Terminology & Definitions

Air Quality Terms

Air Quality : The quality of the air depending on the presence of pollutants that may cause changes in visibility, effect human health, create changes in the environment or globally. The effects of pollutants can be accelerated by sunlight, or diffused in an area by wind conditions. However, Earth has its own closed atmosphere, therefore it constrains pollution from escaping, and in turn only disperses it or allows it to move downwind.


Formaldehyde : A colorless gas, with a strong odor. It is a flammable gas at room temperature. Those exposed to formaldehyde may have moderate to acute health repercussions such as: irritation to the skin, nose, eyes, and throat and some exposure levels may even lead to cancer.


Pollution : Contaminants which have adverse effects in the environment and may be in the form of chemical, light, noise, heat, or sound.


Sick Building Syndrome : Occupants of a building that experience adverse health effects that cannot be linked to a specific point source. Some causes of sick building syndrome can be from point sources such as poor HVAC conditions (unclean air conditions), poor material health of building products, fumes from solvents in cleaning products, poor light conditions, and so on.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency :  is an agency of the Federal government of the United States which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.


Volatile Organic Compounds :  Any compound of carbon (excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates and ammonium carbonate) which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions. Indoor volatile organic compounds can off-gas at room temperatures from everyday household materials or building materials due to its boiling point. See chart below for the 3 types of VOC’s present.



Finish Terms

Abrasion Resistance : That property of a surface that resists being worn away by a rubbing or friction process. Abrasion resistance isn’t necessarily related to hardness, as believed by some, but is more closely comparable to, or can be correlated with, toughness.


Adhesion : The property that causes one material to stick to another. Adhesion is affected by the condition of the surface to be coated and by the closeness of contact.


Bond : The adhesion between two dissimilar materials.


Conversion Varnish : A solvent-based floor finish that is pre-catalyzed (one-component) or postcatalyzed (two-component). (Sometimes referred to as “Swedish finish” or “acid-cure.”)


Cure : To change the properties of an adhesive or coating by chemical reaction and thereby develop maximum strength.


Drying : The act of changing from a liquid film to a solid film by the evaporation of solvents, oxidation, polymerization or by a combination of these phenomena.


Dry Tack-Free : The stage of solidification of a film of finishing material when it doesn’t feel sticky or tacky when a finger is drawn lightly across it in a quick, continuous motion.


Durability : The ability of a finishing material to withstand the conditions or destructive agents with which it comes in contact in actual usage, without an appreciable change in appearance or other important properties.


Fading : The loss of color due to exposure to light, heat or other destructive agents.


Gloss : The luster, shininess or reflecting ability of a surface.


Hardness : That property of a dried film of finishing material that causes it to withstand denting or being marked when pressure is exerted on its surface by an outside object or force.


HVAC : Heating, ventilating and air conditioning.


Moisture-Cure Urethane : A solvent-based polyurethane that dries by solvent evaporation and cures by a reaction of the polyurethane with atmospheric moisture.


Oil Finish, Hard Wax Oils : (natural vegetable-based) with wax. The wax is normally “natural-based wax,” i.e., carnauba wax.


Oil Finish, Hybrid : A wide range of oil finishes typically based on vegetable oil that is often combined with alkyd resins for better drying and durability.


Oil Finish, Natural-Based : The main ingredient in these finishes is the binder, which is a natural based oil (e.g. sunflower oil, saflor oil, soja oil). These oils have a small amount of non-natural dryers so they will dry. Tung oils are included in this group.


Oil-Modified Urethane : A solvent-based polyurethane that dries by solvent evaporation and cures by a reaction of the polyurethane with driers and air.


Peeling : A defect in a dried film manifested by large pieces becoming detached from the under surface and coming loose in sheets or large flakes.


Scratches : Slight incisions, breaks, tears or indentations on the surface caused by abrasive friction.


Sheen : The degree of luster of the dried film of a finishing material. It is usually used to describe the luster of rubbed surfaces or of flat-drying materials.


Solvent : A liquid that can dissolve another substance.


Staining : The act of changing the color of wood without disturbing the texture or markings, through the application of transparent or semitransparent liquids made from dyes, finely divided pigments or chemicals.


Urethane : A synthetic chemical structure formed by one of three specific chemical reactions.


