What Does Yellow Tongue Flooring And Other Colours Mean?

Would you like to know more about the differences between Yellow Tongue flooring and Green Tongue flooring? And what about Orange Tongue flooring? This is not surprising because, to be honest, it is all a bit confusing.

The structural particleboard product called Yellow Tongue is a tongue and groove arrangement consisting of coloured PVC strips used as the tongue component. It is commonly found in Australia and New Zealand, where the particleboards with coloured pvc strips are used for subfloors. To help you make an educated decision on what to use when, we’ll go over what to look for when trying to distinguish them from one another.

Yellow Tongue Flooring: What Is It?

Let’s get straight to the point if you’re short of time and don’t want to read about the mystifying depths of colored tongue structural flooring in Australia and New Zealand:

  • Australian Panel Products (formerly Borg Manufacturing) manufactures yellow tongue flooring as part of the STRUCTAFlor product line.
  • Designed for use in domestic buildings with joist spacings of no more than 450mm, it is primarily used for subfloors.
  • There are two sizes of Yellow Tongue Flooring: 3600 x 800mm and 3600 x 600mm.
  • In terms of Yellow Tongue Flooring waterproof status, it is not waterproof but is designed to be resistant to intermittent rain exposure for a short period of time (a few months), so it is more of a case of yellow tongue flooring water resistance.
  • Each sheet of yellow tongue flooring weighs about 30kg.

A similar 19mm thick structural grade particleboard alternative to yellow tongue flooring is available from D & R Henderson (orange tongue), or Laminex (green tongue). You can also find more information in Table 1.

If you want to learn how its specifications compare to the other brands and colours of tongue and groove structural particle board flooring, continue reading.

Exactly what is Green Tongue Flooring?

Here’s the quick answer to green tongue flooring:

  • Laminex in Australia manufactures structural grade green tongue flooring of 19mm thickness.
  • Designed for use in domestic buildings with joist spacings of no more than 450mm, it is primarily used for subfloors.
  • The widths are 3600 x 900.
  • Laminex Green Tongue Flooring is manufactured in accordance with AS/NZS 1860.1:2017, but benefits from greater long-term moisture resistance and is often used in situations with high humidity and increased moisture exposure.
  • Termite-treated versions are also available.

Particleboard products designed for structural use in 19mm thick are available from D & R Henderson (orange tongue) as well as Australian Panel Products (STRUCTAFlor yellow tongue). For more information, refer to Table 1.

How Is Red Tongue Flooring Different?

For red tongue flooring, the short answer is:

APP (formerly Borg Manufacturing) manufactures red tongue flooring under the brand STRUCTAFlor, which is 22mm thick and structural grade particleboard. For interior subfloors with joist spacing of less than 600mm, it is intended for use in domestic buildings. Three different widths are available: 3600 x 800mm, 3600 x 600mm, and 3600 x 900mm. You can also buy TERMIFlor, the termite-treated version, or R-Flor, the foil-backed termite-treated version.

D & R Henderson (burgundy tongue) and Laminex (beige tongue) manufacture similar 22mm thick structural grade particleboard products. For more information, see Table 1.

Table 1

Country Differences In Structural Particle Board Flooring

In the UK, tongue and groove chipboard is available, but it does not usually come with coloured PVC tongues. Instead, the tongue is a milled-down section of the chipboard.

The whole structural particle subflooring thing is pretty much an Australian/New Zealand thing because OSB or plywood is typically used in the US for structural floors.

Clarifying Confusion About Coloured Tongues

It is an understatement to say that the different coloured PVC strips create some confusion. Due to the lack of a standard on colours, there is confusion about the colors of the tongues, which are manufactured by three of the biggest Australian companies. When you do research online, you will find numerous definitive statements about that issue in woodworking forums, etc. However, after digging a little deeper, it turns out that the answer you think you found is not definitive, and doesn’t completely solve the issue.

Company-Specific Systems Based On Thickness

This issue can only be resolved if one understands that the three manufacturers use various colors on their tongues to differentiate their own range of structural particleboard. However, one company’s color tongues may not be the same as another’s.

It is important to understand what each tongue color means and how manufacturers are using tongue color to differentiate their own particleboard products from each other. Despite the fact that each manufacturer uses a different tongue colour system, each manufacturer assigns the same colour to one of the three common particleboard thicknesses (19mm, 22mm, 25mm). Occasionally, they will use a coloured wax edge strip on the board to indicate other treatments – mostly involved with termite resistance.

