Yellow Tongue Flooring And Other Colours Too: What Means What?

Do you have a question about the difference between Yellow Tongue flooring and Green Tongue flooring? What about Orange tongue flooring? If you don then you are not alone.

Yellow Tongue and a bunch of other colours, is a structural particleboard product commonly used for subfloors in Australia and New Zealand, where the coloured PVC strip is used as the tongue component of a tongue and groove arrangement. In this blog post, we will discuss what to look out for when trying to tell them apart from one another so that you can make an educated decision with ease.

What Is Yellow Tongue Flooring?

Getting straight to point if you’re in a hurry and haven’t got time to drill into the mysterious depths of colured tongue structural flooring in Australia and New Zealand, here is the short answer:

  • Yellow tongue flooring is a 19mm thick structural grade particleboard product manufactured by Australian Panel Products (formerly Borg Manufacturing) under the brand STRUCTAFlor.
  • It is intended for interior use in domestic buildings, primarily used for subfloors with a joist spacing of no more than 450mm.
  • In terms of Yellow Tongue Flooring sizes, it is available in widths of 3600 x 800 and 3600 x 600mm.
  • In regard to Yellow Tongue Flooring waterproof status, it is not waterproof but is designed to withstand a short period (a few months) of intermittent rain exposure during the building process, so it is more a case of yellow tongue flooring water resistance.
  • Yellow tongue flooring weight is approximately 30kg per sheet.

As far as an alternative to yellow tongue flooring goes, there are similar 19mm thick structural grade particleboard products manufactured by D & R Henderson (orange tongue), and Laminex (green tongue – see next section). Also see Table 1 below for more details.

Keep on reading if you want to find out how its specifications fit in with all the other colours and brands of tongue and groove structural particle board flooring.

What Is Green Tongue Flooring?

The quick answer for green tongue flooring:

  • Green tongue flooring is a 19mm thick structural grade particleboard product manufactured by Laminex in Australia.
  • It is intended for interior use in domestic buildings, primarily used for subfloors with a joist spacing of no more than 450mm.
  • It is available in widths of 3600 x 900.
  • While it is manufactured to comply with the same AS/NZS 1860.1:2017 specification as Yellow Tongue Flooring, it is generally considered by the industry to have better long term moisture resistant properties than yellow tongue flooring, so is often used in situations where there is higher humidity and likelihood of increased moisture exposure.
  • It is also a termite-treated version available.

There are similar 19mm thick structural grade particleboard products manufactured by D & R Henderson (orange tongue), and Australian Panel Products (STRUCTAFlor Yellow Tongue). See Table 1 below for more details.

What Is Red Tongue Flooring?

Again, the short answer for red tongue flooring:

Red tongue flooring is a 22mm thick structural grade particleboard product manufactured by Australian Panel Products (formerly Borg Manufacturing) under the brand STRUCTAFlor. It is intended for interior use in domestic buildings, primarily used for subfloors with a joist spacing of no more than 600mm. It is available in widths of 3600 x 800 and 3600 x 600mm. It is also available as a termite treated version called TERMIFlor and as a foil backed termite treated version called R-Flor

There are similar 22mm thick structural grade particleboard products manufactured by D & R Henderson (burgundy tongue), and Laminex (beige tongue). See Table 1 below for more details.

Country Differences

Tongue and groove chipboard for subflooring does exist in the UK, but is not commonly available with the coloured PVC tongue – instead, the tongue is a milled down section of the chipboard.

OSB or plywood is typically used in the United States for structural flooring, so the whole coloured PVC tongue structural particle subflooring thing is pretty much an Australia / New Zealand thing.

Confusion On What The Coloured Tongues Represent

To say there is some confusion about what the different coloured PVC strips indicate is an understatement. The reason for this confusion is that there is no overall standard for the various colors of the tongues across the three main Australian companies that manufacture them. If you do research online about the issue, you will find numerous definitive statements about that state of things in woodworking forums, etc, but when you drill down into the daisies, it turns out that the answer you think you found is not definitive, and doesn’t completely make the issue clear.