UV-Cured Coating : A type of coating that is cured by subjecting it to a specific dosage of ultraviolet light.


Water-Based Urethane : A waterborne urethane that is fully cured and dries by water evaporation.


Wax : Any of a number of resinous, pliable substances of plant or animal origin that are insoluble in water, partially soluble in alcohol, ether, etc., and miscible in all proportions with oils. It is used for making polishes and other products.


Wet-Mop : Mopping a floor using a mop dripping with water. Hardwood floors should never be wet mopped.


Yellowing : The tendency of a dried film to take on a yellowish cast with age.


Color / Light Terms

Albedo : The total solar radiation reflectance of a material or surface.


Colors : The perceived frequency of light that reflects off of an object. White encompasses all the colors, and reflects light.


Cool Colors : Are colors which tend to recede in space. Represent half of the color wheel: purples, blues, greens.


Daylighting : A method which incorporates different design techniques to maximize the use of natural daylight in a passive way. Such techniques, using either openings or reflective surfaces, can be as simple as incorporating larger windows on North facing walls of a house, and smaller windows on South facing windows, or as complex as including light shelves in the interior spaces.


Emissivity : The measure of a material’s radiating efficiency. An emissivity value of 1.00 is a perfect black body; the material is 100% efficient at radiating thermal energy.


Glare : A visual sensation caused by excessive and uncontrolled brightness.


Heat Island Effect : Describes the effect of heat collecting in a congested urban area that has a lot of dark surfaces, such as road asphalt or black tar roofs. The temperatures in these areas tend be higher than the neighboring rural areas.


Hue : A color dependent upon its wavelength, and not intensity.


Light Reflectance Value : The percentage of light in the visible part of the spectrum that is reflected from a surface.


Luminance : The intensity of light emitted from a surface per unit area in a given direction.


Monochromatic : The use of one color.


Reflectance : The measure of the proportion of light or other radiation striking a surface that is reflected off it.


Saturation : Refers to the intensity of a hue.


Tone : A color value which refers to a tint or a shade of color; ‘harmonize with’ in reference to a color.


Warm Colors : Are colors which tend to advance in space. Represent the other half of the color wheel: oranges, yellows, reds.


Sound Property of Wood

Absorption – The process of by which a material or structure takes in sound energy as opposed to reflecting it. Some of the sound energy is converted to heat and is “lost” while the rest is transmitted through the absorbing medium.


Damping – The reduction of oscillation, vibration, or intensity of a sound through using a medium.


Decibel – A measure of the intensity of a sound. 0 is soundless, and ranges up to 190.


Decoupler – A device to eliminate or reduce airborne shock waves.


Diffusion – The effectiveness of spreading sound energy out evenly.


Flanking Noise – Noise that is able to travel through materials, for example, noise that can travel up and down wall columns in a building.


Frequency – Measured in Hertz (Hz), shows how high or low pitched a sound is.


Impact Insulation Class (IIC) – A rating which describes how well a floor can reduce impact sounds such as footfalls.


Impact Noise – Is a physical impact on the floor that which result from objects being moved or rolled across the floor, or vibrations such as from a vacuum cleaner, also known as ‘footfall noise’.


Intensity – Measured in decibels, shows how loud a sound is.


Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) – A rating which describes how well a floor can absorb sound energy in the frequency of 250 Hz to 2,000 Hz.


Reverberation – Prolonging a sound, also known as resonance.


Sound – A vibration that travels through the air or another medium and can be heard.


Sound Transmission Class (STC) – A rating which describes how well a floor can reduce airborne noise between 125 Hz and 4,000 Hz.


Tree Terms

Air-Dried : When wood is left outdoors to dry and acclimates to a moisture content of 12-15%.


Angiospermae :  A group of trees that produce seeds with a shell.


Anisotropic :  Having different value when measured in different directions. Wood is stronger along the grain than across it.


Biophilia : In an internal draw to feel connected to nature.


Burl : A swirl or twist in the grain of the wood that usually occurs near a knot, but doesn’t contain a knot.


