Glossary of Flooring Terms

As dedicated DIY’ers,  we often run into terms that are used almost exclusively in one craft,  skill set,  project type, or endeavor.   Here are a few terms you may run across in the wonderful field of  Bathroom Floor Renovation as you dream, plan, and do !

Anodized screws Screws treated by anodizing or coating with another metal to inhibit rust

Backer board A rigid composite board used as sub-floor or underlay for ceramic tile

Baseboard Profiled board or composite material used to trim  the bottom of a wall

Bedded Set into,  i.e.  ceramic tile is bedded in thin set cement

Blistered Plywood laminate separation, swelled, to form a blister, or bubble.

Building paper Heavy  papers used in the building trade,  may also be “tarred’ paper.

Camping The art of enjoying peace and quiet wherever you are….while contemplating that big tile job

Carbide drill bit High quality drill bit with a special boron carbide cutting edge

Carbide blade Any cutting blade that has a  boron carbide cutting edge

Carpenter’s square A builder’s square, typically 24”  “L” shaped  tool

Caulking Mastic, plasticized material used for sealing gaps, cracks, etc.

Cement board A   ¼”, ⅜” or ½” sheet board made of  fibre-reinforced cement

Ceramic Tile made of clay components baked at high temperature to vitrify

Coffee Hot brown stuff in a thermos or cup,  goes good with donuts or lunch. Also  See camping

Colored grout Cement-like material mixed with coloured pigment  and used as mortar to fill spaces in ceramic tile flooring

Compressive strength The ability to support weight directly, usually  measured in lbs per square inch.

Crow bar A  steel bar typically with a “goose-neck”  on one end

De-laminated (delaminated )         Layers  of a composite board  that have  separated because of adhesive failure . Water damage is a common cause.

Design  square The sides of the layout are parallel to the walls

Design  diagonal The sides of the layout are at an angle to the walls

Design  offset Layout includes full tiles at the wall for alternate rows

Diamond blade Steel cutting blade that has microdiamonds in the cutting edge

Diamond bit A sized drill bit or hole saw coated with industrial diamond dust to enable smooth cutting of holes in ceramic and porcelain tile. Sizes range from ⅛” to over 1″ diameter for a range of situations.

Ditra™ A brand of  commercial backer board, waffle design, made of plastic

Expansion joint A joint  filled with flexible caulking to allow lateral expansion

Filler Any material used to take up space, usually inert.

Flange Hub,  usually used for mounting and fastening utilities to the floor

Flexible The characteristic of being bendable. For flooring applications,  bending when weight is applied.

Float A  finishing trowel.  May be steel, wood, rubber, or magnesium.

Glaze A mixture  of natural materials and chemicals  that combine to  form an inert, non-porous decorative surface on ceramic tiles when  baked at high temperatures in a kiln.

Grout Cement-like material used to seal spaces in a tile surface. May be coloured.

Grout haze A milky residue left on a tile surface  caused by failure to remove excess  grout from the finished surface using clean water

Grout line The finished surface of grout applied to the space between ceramic tiles

Grouting tool A specialized tool for finishing, raking, or profiling grout lines
HardiBacker A brand of backing board made  of cement-like materials reinforced with fibre

Header A supportive floor structural member, typically between floor joists or strategically place for the purpose of terminating more than one floor joist without beam support.

Joists Dimensioned lumber used for floor support,   typically 2”x10” ( may be  “T-joists” which are  a modern engineered alternative to dimensioned lumber)

Laminates Sheet materials that are constructed by gluing one or more  layers of various materials together under pressure.
Large-format tile Ceramic tile typically larger than 12 x12”.  May be 13”, 15”  18” or larger

Latex additives A chemical resin that may be added to grout for specific performance characteristics.

Layout The visual arrangement of tiles on floor or wall

Level A  special carpenter’s tool used to determine either vertical  or  horizontal characteristic   i.e. the floor is level  but a wall is plumb

Linoleum Synthetic sheet flooring made with linseed oil, resins and fillers such as sawdust, cork dust and crushed limestone.

Luan plywood A low-grade plywood made from mid-grade mahogany.  Luan  ( or Lauan)  is not recommended as underlay  for ceramic tile as it is subject to deterioration from moisture.

Lunch The best part of  those big floor renewal tile projects.

Marble Natural limestone that has been subjected to extreme temperature and pressure causing it to crystallize.  Synthetic marble is stone dust fused with polymers.

Mastic adhesive A synthetic construction  adhesive made from resins and fillers and selected chemicals.

