Glossary of Wood Terms

Glossary of Wood Terms

If you have a question on terminology that is not answered here, please don’t hesitate to ask by filling out the form at the bottom of the page or calling us at 1- 800-551-1282.

Annual Growth Ring- The layer of wood growth, including spring and summerwood formed on a tree during a single growing season.

Antique Heart Pine and Antique Heart Cypress
- Antique woods as used in our company literature refers to virgin growth American materials either reclaimed from the demolition of 100-150 year old buildings or sinker logs that were lost during the original logging of the cypress swamps. Due to the age and dense heartwood of these materials, they exhibit the essential qualities of stability, durability and rich natural color.

Baluster - One of a series of small pillars (also commonly called spindles) that is attached to and runs between the stairs and the handrails. The spacing between the balusters should be less than 4 inches to prevent small children from getting stuck between the balusters. Balusters are considered a safety item and provide an additional barrier. Square balusters/spindles are sometimes called pickets

Blind Nail - Driving a nail into the tongue side of tongue and groove wood flooring which is then hidden by the groove of the next flooring piece.

Blind mortise-A joint combining a blind mortise (a slot milled into the wood to receive a tenon) and a stub tenon (a protruding piece of wood that will be fitted and glued into the mortise slot) ; neither is visible in the assembled joint.

Board Foot
- A unit of volume measurement of lumber represented by a board 1 foot long, 12 inches wide, and 1 inch thick or its cubic equivalent. This measurement is generally used for rough lumber or unmilled timbers. In practice, the board foot calculation for a piece of lumber is figured by multiplying the thickness in inches by the width in inches by the length in feet and then divide by 12.

Bull Nose- Describes the milling of the edge of a board to round it. See also Nosing or Landing Nosing.

Checking - 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 drying or kiln-drying.

Dense Growth - Referring to the growth rings density on the end or butt of a board or flooring plank. Typically described as a number of growth rings per inch counting dark ring to dark ring. Quality woods will be harder and more durable because of density and heartwood.

Edge Grain – see Quartersawn

End Matching - In strip and some plank flooring the ends of individual pieces have a tongue milled on one end and a groove milled on the opposite end, so that when the individual strips or planks are butted together, the tongue of one piece engages the groove of the next piece.

Face Nail - Driving a nail or fastener into the top surface of flooring boards for decorative purposes or in the case of wide plank flooring to secure it to the sub floor.

Flat Panel
- Panels - Large, wider boards used to fill the space between the stiles, rails, and mullions for cabinet or entry doors. The panels typically fit into grooves in the other pieces, and help to keep the door rigid. Panels may be flat, or in raised panel designs.

Handrail - A specially milled length of wood that provides one with a hand hold while ascending or descending stairs. It can be “between post” style meaning the handrail runs between the newel posts, or “over post” where the hand rail, with the aid of various other transition fittings (easing, volute, goosenecks, etc.) runs over the newel post.

Hardwood - Generally, one of the botanical groups of deciduous trees that have broad leaves in contrast to the conifers or softwoods. The term has no reference to the actual hardness of the wood.

Heartwood - The dense inner core of a tree trunk or stem that no longer conducts sap. In most wood this is the most stable and durable part of the tree a forms the skeletal support. In Antique Heart Pine and Heart Cypress the heartwood is naturally rot and insect resistant.

Landing Nosing - A bull nosed piece of wood that is used to cover the edge of a top step or landing to make a finished transition to the flooring or carpeting on an upper floor.

Light or Lite - a piece of glass used in place of a panel, essentially giving the door a window.

Linear Foot-This a measurement term used loosely to describe a one-foot length of any long, narrow object.

Micro-bevel
- A slight easing on plank flooring edges to compensate for discrepancies in elevation across the expanse of a sub floor. Generally pre-finished flooring has a micro-beveled edge.

Milling - The process by which rough lumber is smoothed and shaped. One basic process is called S4S which means “surfaced four sides”. S4S processing will smooth all four sides with no special “profile”. See molding.

Molding - A further milling process for wood or lumber where products with a specific profile are wanted. A profile/pattern is milled into the surfaces of the wood for a specific function such as tongue & groove flooring, crown molding, door and window casings, trim moldings, etc., or for a pleasing effect.

Mullions-Smaller optional vertical boards that run between two rails, and split a door into two or more columns of panels, the term is used sometimes for verticals in doors, but more often it refers to verticals in windows.

Net Size- As applied to lumber or flooring; the actual size of each unit.

Newel Post - The post at the top and bottom of the handrails and anywhere along the stair run that creates a directional change in the handrails is called the newel post. The newel post is securely anchored into the stair.

Nominal Size - As applied to timber or lumber, the size by which it is known and sold in the market; often differs from the actual size. This refers to the dimensions of the lumber or board before milling. This can be misleading if not understood. To make lumber smooth and ready for end use, it decreases in size in milling. For example a nominal size 1” X 6” after milling is actually a net size of ¾” X 5-½”. The dimensions of materials in our company’s pricelist are all listed in actual or net sizes, to avoid confusion.