Particleboard Thickness And Joist Spacing

Different thicknesses result in different joist spacings. The maximum floor joist spacing for 19mm particleboard is 450mm, and for 22mm thick boards it is 600mm.

Structural Particleboard Standard for Australia and New Zealand

Table 1: Australian Structural Grade Sheeting (Particleboard)

AS/NZS 1860.1:2017 is the standard that governs the manufacture of particleboard flooring in Australia and New Zealand. Two classes are defined. For use in Australia, where prolonged exposure to temperatures above 25°C under moist conditions is possible during construction, class 1 flooring should be used. Australian conditions do not suit class 2 flooring.

Is There Any Similarity Across All Colours?

There are some similarities among all tongue and groove structural particleboards, all based on AS/NZS 1860.1:2017.

All of it is made of particleboard. Boards can be laid flat without gaps or overlapping due to the tongue and groove feature. When two boards are nailed together, the grooves on one align with the tongues on the other, forming a perfect seal. When you lay a subfloor using any of the water-resistant versions, this feature contributes to maintaining a watertight seal. In high-traffic areas and high moisture areas, such as bathrooms or kitchens, tongue-and-groove works to create a seamless interlocking surface.

The Moisture Resistance Of Structural-Grade Particleboard Sheeting

If you install structural-grade particleboard, it is possible to leave it exposed to the elements for three months; however, it is always a good idea to enclose the building as soon as possible. Ponded water should be removed as soon as possible. Drill holes at least one metre apart at least 3mm in diameter and sweep water away if there are ponds on the floor.

When storing packs outside, keep them off the ground. Ensure air circulation by covering them with waterproof sheeting.

Therefore, even though the material is weather-resistant, it should be covered as soon as possible. When strolling through the suburbs on a weekend, you may gaze through the fence at a residential building site and see it laid as subflooring before the house has the roof on. It won’t be long before the roof is in place, protecting the subflooring from anything more than an occasional passing shower during construction.

The Best Places To Buy Structural-Grade Particleboard Sheeting

Sheets of 3600 x 800 x 19 mm with a yellow tongue-and-groove are available from Onsite Timber in Sydney. It was originally sold at 900mm wide but was changed to 800mm in late 2019. Additionally, they offer two other tongue products with different colors and thicknesses that have the same size. The Blue Tongue is 25mm thick, the Red Tongue is 22mm, and the Yellow Tongue is 19mm thick. Here, different colours are used to indicate thickness.

STRUCTAflor, manufactured by Borg Manufacturing, is sold by Bunnings and others. Onsite Timber sells the same coloured tongue system used by STRUCTAflor, with different colors indicating different thicknesses of the same product. STRUCTAflor, on the other hand, uses a coding system that is based on wax applied to the edges of the product to indicate other qualities. In addition to thickness, the edge is coated with colored wax to indicate other treatments. Yellow wax edges indicate general purpose uses; light blue wax edges indicate H2 treatment for termites, and blue wax edges indicate termite treatment with a foil backing for improved insulation (marketed as R-Flor).

What Does Structural Particle Board Flooring Look Like?

When the boards absorb moisture or humidity, they become yellow, and their coloration changes.

Moisture reacts with the wood pulp in the sheets, giving them this yellow color.

Green Tongue Flooring

There is no significant difference between Green Tongue and Yellow Tongue flooring as such, since manufacturers tend to differentiate colors for their own purposes in different countries.

A particleboard flooring called green tongue is used in Australia to combat damp and humid conditions. It is usually 800mm thick instead of 900mm thick.

Termite-treated particleboard is known as green tongue flooring in the US, while in Australia there is a degree of water-resistant treatment. When referring to Green Tongue Flooring, you will hear the term “aquatech” or “aquatight”. Most of the time, it is used in wet areas and uses water-repellent glue. It is more expensive than yellow tongue flooring, but it is also used in areas that need to be waterproof.

Comparison Of Yellow Tongue Flooring And Green Tongue Flooring

The primary difference between green tongued and yellow tongued flooring is how each type of flooring behaves when waterproof flooring is needed. The green tongue uses water-resistant glue, while the yellow tongue does not. Both tongues keep boards firmly together when installed. As a result, it can be installed on surfaces that might be contacted by water, such as pool decks or kitchens with leaking pipes above countertops. It depends on how much you install (more if just doing one area) and what you need (green is better for resisting moisture).

It’s much cheaper to buy yellow tongue than green tongue flooring, which makes them great for first-time installers who might need to replace some boards during installation; however, that means that water damage is more likely.

