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  • DC Dave

Hardwood Flooring Terminology Explained

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

DC Hardwood Flooring has been in the hardwood flooring business for nearly three decades. There’s not a lot I haven’t seen or heard in my craft over the years. I know from my own customers’ questions that hardwood flooring terminology can be confusing. I’m here to help make sense of it—so you can feel more comfortable making an informed decision that’s best for you. Here are some of the common questions I get asked related to industry lingo…

What’s the difference between toothing, lacing and fingering?

Nothing. These terms are all talking about the same thing: integrating new flooring with old flooring in such a way that you cannot tell the difference. It is important to finger new boards in correctly so it doesn’t look unnatural.

Step 1 of fingering with existing hardwood flooring

Step 2 of fingering new hardwood planks into existing flooring

Incorrect fingering with joints aligned instead of offset

Is wetting the floor better than popping the grain?

No because it means the same thing. In fact, I wet the floor in order to pop open the grain so that it will take up stain better. If stain is applied without wetting the floor/popping the grain, it can appear blotchy.

What does Select, #1, #2 mean?

These are three flooring grades. Select is the clearest grade, meaning very little color variation, no knots, no mineral streaking, and generally longer board length. #1 is the middle grade—it has some color variation, smaller size knots but with not within 4 feet of each other, and some mineral streaking. #2 is a rustic flooring grade—many knots are allowed, mineral streaking, and lots of color variation as long as each board is sound.

Quartersawn, riftcut, flat grain

Comparison of quartersawn, riftcut and flat grain

Mills start by determining the best way to cut a log in order to expose as much of the flat grain as possible. After that, they can rotate the log one quarter to get quartersawn, or rift cut by turning it in the middle (1/8). Because of this, flat grain is less expensive as there’s more of it produced, while quartersawn is more expensive because there’s less material. Rift cut is a byproduct. What is most notable is how each board looks: Quartersawn boards have dramatic flecks and rays which gives each piece a unique and striking look–as in the vertically placed board in the photo. Flat grain has the most obvious grain as shown in the horizontal boards at the bottom of the photo. Rift cut appearance is in the middle as shown in the horizontal boards at the top of the photo.

Pre-finished versus unfinished flooring

Pre-finished means that each board is already finished at the factory before it’s installed. Unfinished flooring needs to be sanded, possibly stained, and coated on the job site.

Engineered wood versus solid wood

These labels refer to how each board is manufactured. Engineered boards are not solid pieces of wood—they are man-made with plywood on the bottom and the species of wood as a veneer on the top. Solid wood is just that—a solid piece of hardwood.

Proposal vs. estimate vs. bid

Perhaps the best explanation of this hardwood flooring terminology that I’ve seen comes from this site:

Got more questions? I’m always happy to clarify terms and explain things for my customers. I want you to be knowledgeable about hardwood flooring terminology and feel comfortable and confident in your decision-making.

I’d love to hear from you–feel free to contact me directly at 720-352-0852 or And check out more floors we’ve done and reviews at

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