heat and pressure. There are different levels of density and strength known as low, medium, or high density.


A protective coating which generally adds sheen to the floor and protects it. When finish dries, the layer that rises to the top is called the film.


The coating applied to the surface of flooring to provide protection.

Fire Resistance

The ability of a floor to withstand fire.

Fire Retardant

A chemical used to make a floor more fire resistant.

Flat Finish

A finish that lacks luster.

Flatting Agent

A solution added to a coating to reduce luster and produce a flat finish.

Floating Floor Installation

A common flooring installation method where the floor floats on an underlayment and planks are attach at their tongue and groove edges. Glue is sometimes used in the seams of the tongue and groove, but the flooring is not attached to the subfloor. It is held down around the perimeter of the wall by the base molding


The ability of a coating to spread into a smooth and flat surface before hardening.


The ability of a surface to reflect or shine.

Gloss Meter

A device used to measure the gloss of a surface.

Glossing Up

Increasing the glossiness of a floor by rubbing with friction or by using a product.

Glue-Less Floating Installation

A type of floating installation that does not require any glue. The boards are locked together with a tongue and groove mechanism and are held down by the baseboard but not attached to the subfloor.


In a tongue and groove installation, the groove is cut out of the side of the piece of flooring to allow the tongue of the adjacent piece to fit in.


The ability of a floor to withstand denting or marks under pressure.

High Solid

A term used to describe liquid with a higher than average amount of solid ingredients.


Flooring that is uniform in structure throughout the top layer and can be sanded and refinished, while veneer products should not be.


A structure that has the appearance of a bee's honeycomb.


A measuring of the amount of moisture in the air.


A device used to measure the humidity of an area.


A term used to describe flooring that reduces allergic irritation.

Impact Test

A test which involves dropping a weight onto dried finish to determine at what impact the film shatters.


A term used to describe liquids that cannot be mixed together without impairing the original properties.


A description of the purity of degree of hue a color has.


Expanding from the application of heat to provide a low density film.

Job Finished

Refers to floors that are finished after installation rather than being finished at a factory.

Joint Staggering

The act of installing flooring so that the joints are staggered and do not meet each other side by side.

Jointed Flooring

Flooring that has no tongue or groove and is usually end-matched, which makes replacing strips easier.


Parallel beams below the subfloor used to support floors and ceilings.


A gum-like resin that is used in the making of enamel and varnish.

Kauri Butanol Valve

A measure of the solvency power of petroleum thinners.

Kraft Paper

A very thick and heavy paper, also called Rosin Paper, that is often used for an underlayment or to make patterns for the layout of a floor.


A solution that cures very quickly and is often used as a sealer but may be incompatible with some stains and topcoats. It contains nitrocellulose and is very flammable.

Lamb’s Wool Applicator

A tool used to apply finish to a large area that is made of lamb's wool.


To lay or place a coat so it covers the edge of a previous coat, causing an increased thickness.


The ability of a liquid to flow so that the surface becomes flat, level, and free of bumps.

M. S. D. S.

Stands for Material Safety Data Sheet, a required sheet that lists any hazardous ingredients, safety precautions, and first aid information that a consumer should know about a product.

Manufacturing Defects

Refers to defects that occur during production, not natural blemishes. For example, incorrectly sized boards, improperly squared edges, high moisture content upon arrival, chipped grain, machine burn, and so on.


A general term that refers to a glue or adhesive.


A term used to describe someone who professionally installs flooring.


Due to its composition of millions of microscopic air pockets, cork flooring can flex under foot pressure or other heavy objects and then return to its original shape after impact. This is called having a "memory".


Mill - To cut wood into strips, planks, or other desired shape.

Mineral Spirits

A solvent often used to clean dried glue or other stubborn stains.

Moisture Barrier

A layer of plastic, foil, specialty paper or other material that is applied between the floor and subfloor to prevent the migration of moisture.

Moisture Content

A measuring of the amount of moisture in wood or other flooring. It is calculated as a percentage of the weight of the dry wood.