Different System For Each Company Based On Thickness

The only way through this is to understand that the three different manufacturers use various colour tongues to differentiate their own range of structural particleboard, but the ‘system’ one company use is not the same system as a competitor does.

The trick is to look at what the different colour tongues mean per manufacturer and why and how they are differentiating their particle board offering with tongue color. Although each manufacturer uses a different tongue colour system, they assign a single colour to one of the three different particleboard thicknesses commonly available (19mm, 22mm, 25mm). In some cases, they will use a coloured wax edge strip on the board to indicate other treatments – mostly associated with termite resistance.

Joist Spacings Based On Particleboard Thickness

The difference in thickness changes the allowable joist spacing. So a 19mm particleboard can have a maximum floor joist spacing of 450mm, while a 22mm thick board can have a 600mm joist spacing.

Australia / New Zealand Structural Particleboard Standard

Table 1: Structural Grade Particleboard Sheeting In Australia

The Australia and New Zealand standard that governs the manufacture of particleboard flooring is AS/NZS 1860.1:2017. It specifies two classes. Class 1 flooring is for use in Australia where during construction, prolonged exposure to an ambient temperature above 25°C under moist conditions can occur. Class 2 is not suitable for Australian conditions.

What Are The Similarities Across All Colours?

All tongue and groove structural particleboard have some basics in common, all based around the AS/NZS 1860.1:2017 standard.

It is all manufactured from particleboard. The tongue and groove feature allow boards to be laid flat without gaps or overlapping. The grooves on one board align with the tongues from an adjacent board, forming perfect seals when nailed together. For any of the water-resistant versions, this feature goes a long way to maintaining a water tight seal when laying a subfloor. This tongue-and-groove approach interlocks at every joint to create a seamless surface that’s perfect for high-traffic and high moisture areas such as kitchens or bathrooms.

Moisture Resistance Qualities Of Structural-Grade Particleboard Sheeting

Structural-grade particleboard sheeting can be exposed to the elements for up to three months, but it’s always a good idea to enclose a building as soon as you finish installing it. You should get rid of any ponded water as soon as possible. If there’s ponding on the floor, you can get rid of it by drilling holes 3mm maximum diameter at least 1 metre apart and sweeping water away.

Keep packs off the ground when storing them outside. Cover the product with waterproof sheeting so that air can circulate freely.

So while the material will tolerate some weather, it should be covered as soon as possible. If you peer through the fence at a residential building site while taking a weekend walk through the suburbs, you will often see it laid as subflooring before the roof is on, but sure enough, not long after, the roof will be on, protecting the subflooring for anything more than the odd passing shower during the building process.

Where To Buy Structural-Grade Particleboard Sheeting

Onsite Timber in Sydney Sheets supply sheets of 3600 x 800 x 19mm with a yellow tongue and groove. They originally sold it at a width of 900mm, but changed to 800mm in late 2019. They also sell two other different coloured tongue products that are the same size but have different thicknesses. Blue Tongue has a thickness of 25mm, Red Tongue is 22mm along with their Yellow Tongue at 19mm. So this is a case of different colours being used to denote thickness.

Bunnings and others sells STRUCTAflor, manufactured by Borg Manufacturing. STRUCTAflor uses the same coloured tongue system as what Onsite Timber sells, where the different colours represent different thicknesses of the same product. However, STRUCTAflor uses another coloured coding system based on wax applied on the edges of the product to denote other qualities. The edge is coated with coloured wax to indicate other treatments other than thickness. A yellow edge wax represents general purpose use, a light blue wax edge indicates H2 termite treatment and a blue wax edge indicates termite treatment with the addition of a foil backing to improve insulation (this product is marketed as R-Flor).

What Does It Look Like?