Mosaics Tiles surfaces composed of tiny individual tile elements, usually installed for design aspects. May include  alternative materials such as glass and metal

Mould (or mold)          Natural organic growths  that typically appear in damp places. Spores can be a health hazard. May be green, gray or black in colour.

Nibbler (or Nipper)          A plier-like tool  that is designed to ‘nibble’ or cut  ceramic tile

OEM’s “Other Equipment Manufacturers”  A term typically applied to equipment that duplicates the characteristics of a specific  branded part or product and is interchangeable with a branded product.

Open time The set time, or the time a mixed product  such as grout takes  from mixing to fully harden.

Orphan cuts Irregular,  awkward or small cuts leaving  pieces of tile  that typically can be avoided by careful layout and design of a tile floor

Part pattern A segment of a  pattern that might normally be used all  the way around a floor surface.

Plumb The condition of being 90 degrees vertical, i. e. a wall is plumb

Plywood Sheet material made of layers laminated at right angles to one another. Combines high structural strength for reduced deflection with uniform thickness and dimensions for ease of construction.

Porcelain High-grade ceramic . Porcelain is highly vitrified clay baked at high temperatures and is the preferred form of ceramic tile because of low permeability and high durability.

Pre-Mixed grout Ready-to-use grout supplied in small quantities for repairs, or in buckets for larger jobs. Also described as “ready-mixed” grout. Carries a premium price for convenience.
Punky Soft, deteriorated wood that is decayed. Not suitable for construction.

Quarter-round A wood shape  typically used for trim. One 90 degree segment of a cylindrical  shape is called a  quarter round

Raised relief A raised surface. Typically grout lines are lower than the  finished tile surface. Adds visual depth and physical texture to a floor. Can be imitated in non-tile flooring materials during the molding process (popular in both sheet vinyl and newer laminates).

Rake the joints To smooth and compress mortar or grout  joints while wet.

Rake the thin set To rake with a notched trowel.  Application of the notched side of the trowel on wet thin set  ensures a  uniform thickness of thin set is applied for purposes of setting tile

Ringnecked nails Nails used for underlay  plywood. The nails have a toothed or “ringed” neck to resist loosening.  Also called “ringshank” nails.

Roll flooring Sheet or other flooring that is supplied in rolls

Rubber mallet A weighted hammer with a rubber surface to allow tamping of tile without damage to the product. Various hardness and weights.

Sanded grout Grout material that contains a percentage of sand (1/8″ or larger joints) Sand provides enhanced structural strength and a grainy surface finish.

Schluter (r) A brand of flooring accessories designed to provide trim and transitions for tile. Includes floor edges, inside and outside corners and other shapes. Various materials including colored plastic, aluminum, brass, and stainless steel.

Score a tile To mark or scratch  the surface  tile with a cutting tool   for purposes of cutting it. Tool is typically wheeled like a glass-cutter.

Sealants Materials used to render surfaces impermeable to water. Liquid or aerosol. May be applied by brush, cloth, or as a spray. Application guidelines vary dramatically by type and manufacturer.

Set time The time it takes for mixed materials to achieve sufficient hardness to allow foot-traffic without harm to the intended finish.

Sheet flooring Flooring that is supplied in larger sheets or rolls.
Shiplap Dimensioned lumber with L-shaped profile  to form tight joints

Shoe molding Trim material (usually wood or plastic) used to provide a transition from flooring to wood base or cabinet toe-kicks over tile or other flooring materials. Because it is more pliable than large moldings, shoe can follow irregular surfaces and close unsightly gaps where the floor meets a vertical surface.

Slake time The time it takes powdered materials to become fully wet when mixing. Slake time is important for maximum performance of grout.

Slate Metamorphosed sedimentary rock. Offers a highly-textured surface with substantial facing-color variation.

Sledge hammer A heavy long-handled hammer, typically 5-8 lbs.

Small format tile Tiles  typically under 12” square but not tiny. For example: 4″ by 4″ tile.

Spacers Small accessories  typically made of formed plastic or other material designed to ensure accurate spacing of tiles during installation. Removed after tile is set in place. Various designs are offered.

Square foot 12” x12” (144 square inches). Flooring is described as covering a given “square footage.” In general: “length times width”. Always allow for the appropriate amount of waste for a given flooring type (ask your supplier for product guidelines).

Square-notched trowel A specialized  trowel that has notches on one side and one end.  Used to spread thin set or other adhesive in a uniform application when raked.

