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Home & garden.

Updated: 6 Jul 2021

Wood flooring explained

Learn how to tell your screed from your underlay, cut through other DIY jargon, and choose the right tools and material to lay wood flooring.
Which?Editorial team
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Wood flooring materials


Screed is used to level uneven floor surfaces. It's usually a liquid, such as latex, that is spread out across a floor to create a level surface. Once it's solidified you are able to lay your floor over the top.

Damp-proof membrane(DPM)

This plastic sheeting is essential when laying laminate or wooden boards over a concrete or sand and cement floor. It prevents moisture moving up into the boards, which would cause them to warp.

Prices start at 59p per square metre, up to around £1.50 in DIY stores.

Leveller board

This is fixed to the ground with nails to create an even surface on which to lay the floor. It provides sound insulation and increases the floor’s durability.

It can either be a thick, recycled paper board that provides good sound insulation, costing around £2-£3.50 per sqm, or multipurpose wood boards, such as hardboard or plywood, costing from £1 per sqm.


This is used to cushion the flooring boards, increasing their durability and providing sound insulation.

There are several different grades, which range from thin sheets of closed-cell polythene foam, costing from £1 per sqm, to top-of-the-range felt underlay with a silver foil layer, costing around £6 per sqm.


This describes the way the planks fix together. A tongue that projects from the side of one plank fits into the groove of the adjacent plank. It needs to be glued into place with an adhesive.

Click-lock planks

These planks have shaped edges that require a certain sequence of actions to fit them together, but once they are in place they can’t move apart, and therefore don't need to be glued.

Wood flooring tools

Tapping block

A plastic block that is used to protect floor planks as they are hammered together. Rather than hammering the edge of the plank directly, you hammer the block, so that you don’t damage the plank with the hammer.

Pull bar

A handy tool used to drive glued planks tightly together at the tongue-and-groove joints. This tool is especially helpful at the wall when driving the end tongues and grooves together, where it is not possible to use a tapping block.

Wedges and spacers

Use these to maintain the expansion gap around the perimeter of your room when laying laminate and solid wood flooring. Also useful for creating a straight edge against a wobbly wall to give your floor a good start.


This is used to glue tongue-and-groove boards together and to fix beading or skirting in place above the edge of the floor.

Some modern adhesives for fixing solid floorboards to a sub-floor expand as they dry, filling small voids under the boards and ensuring that they don’t sound hollow when you walk on them.

Finishing touches

Radiator pipe roses

These ring-doughnut-shaped pieces of wood or plastic are used to cover the expansion gaps left around radiator pipes.

Wood floor plank features

Bevelled edges

The edges of some laminate flooring turns downwards to create a more realistic boarded appearance. It also helps to avoid damage caused by moisture-induced swelling at the edges of laminate boards.

Expansion gap

Wood flooring expands in a humid room and contracts in a dry one. You’ll need to leave a 10-12mm gap around the edge of your floor to account for this shift.

Registered embossing

This manufacturing technique creates laminate flooring planks that have a slightly three-dimensional finish.

The core of the laminate is increased or reduced to correspond with where the image shows a feature, such as a knot or strong grain in a wooden plank.

You can therefore feel, as well as see, where the grain would create the texture in a real wood plank.