Questions and Answers about Coloured Tongue Structural Flooring

What is an alternative to yellow tongue flooring?

Yellow tongue flooring can be substituted with any 19mm tongue and groove structural particleboard that meets Australian and New Zealand standards AS/NZS 1860.1. Orange tongue manufactured by D&R Henderson and green tongue manufactured by Laminex are examples. The red (STRUCTAFlor), burgundy (D&R Henderson) or beige (Laminex) boards can also be used if a thicker board can be accommodated.

Is yellow tongue flooring waterproof?

Over the long term, yellow tongue flooring is not a product that is waterproof. During the construction process, it is designed to withstand moisture for a few months but then requires a dry environment to function properly over the long haul.

Red tongue flooring vs yellow tongue flooring – which is best?

A maximum joist spacing of 450mm is needed for yellow tongue flooring, which is 19mm thick. For a wider joist spacing width of 600mm, red tongue flooring can be installed as it is 22mm thick, allowing for that wider joist spacing. Each is manufactured under the brand name STRUCTAFlor and complies with Australian and New Zealand standards AS/NZS 1860.1.

What are the yellow tongue flooring sizes?

Yellow tongue flooring comes in two sizes, 3600 x 800mm and 3600 x 600mm. In the past, it was available in 3600 x 900mm, but no longer is. It is recommended that orange tongue (D&R Henderson) or green tongue (Laminex) be substituted if 3600 x 900mm structural tongue and groove particleboard flooring is required.

Yellow tongue flooring: which side up?

One side of yellow tongue is raw, while the other is greasy. A glue adhesive is used to attach the raw surface to the floor. A greasy wax side is exposed to protect the floor from moisture.

Can yellow tongue floors get wet?

In spite of the waxy surface on one side, yellow tongue is made from particleboard. The use of particleboard for a subfloor in wet areas is not recommended. FC sheeting is a better choice for this situation. During the initial building process, yellow tongue can withstand moisture for a short period of time, but it isn’t designed to withstand moisture for a long time.

What is the difference between yellow tongue and orange tongue flooring?

STRUCTAFlor in Australia manufactures yellow tongue flooring that is 19mm thick. The joist spacing is specified to be a max of 450mm. Both 3600mm x 800mm and 3600mm x 600mm are available. The only difference between orange tongue flooring and yellow tongue flooring is that orange tongue flooring is the manufacturer. Orange tongue flooring is made in Australia by D&R Henderson, and it also comes in 3600m x 900mm.

Yellow Tongue Flooring Wax Side Up Or Down?

Here are the key points on installing yellow tongue flooring:

  • Yellow tongue flooring has a waxed side and an unwaxed side. The waxed side should face down towards the subfloor. This helps prevent moisture from entering the yellow tongue, which can expand when wet[1][4][5].
  • Lay the sheets in a bricklike pattern, with the plastic tongues facing away from the starting wall. Apply adhesive to the tongues and fit the grooves of the next sheet over them[3].
  • Fasten the sheets to the floor joists with screws, spaced about every 6 inches. This prevents movement or squeaking[3].
  • Leave a 10mm gap between the wall and sheets to allow for expansion. Don’t let sheets touch walls[1].
  • Stagger the end joints between rows by at least 300mm for stability[5].
  • Use a rubber mallet to tap sheets tightly together at the tongues and grooves[7].
  • Consider applying waterproofing to the top side for moisture protection in wet areas[6].
  • Follow all manufacturer’s recommendations for proper installation and moisture protection[4][5].

In summary, the key is to install yellow tongue flooring with the factory wax side down, leave expansion gaps, fasten it properly, and ensure a tight fit between sheets. Following best practices will result in a stable and long-lasting subfloor. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!

[1] https://nashtimbers.com.au/photos-of-don-ts-of-installing/
[2] https://www.kyinbridges.com/revamp-your-home-with-easy-to-install-yellow-tongue-flooring/
[3] https://homesteady.com/how-8044808-yellow-tongue-installation.html
[4] https://wilsontimbers.com/media/wysiwyg/Brochures/Flooring_installation_guide.pdf
[5] https://www.australianpanels.com.au/documents/STRUCTAflor-installation-manual.pdf
[6] https://youtube.com/watch?v=UDU1dOWgm8A
[7] https://www.bunnings.com.au/diy-advice/home-improvement/flooring/how-to-lay-chipboard-flooring


Which one should you choose? In the end, you can decide which option is best for you based on your needs. Yellow is less expensive, but it does not offer as much protection from water damage as green tongue does.

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