Moisture Meter

A device used to measure the moisture level in flooring.


Finish that is cured by contact with moisture.


Trims that are used to cover the expansion gap or to transition to another flooring surface.

Nail Down

An installation method where flooring is nailed to the subfloor.

Neutral Cleaner

A cleaner that has a pH close to 7 which is neither acidic nor alkaline.

Nominal Size

The size in which flooring is sold, though the actual size of the product may be slightly longer.


The portion of a substance that does not evaporate and is left behind once the volatiles are evaporated.


A molding applied to the front of stairs and landings to create a rounded finish.


A type of varnish that has urethane in it.


A term used to describe a subfloor that sits level with the surface of the ground.

Orange Peel

A term used to describe the appearance a finish takes on when a rolling brush is rolled or air is blown across a finish that has partially cured, leaving marks that look similar to an orange peel.


A problem that arises when flooring is installed over an uneven subfloor, resulting in some planks or strips rising higher than others and creating an uneven surface.


A problem where the dried film of a finish comes loose in flakes or sheets.

Petroleum Spirits

See Mineral Spirits

pH Value

A scale measuring the acidity or alkalinity of a material, which is determined by the amount of hydrogen ion it contains. A pH rating over 7 is considered alkaline, below 7 is considered acidic and 7 is considered neutral.


The sensitivity of a material that causes it to get lighter or darker when exposed to light.

Pin Holes/Pin Lines

Tiny holes or lines in finish caused by finish sinking into low or less dense areas. This can be corrected by applying an additional coat of finish.


Flooring boards that are usually 3" to 8" wide and installed in parallel rows.


Several units of urethane chemically joined together and able to solidify.


The most common type of finish. It is very durable, low maintenance, and is available in water-based or oil-based formulas.


When finish or other materials are disintegrated to the point where they become a fine powder.


Flooring that is finished completely before being sold to a consumer and requires no sanding or finishing after installation.

Radiant Heat

Also known as in floor heating, the term refers to a heating system which uses hot water that runs through tubes under the subfloor, warming the surface of the floor.

Random Width

Flooring that comes in several different widths in the same box.


Applying one coat of finish over another for added protection.

Reducer Strip/Reducer

A molding accessory normally used at doorways, fireplaces, or to divide a room that is grooved on one edge and tapered on the other in a teardrop shape.


The act of sanding a finished floor and applying a new layer of finish.

Relative Humidity

A ratio of the amount of water vapor in the air to the amount it would have if it was completely saturated at the same temperature.

Resilient (Cork)

Refers to flooring that is elastic, flexible, or has "give". Resilient floors include vinyl, cork, carpet and linoleum.


A solvent that slows the drying of lacquers and other materials.


A type of nail that has rings on the shaft to improve its holding characteristics.

Sand Screen

A product used with a buffer to sand a wood floor before sealing or recoating it. It ranges from 40-240 grit which is very fine to very coarse.


A finish that appears to have a soft sheen.


Indentations or breaks caused by abrasive friction.

Screen and Coat

A process of resurfacing the floor where it is lightly sanded and a new coat of finish is applied.

Scuff Mark

The scratch-like damage that occurs when walking without lifting your feet or sliding objects across a floor.


A coat that is applied to the surface of a floor before applying finish or other coats which prevents them from being absorbed into the flooring itself. Also may be applied as a final finishing step to a flooring surface to add protection and moisture resistance.

Sealer-Wax Finish

A finish that is made of a sealer, usually varnish, combined with a wax.


When two or more parts of a mixture are broken up into their individual parts.


When pigment or another solid ingredient separates from the film of a finish or other material and settles to the bottom.


Used to refer to the degree of darkness or lightness of a color. Often described as a light, medium or dark shade.


A covering placed over the exterior studding or rafters in a structure.

Sheen (Cork)

The amount of luster a surface has.


A tongue and groove system used on the sides of strips and planks so that when butted together, the tongue of one piece fits into the groove of the next piece.