Starter strip A metal or other strip used to ensure a row of tiles is straight

Sub-flooring A flooring layer that is typically  the first layer of plywood on top of …floor joists which are Structural dimensioned lumber, typically 2”x10”  or any  engineered equivalent.

Substrate A surface prepared for the application of flooring (also used to describe an Underlayment)

T & G A dimensioned-lumber profile that has a groove on one side and a protruding tongue on the opposite side to enable tight jointing.

Tensile strength The breaking strength of any material under pulling,  or tensile pressure.

Thin set mortar A cement-like powdered material that  when mixed acts as an adhesive and bedding material for the setting and installation of ceramic tile .  May be coloured.

Tile cutter A wheeled cutter similar to a glass cutter but mounted on frame to allow scoring the surface of a tile to enable breakage in a clean, straight  line

Tile level A Tile-setting helper that looks like a hockey puck. Placed on an individual tile during setting, its bubble reads “level” in all directions at the same time. Use as a tile-setting aid, not as a complete guide to the setting tile floors.

Tile nipper Also know as a tile nibbler.  A plier -like tool used to trim or cut ceramic tile

Tile wet saw A table-mounted saw with circular blade and water tank arranged to allow the blade to be continuously wet. (There are several designs, ranging from affordable to commercial.)

Toilet flange Toilet hub  or mounting ring. Plumbing fitting used to mount a toilet firmly to the floor. Also called a Closet Shoe.

Tongue & Groove See  T&G. Dimensioned lumber with tongue and groove profiles.

Torpedo level A short level with 3 bubbles designed to read level in three directions at once.  Can be used as a  reasonable substitute for a puck-style  tile level.

Transition strip A metal, wood, or plastic strip that enables a comfortable transition from one flooring type to another even with  a differential  in height.

Travertine A specific tile type with  intentional pores or surface gaps, designed to allow the grout to fill-in and create interesting visual patterns. Available as natural stone or man-made mimics.

Trowel Mortar or mastic application tool, various designs and profiles. A notched trowel is used to apply flooring adhesives or bedding material to a precise, uniform thickness.

Trim ( Noun)      Any material which forms a border or transition from one material to another. For instance, the baseboard between floor material and wall surface.

Trim (Verb)       To remove waste or unwanted material from the edge of a flooring product. For instance, you trim the perimeter of sheet flooring, and you trim a tile to fit an adjacent surface (a wall or doorway).

Tumbled marble Machine-cut marble tiles that have been subjected to surface wear by mechanical means. Tile pieces are “tumbled” in a small-aggregate slurry (similar to the way stones are polished). The result is a uniformly-smooth face and softened/rounded edges, as well as some natural loss of edge-profile (which adds visual interest).

Two-bucket system For grouting: One bucket is used for rinsing out heavy grout residue from the sponge, and the second bucket provides cleaner water for re-wetting the sponge. ALSO: Using two buckets to continually provide clean/fresh water for cleaning fresh grout from tiles and joints.

Underfloor heating Radiant heat provided beneath the floor surface, often applied as an electrical resistance system using  heating cable  or integral mat  placed between substrate and tile bed. Other methods include various tube-supplied hot water radiant systems installed beneath a protective substrate, or  various systems beneath the floor that may be installed between the joists.

Underlay A thin  layer installed on top of  primary flooring to reduce movement and flexibility at  joints,  increase stability and  create optimum support  for  the finished floor surface. Usually ¼”  or ⅜” poplar or spruce plywood, but may also be cement-based backer boards for applications where moisture is problematic.

Underlayment Product-specific flooring material which lies beneath the finished floor. Ensures a smooth starting surface for the finish application.   Examples: Lauan  (Luan)  plywood for linoleum and vinyl;  cement board (“backer board”) for ceramic or porcelain tile.

Unsanded grout Portland-based, pigmented joint filler for use between tiles. Use only for very small (appx 1/16″) tile spacing on floors, or for up to ⅛” grout joints on walls.

V-notched trowel A tool for spreading adhesives with a profile similar to pinking-shears. Suitable for mastic applications beneath small-sized tiles with fairly smooth backs. (Read the manufacturer’s recommendations on your chosen adhesive)

Vent A duct arranged to allow the movement of air for heating, ventilation, or  air conditioning.   Ducts are usually standardized sizes and may be installed  either in the floor or wall with fitted decorative vent panel.

Vinyl Tile or sheet flooring products made of vinyl polymers and other materials. Some variations may  be composite construction.