Installing so two rooms transition at the same level

Q: I have laminate tiles in my mud room. I want to replace with tile. The room is next to hardwood floors (kitchen) and I would like to have the transition at the same level as the kitchen floor. What do I have to do to the subfloor of mud/laundry room? How thin could it be to withstand the weight of washer and dryer and sink?

A: If the floor in the kitchen is 3/4 thick you would probably have to peel off the mud room down to the sub floor. Then the concrete-mesh or which ever base method is used for the tile is about half an inch and the tile is 1/4 to 3/8 thick – and that should get you very close to the same level.

Transition or staggering to join wood floor in two rooms

Q: We want to replace the tile in our foyer to match the wood in the family room. Our wood floors are glued down since we have concrete floors. How do we match the wood in the foyer to the family room, since the end of the wood is a rough cut and covered by a threshold?

A: Well, if the hardwood is running into the tiled foyer you have 2 choices. Remove the tile, install matching hardwood and use a dome cap or T cap to cover the rough cut ends or stagger back each row of existing hardwood and knit in new wood then have the entire thing sanded.

Install baseboards above floor or push them into gap?

Q: I recently purchased my first home and am beginning to prep to paint some rooms. I was happy to know that the hardwood floors throughout were just refinished before I moved in. When I began to take out the baseboards I was surprised to find out that the baseboards were installed first and the floor butts up against the baseboards.

I will be replacing the baseboards with new ones.

My question is, should I use larger baseboards and install them above the floor or should I push the new ones back into the gap? I assume I should put them on above the floor that way there is the necessary expansion gap for the floors.

A: I would install the base above the floor, as you mentioned and then install quarter round, either paint grade, primed or the wood species (oak) of your floor. If the base is painted, best to go with primed paint grade.

Best way to refinish the trim?

Q: I have an old, small Victorian style house. It has beautiful, old, wide trim around the doors and windows.

The trim around the kitchen door that leads to a small side entryway to the outside and the trim around the window and door in the entryway both have many coats of paint on them. The paint has deep cracks but is not really peeling off.

What is the best way to refinish the trim? Do I need to take all the paint off? I live in the Northeast and will be working on this project over my December vacation but can open a window if needed for ventilation.

A: I think I would use paint stripper on it. You want to avoid sanding because their is high likelihood of lead in these coatings. Remove as much of the paint by chemical stripping to get down to or near the bare wood, then prime it with a good primer such as Zinsser 1 2 3 or Bin.

Planks up against a transition piece

Q: When butting 5″ planks up against a transition piece do you just butt them up or do you cut a groove in the transition piece and cut tongues on the ends of each plank for a stronger fit? Is the stronger fit necessary if you use construction glue under the plank?

A: I generally like to have the tongue on the end of the plank insert into the groove edge of the transition strip AND glue both the transition strip and the ends of the planks. Doorways are high traffic areas and I just like to be sure it all stays together and nothing moves, or if there is movement, it all moves together.

How do I attach trim around a brick fireplace?

Q: I’m in the process of finishing up my glue down hard wood floor on a concrete slab. Soon I’ll be starting on the 1/4 round trim.

How do I attach the trim around the brick fireplace? I’m not supposed to nail it to the floor. Do I use the same adhesive and glue the trim to the bricks? Around the entry way I have painted bricks. Would the glue stick to the painted bricks?

A: I don’t think I would try to install the trim around the brick fire place. Of course, there will be a gap between the floor and the brick. Unavoidable.

I would fill it with caulking or a colour match caulking/filler in a tube such as Color-rite.

Ugly quarter round at front door

Q: We just had someone install hardwood flooring (glued) from our front door, down the hall and into the family room. At the front door we had herringbone pattern. After installing the flooring the installers used quarter round at the front door. It really looks tacky whenever you are walking towards the front door from the hall way. What can we do to make our entrance look nice? Also, as you are walking down the hall way to the front door, on the left hand side about three feet from the door there is a piece of wood that is about a half inch higher than the other flooring. Is there anything that we can do about that or is it something that we are going to have to live with since the flooring is glued?

A: They probably used the quarter round to hide a small gap between the floor and the outside front wall or threshold. Maybe a smaller, less conspicuous piece of quarter round or some alternate trim can be used instead. As for the raised piece, I don’t know. If this is pre-finished I would have thought that should have been dealt with at the time of installation. Or it is possible, if they used a heavy polyurethane adhesive that the one piece shifted after they left the job as the adhesive started to set. You might have to live with it.

Sole plate transition

Q: I want to install hard wood flooring in my kitchen. I have a railing and a step into my family room, with a piece of wood at top (that’s in the kitchen). How do you deal with this?

A: It sounds like you are saying that the ballister system is anchored into a sole plate. If you are installing a 3/4 thick floor and that sole plate is 3/4 then you can just run right off that. If it is not that thick you will either have to remove the ballisters or install off of or up to the sole plate and then use a tiny piece of beveled trim to hide the board edge. You will likely need to install a short length of stair nosing across the opening to the step.

Should baseboards match floor?

Q: I’m installing a cherry bamboo floor. Should the baseboards match the floor?

A: Not necessarily. I would paint the base and possible quarter round. It gives a nice contrast and doesn’t look like the floor is climbing the walls.

Webmaster’s note re should baseboards match floor: You can compare the somewhat old fashioned look of matching the two:
with a more modern painting of baseboards:

Height difference and base molding

Q: Our kitchen and family room share a wall. We installed stone flooring in the kitchen and pergo flooring in the family room. As a result, the kitchen floors are slightly higher. We placed a transition on the ground to cover up the difference in height, but now we are unsure how to put up the base molding different heights. Any suggestions?