The film that rises to the surface when a finishing material dries.


Usually a 2" x 4" glued to a concrete subfloor which either a wooden subfloor or new flooring is nailed to.

Slip Resistance

A measurement of the frictional resistance of an object from moving across a surface.


A small strip inserted in a groove when the installer wants to reverse the direction of the wood they are installing. This results in two grooves butting up and this strip acts as a tongue for both grooves.

Square Edge

An square edge that does not contain a tongue or groove.

Square Joint

Flooring that does not have a beveled or eased edge.

Squaring Up

Making sure the first row of flooring is parallel and perpendicular to the walls to ensure that the rest of the flooring is as well.


The ability of an object to not have a reaction to forces or other variations applied to it.

Stapled Down

A flooring installation method that uses staples to affix the flooring to the subfloor.

Stop Mark

A mark left on the floor as a result of a drum or belt sander being left too long without moving.

Strip Flooring

Flooring sold in various thicknesses and widths, usually less than 3" wide.


A waxy material which is the key component in the makeup of the cells in cork and is responsible for the moisture resistance of cork flooring. Suberin is also what makes cork insect resistant and adds a level of fire resistance.


The base floor of a structure on top of which the flooring is installed. Typically this is made of wood or concrete.


The surface that the flooring is installed on, generally the subfloor.


The exterior layer of flooring, and the area that you see and walk on.

Surface Drying

When a coating dries on top but may still be soft inside.

Surface Tension

A property of the surface of a liquid that causes it to behave as an elastic membrane.

Swedish Finish

A finish usually applied after installation that contains an acid curing conversion varnish. This type of finish is very resistant to stains, water and spots.

Tack Rag

A cloth used alone or with a solution to clean up dust from sanding.


A surface that can be lightly touched without leaving a mark or sticking to fingers.


A term used to describe a surface that is not yet able to be touched without leaving a residue on your fingers or an imprint in the surface.

Tensile Strength

The ability to resist pulling stress, usually from the natural expansion and contraction of the floor.


A material which softens when heated and hardens when cooled.


A shade of color that is produced by adding a color to white paint or enamel.


See Tongue and Groove

Tongue & Groove (T&G)

One side of a plank or strip has a groove cut out and the other side has a tongue extending out. The two sides snap or click together to create a floor.

Tri Sodium Phosphate

A product used to remove contaminates from the surface of a floor.


A tool used to spread filler over an entire floor or large area.


A flooring joist system.


A ray of light that is outside the visible spectrum at its violet end. It often causes flooring to become lighter or darker, and is sometimes used to cure a finish.


Coats applied under the finishing coats.


A layer of material installed between the subfloor and new flooring to provide moisture resistance, insulation, and sound transmission resistance. It is often made of rubber, cork, foam, or plastic.


A type of flooring that is sanded and finished after installation.


A synthetic chemical structure.

UV-Cured Polyurethane

Polyurethane that is cured using ultraviolet light.


A term used to describe the V-shaped groove made from two eased or beveled edges coming together.


Volatile Organic Compounds which is a measurement of solvents that are not water in a product.

Vapor Barrier

See Moisture Barrier.

Vapor Retarder

Foil, plastic, specialty paper, or other types of material used to control the migration of moisture.


A solution used as a sealer or finish, made of either natural or synthetic oils.


The ability of a fluid to resist flow.


Warping - When a piece of flooring deviates from the surface of the flooring.

Water-Based/Water Borne Finishes

Finishes made by suspending solids in water, which is the solvent.


A resinous substance used in polishes and other products, made from materials that are plant or animal in origin and are not water soluble.

Wear Resistance

The ability of a surface to withstand wear from normal traffic.

Wiping Stain

A type of stain that is applied and then wiped off with a cloth to remove any excess stain.

Wire Brushing

A method used to give a piece of flooring a distressed look by brushing the surface with a wire brush.

Wood Filler

See Filler


See Ambering.