Nosing - also called stair nose, bull nose, stairwell trim, landing nosing or landing tread. Usually rabbetted to the same thickness as flooring where it meets the flooring. At the front edge it is the same thickness as the stair treads. Nosings are used to create finished edges on the top step, around stairwells, sunken living room, etc.

Plank Flooring - Solid boards, usually 3/4" thick and 3" to 8" wide designed to be installed in parallel rows. Originally were square edged planks, but as machining of wood became available, a tongue & groove were applied for a better fit and use of flooring. Edges may be beveled to simulate the appearance of Colonial American plank floors

Plugs - Dowels that simulate the Colonial American plugged, or pegged plank flooring look. Sometimes used to cover counter-sunk screws when installing plank flooring.

Quartersawn - (vertical grain, edge grain) A method of preparing flooring planks that creates the appearance of long parallel grain lines. The growth rings intersect the surface of the plank at between 45 to 90 degrees, instead of “flame”, flatsawn, plainsawn, or “cathedral” grain patterns. Generally considered as producing a harder surface when flooring is sawn in this way.

Rails- Horizontal boards at the top, bottom, and optionally in the middle of a door that join the two stiles and split the door into two or more rows of panels. The "top rail" and "bottom rail" are named for their positions. The bottom rail is also known as "kick rail". A middle rail at the height of the bolt is known as the "lock rail", other middle rails are commonly known as "cross rails".

Raised Panel - A door panel on which the edges have been contoured or shaped to provide an aesthetically appealing, three-dimensional effect.

Returns/Return Nosing
- When a set of stairs has an open wall on one or both sides the stair treads are milled with a bull nose edge on the front (horizontal edge) and also along the sides (vertical edge). The return nosing is a small piece of nosing that makes the transition from the side edge nosing of the stair tread back to the wall past the riser.

Rough Lumber - Refers to lumber fresh from the saw and will show a general “rough” surface appearance from being processed by the saw blades.

Sapwood
- The outer growth rings which are the physiologically active part of a living tree. Sapwood is usually lighter in color and is considered softer and less insect and rot resistant than heartwood.

Square Foot - A calculation of the area to be covered by plank flooring. From your room or plans multiply the length of the area in feet by the width of the area in feet to arrive at the square footage figure. When ordering plank flooring, it is common practice to add an additional 10% allowance to the area to be covered. You will find plank flooring prices presented in our literature as cost per square foot.

Square Edge- A flooring that is NOT milled with a tongue & groove. Square edged flooring is face nailed when installed over a wooden sub floor, or glued when applied to concrete sub floor.

Stair Tread
- The horizontal board in a stairway that is walked upon (see stair riser and stair stringer/skirt board). If the stair tread will be between two walls then it is called a “straight tread”. If there will be an open wall on one side or the other, the stair tread requires a bullnose on the front edge and the open wall edge with a “return” nosing at the back of the stair tread that extends back past the riser.

Stair Riser -The facing boards on a stairway that make the “rise” from tread to tread up the stairs. These are usually made from the same wood as the treads or can be painted to match other trim moldings.

Stair Stringer/Skirt board- A long board that trims against the open wall under the stair treads. It is commonly either painted or finished out in the same wood as the stair treads.

Starter Box- The special riser fabricated to support the starter tread in its entire length.

Starter Tread - The lowest or first step to the stairway. It is usually longer than the rest of the stair treads so as to provide a place for offset newel post installation. It may have a square or decorative radius or rounded end.

Stiles-Vertical boards that run the full height of a door and compose its right and left edges. The hinges are mounted to the fixed side (known as the "hanging stile"), and the handle, lock, bolt, and/or latch are mounted on the swinging side (known as the "latch stile").

Subfloor - Sheathing boards or plywood installed over joists on which the finish floor rests.

Surface Checking- A lengthwise separation of the wood that is just near the surface and doesn’t split the thickness completely.

Tongue and Groove (T&G) - In plank flooring, a tongue is milled one edge and a groove on the opposite edge. As the flooring is installed the tongue of each strip, slat, or unit, is engaged with the groove of the adjacent strip or unit.

Unfinished - A product which must be sanded and have finish and/or a stain applied after installation.

V-joint (V-groove) - Describes a bevel on the edges of tongue and groove (t & g) planks. When 2 boards or planks are placed together they meet in a distinctive “V“. Often used in solid wood paneling and ceiling materials.

Vertical grain – see Quartersawn

Wainscoting- A type of old style wood paneling that doesn’t cover the entire height of the wall. It can be individual tongue and groove boards or raised panels. It is trimmed out at the foot with baseboard and the top with chair rail or cap molding. It is usually 36” or 48” high but in some historic installations was 6 or 8 foot high.