The Carbon Cycle : The process by which carbon cycles through the atmosphere and the land. Carbon is emitted through natural sources such as respiration from living creatures that need oxygen to breath, cow manure, and volcanic activities. Carbon is also released from unnatural sources; man-made combustion from furnaces, coal burning, vehicle engines and such. Carbon is captured by plants, and trees which use it in photosynethesis as a source of food. As plants and trees die and decay, the carbon is returned into the soil. After millions of years of being under pressure, carbon will eventually be turned into coal and natural energy deposits.


Character Marks : Naturally occurring marks in the wood, such as burls, flags and flecks, that give a unique appearance.


Check : A lengthwise separation of the wood that usually extends across the rings of annual growth and commonly results from stress set up in wood during air or kiln drying.


Crook : The distortion of a board in which there is a deviation, in a direction perpendicular to the edge, from a straight line from end to end of the piece.


Degrades : Wood flooring that is not of the grade being inspected. Also, called “outs.”


Engineered Wood Flooring : An assembly made by bonding layers of veneer or lumber with an adhesive.


Evapotranspiration : The process by which water is transferred from the soil to the atmosphere by evaporation and by transpiration from plants.


Figure : Inherent markings, designs or configurations on the surface of the wood produced by the annual growth rings, rays, knots and deviations from regular grain.


Finish Skip : An interruption in the finish on the wood flooring.


Flag : A heavy dark mineral streak shaped like a banner.


Flag Worm Hole : One or more worm holes surrounded by a mineral streak.


Flecks : The wide irregular, conspicuous figure in quartersawn oak flooring. See Medullary Rays.


Green wood : Freshly cut wood from a living tree.


Gymnospermae : A group of trees that produce seeds without an encasing.


Heavy Streaks : Spots and streaks of sufficient size and density that severely mar the appearance of the wood.


Honeycombing : Checks often not visible at the surface that occur in the interior of a piece of wood, usually along the wood rays.


Hygroscopic : The ability to absorb water from the air.


Kiln-Dried : Wood that is dried in a chamber to a moisture content of 8%, an appropriate moisture level for use indoors.


Knot : The portion of a branch or limb that has been surrounded by subsequent growth of the stem. The shape of the knot as it appears on a cut surface depends on the angle of the cut relative to the long axis of the knot. In hardwood strip flooring, small and pin knots aren’t more than one-half inch in diameter. A sound knot is a knot cut approximately parallel to its long axis so that the exposed section is definitely elongated.


Mast Year :  A year in which trees produce an abundance amount of seeds/nuts. In oak trees this occurs every 3 years.


Medullary Rays : Strips of cells extending radially within a tree and varying in height from a few cells in some species to four or more inches in oak. The rays serve primarily to store food and transport it horizontally in the tree. On quartersawn oak, the rays form a conspicuous figure, sometimes referred to as flecks.


Mill Run (Run of the Mill) : Flooring that is milled from one grade of lumber, without being further separated by flooring grades.


Milling Defects : Blemishes produced in milling flooring, such as chipped grain, torn grain, variation in machining, machine burn and mismatching.


Mineral Streak : Wood containing an accumulation of mineral matter introduced by sap flow, causing an unnatural color ranging from greenish brown to black.


Moisture Content : The ratio of the weight of water in a piece of wood to the weight of the wood when it is completely dry.


Pin Worm Hole : In hardwood flooring, a small round hole not more than 116” in diameter, made by a small wood-boring insect.


Photosynthesis : The method which plants use water, sunlight and carbon to create sugar as food for themselves and produce oxygen that is released into the atmosphere as a by-product.


Run/Lot Number : Finish or packaging numbers used to identify wood flooring.


Shake : A separation along the grain, the greater part of which occurs between the annual growth rings.


Split : Separations of wood fiber running parallel to the grain.


Sound Wood : Wood that will create a usable floor, and therefore not including soft wood due to rot, loose pieces that will fall out, or splits throughout the piece.


Tannins : Polyphenol compounds found in certain wood species and plants, which adhere to large molecules such as amino acids, cellulose, starches, and minerals.


The Water Cycle : The cycle which describes how water moves from the atmosphere to the land surface and back to the atmosphere. Water evaporates from bodies of water or plants and condenses into the air. Water droplets form clouds which move over the land and falls onto the land in the form of rain, snow, or ice.


Xylem : The living tissue in the outer layers of the tree trunk, serving to transport sap and store food. Also known as Sapwood.

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