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What is a Groove Joint?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A groove joint is a type of joint most commonly seen in woodworking, although it can be used to join other materials as well. Groove joints are designed to be used in a tongue and groove system, with the grooves complementing the tongues to create a snug joint where two pieces snap together. Historically, tongue and groove joints were used for a wide variety of applications; today, the development of new building materials has made them a bit obsolete, but they still turn up in some applications, especially handcrafted materials.

As one might imagine, a groove joint consists of a deep groove cut into a piece of wood, typically along the side, although it can also be cut across for specialty applications. A complementary tongue is cut into another piece of wood. The tongue is a bit shorter than the groove, ensuring that it has some room to swell and subside once it has been inserted into the groove to create a tongue and groove joint.

One classic use of this type of joint is in flooring. In this case, each piece of flooring will have a tongue on one side and a groove on the other. The flooring pieces can be snapped together to cover a whole floor. Glue is usually not used to avoid tearing at the tongue and groove joint when the wood expands and contracts, as it will do in response to water. Instead, the network of flooring boards fitted together will hold the floor stable and in place.

Tongue and groove can also be seen in some cladding materials and wall materials such as wainscoting. In addition, it is sometimes used in woodwork to create a hidden joint. Flat pack furniture sometimes comes with tongue and groove joints because they are easy to assemble and require no special tools or skills, ensuring that consumers can put the furniture together properly.

People can obtain wood which has already been cut with a tongue and groove joint from home supply and lumber stores. This wood tends to be more expensive than plain planks, but can be useful if people don't have the tools or the skills to cut even tongues and grooves. People can also use tools like saws, routers, and planes to create their own tongue and groove joints for specific projects. Tongues and grooves can also be used for things like creating a track for drawers to slide on, in addition to being seen in use as fixed joints.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By geekish — On Aug 18, 2011

@Tomislav - I am not a furniture expert but what I have learned just from shopping around is to check for tongue in groove *or* doweled, mortise and tenon, bolted, or screwed joints as opposed to stapled or glued.

Stapled is not supposed to be the best quality, as the staples have a habit of apparently rusting or falling out.

I love the look of tongue and groove, but especially dovetailed joints that look to me like little v's on top of each other (hence I guess the name dove-tailed). With this groove the two pieces of wood lying next to each other, I think, looks beautiful.

By Tomislav — On Aug 17, 2011

My husband loved this ottoman that one of his multi-talented friends just made him for fun. But the thing that always blew my husband away about the ottoman was that his friend had used the tongue and groove method to construct it.

My husband thought that it was a particularly difficult way to construct a piece of furniture since you have to cut out the grooves to specificity as opposed to attaching two pieces of wood together with nails or screws.

I had never heard of this type of groove before this but I started to notice this type of construction when we were looking for furniture, and we were told this makes for sturdier construction of furniture. Is this true?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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