Flap endonucleases (FENs) catalyse the exonucleolytic hydrolysis of blunt-ended duplex DNA substrates and the endonucleolytic cleavage of 5'-bifurcated nucleic acids at the junction formed between single and double-stranded DNA. The specificity and catalytic parameters of FENs derived from T5 bacteriophage and Archaeoglobus fulgidus were studied with a range of single oligonucleotide DNA substrates. These substrates contained one or more hairpin turns and mimic duplex, 5'-overhanging duplex, pseudo-Y, nicked DNA, and flap structures. The FEN-catalysed reaction properties of nicked DNA and flap structures possessing an extrahelical 3'-nucleotide (nt) were also characterised. The phage enzyme produced multiple reaction products of differing length with all the substrates tested, except when the length of duplex DNA downstream of the reaction site was truncated. Only larger DNAs containing two duplex regions are effective substrates for the archaeal enzyme and undergo reaction at multiple sites when they lack a 3'-extrahelical nucleotide. However, a single product corresponding to reaction 1 nt into the double-stranded region occurred with A. fulgidus FEN when substrates possessed a 3'-extrahelical nt. Steady-state and pre-steady-state catalytic parameters reveal that the phage enzyme is rate-limited by product release with all the substrates tested. Single-turnover maximal rates of reaction are similar with most substrates. In contrast, turnover numbers for T5FEN decrease as the size of the DNA substrate is increased. Comparison of the catalytic parameters of the A. fulgidus FEN employing flap and double-flap substrates indicates that binding interactions with the 3'-extrahelical nucleotide stabilise the ground state FEN-DNA interaction, leading to stimulation of comparative reactions at DNA concentrations below saturation with the single flap substrate. Maximal multiple turnover rates of the archaeal enzyme with flap and double flap substrates are similar. A model is proposed to account for the varying specificities of the two enzymes with regard to cleavage patterns and substrate preferences.