The boards have an off-white coloration that becomes yellow when the sheets absorb water or humidity causing them to swell up.

This yellow color is a result of the wood pulp in the sheets reacting with moisture.

Green Tongue Flooring

There is no certain differences between Green Tongue and Yellow Tongue flooring per se, because manufacturers tend to use color differentiation for their own purposes in different countires.

In Australia, green tongue flooring is a particleboard made to protect against damp and humid conditions. and the flooring is normally 800mm as opposed to 900mm thick.

In the US, some manufactures call termite treated particleboard green tongue flooring, while like Australia, others add degrees of water-resistant treatments to it. In this case, you will hear Green Tongue Flooring it called “aquatech” or “aquatight”. It uses water-resistant glues and is mostly used for wet areas. The pricing of green tongue flooring is more than the yellow, but it’s also used for areas that need to be waterproof.

Differences Between Yellow Tongue And Green Tongue Flooring

So the main difference between green and yellow tongued is how each type of flooring reacts in wet situations. While they both have tongues that help keep boards together tightly when installed, green tongue uses water-resistant glue while yellow does not. This allows them to install as an option on surfaces where water might come into contact with the surface such as pool decks or kitchens with leaking pipes above countertops. The pricing can vary depending on the amount you are installing (more if just doing one area) and what your needs are (green is better at resisting moisture).

Yellow tongue have a lower price point than their green counterparts which makes them excellent for first-time installers who may need to replace some boards if something comes up during installation; however, this means that water damage is a risk.

Frequently Asked Questions For Coloured Tongue Structural Flooring

What is an alternative to yellow tongue flooring?

Any 19mm tongue and groove structural particleboard that meets Australian and New Zealand standards AS/NZS 1860.1 can be substituted. This includes orange tongue manufactured by D&R Henderson, or green tongue manufactured by Laminex. If a thicker board can be accommodated, then a 22mm thickness red (STRUCTAFlor), burgundy (D&R Henderson) or beige (Laminex) could be used instead.

Is yellow tongue flooring waterproof?

Yellow tongue flooring is not waterproof. It is designed to withstand moisture for a few months during the building process but then requires a dry environment once in place for the long term.

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

Yellow tongue flooring is 19mm thick and requires a maximum joist spacing width of 450mm. Red tongue flooring is 22mm thick and can be used at joist spacing widths of 600mm. Both are manufactured under the brand of STRUCTAFlor and comply with Australian and New Zealand standards AS/NZS 1860.1.

What are the yellow tongue flooring sizes?

Yellow tongue flooring is available as 3600 x 800mm and 3600 x 600mm. It was previously available in 3600 x 900mm but is no longer made in that size. If 3600 x 900mm is required for 19mm structural tongue and groove particleboard flooring, orange tongue (D&R Henderson) or green tongue (Laminex) should be substituted.

Yellow tongue flooring: which side up?

Yellow tongue is raw on one side and greasy on the other. Glue is used to attach the raw surface to the floor. The greasy wax side faces upward to protect the surface from moisture.

Can yellow tongue floors get wet?

Although yellow tongue has a waxy surface on one side to help protect it from moisture, it is made from particleboard. In wet areas, particleboard should not be used for a subfloor. Instead, use FC sheeting. Yellow tongue can withstand moisture for a short period of time during the initial building process, but it isn’t designed to withstand moisture over the long term.

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

Yellow tongue flooring is a 19mm thick structural particleboard flooring made by STRUCTAFlor in Australia. It is specified for a maximum joist spacing of 450mm. It is available in 3600mm x 800mm and 3600mm x 600mm. Orange tongue flooring has the exact same specifications other than it is manufactured in Australia by D&R Henderson and is also available in 3600m x 900mm.


So which one should you go for? Ultimately, depending on your needs, you can decide which option will work best for you. Yellow has a lower cost point but does not offer as much protection from water damage while green costs more initially but offers excellent resistance to moisture.

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