A: I think you should have installed the quarter round first, if I am understanding your question correctly. Do you think it would be possible to gently remove the transition strip without breaking it?

Follow-up: Here is a cross-section while looking at the wall that the molding will go on.

A: Ideally, 2 dissimilar floor surfaces should stop in the middle of the door jamb or wall and if their is a door they should stop under the door. Then any transition strips installed would be in the middle of the doorway and not protrude beyond and into the room. Could you send me a photo?

Best way to transition from the floor to the front or back door?

Q: I’m going to begin to install tongue and groove bamboo flooring in my house. What is the best way to transition from the floor to the front or back door? Currently both doors have an aluminum base beneath the door. Do I butt the flooring up to the aluminum door jam, or do I leave a space and use a transition? What is the best way to cover wood floor transition to door?

A: It depends on the height difference between the bamboo and the door sill. You might choose a flat or dome cap or a bevelled strip.

Transitional strip to join carpet and laminate on concrete

Q: What kind of transitional strip do you use to join carpet and laminated flooring on concrete?

A: Probably what is called a T cap, flat cap or dome cap. I would contact the manufacturer of the laminate or the store where you purchased it to get the appropriate strip.

Related Q: We are trying to find and install a transition from laminate wood floor to concrete floor. The gap in height is 7/8″ because the underlay and laminate itself are thick, and the reducer provided with the laminate is not big enough to cover this gap. We want to know how else to make this transition and avoid a tripping hazard.

A: There are a couple of ways you may attempt to deal with this step of almost an inch. You could install a piece of the laminate on the face of this step and then install a stair nosing made for laminate. That may be the best way.

Standard transition materials are not fitting

Q: After installing laminate flooring in a living room and bedroom, we realized the standard transition materials are not fitting in the oversized gap. What can we do to fix this problem?

A: It reminds me of the old saying ‘measure twice, cut once’. At this point, I think you will have to find someone who will make you a custom strip wide enough to cover the space. Anybody with a good table saw and a bit of skill could make something up.

Related Q: We have installed 3/4 inch hardwood in our living room and there are several doorways with different issues to transition to. The hardwood flooring product does not offer a carpet reducer and the color of the flooring would not be a standard match for a premade piece. Do you have any other ideas for something to go from hardwood to carpet, other than just rounding off the last board and butting the carpet up to it? Also in the kitchen, the tile is slightly higher than the flooring and I want something really nice there because it is the main traffic area. Not the old gold metal strips. Any non-traditional ideas?

A: Any retailer who specializes in wood flooring should also carry transition strips for just about any occasion. For the kitchen tile to hardwood you could use something called a dome cap. There is also one for wood to carpet. You would have to stain and finish it yourself.

Knocking down walls

Q: We are knocking down walls between our living room, dining room and kitchen. The living room and kitchen are oak. The kitchen is Douglas Fir. Should we keep all and refinish them? How do we transition them? (It’s a long, straight shot from the front door to the back kitchen door.)

A: Are the floors the same height? Is there a clean edge between the 2 floors? You should visit your local flooring retailer and see what transition strips they have. Perhaps a flat cap would work.

Wood flooring within ceramic border

Q: We have a living room which is completely bordered with 3+ feet of 12X12″ ceramic tile. The center (about 220 sq. ft.) of the room has been covered with carpet insert. We want to replace the carpet with solid oak parquet wood tiles. In an adjacent room (dinning area) we have solid oak parquet installed, which butts up smoothly with the same ceramic tile at an arch between the dinning room, living room and (opposite wall – standard door) kitchen.

We have had no problem with expansion of the wood tiles butted up against the ceramic in this room. Should we expect an expansion problem in the living room where all four wood tile edges will be butted up against ceramic tile? We would rather not use transitions around this for obvious reasons. Are there installation tips that could help us in installing the oak parquet and minimize potential expansion problems?

A: I wouldn’t expect a problem with this installation. If your climate control is in question, you could leave a space and use caulking between the ceramic and hardwood.

Transition strips for hardwood to floating floor

Q: We installed a floating floor over marble tile in a bar. Now there is about a 1 5/8 transition from this new floating floor to another part of the bar which was hardwood. Who could we consult about the transition? People are tripping over it.

A: You could speak to the persons who installed the floating floor. If it was your people, then I would say, there are transition strips for situations like this. The manufacturer of the flooring you installed should have one to meet your needs, even if you have to adjust it slightly.

Transition strips for wood to carpet

Q: What is the best way to lay hardwood on a floor next to a carpeted floor? Do you lay the planks butted up to the carpet? How do you get it to look finished?

A: The hardwood floor itself should run across the joists. There are special transition strips (wood) designed to sit over the edge of surfaces the floor meets such as carpet, vinyl and ceramic.

Fixed transition with a tongue and groove joint, and glue?

Q: If I am installing a floating floor (engineered), and at my transition, using a fixed transition with a tongue and groove joint: is it ever acceptable to glue the flooring into the tongue and groove and allow the floor to grow the opposite direction of the fixed transition?

A: I don’t think doing so would hurt. I would probably just glue down the transition piece.

Floor height difference between rooms

Q: I have tile floors and I put hardwoods in a room next to the tile. The tile is a bit higher than the wood, they’re not even. Is there anything I can do to make the floor look even?

A: Go to the nearest hardwood retailer. They should have a selection of transition strips to choose from.

Similar Q: I have a problem with a transition from living room to kitchen that I need advice for. There’s a floor height difference between rooms. Can you help?

A: There are a variety of different transition strips to accommodate most situations. Or you could have one made.

Note from Webmaster: Here’s a guide from the Home Depot on how to select the right floor transitions/moulding –

Gap in floor height versus stair height

Q: I am planning to install hardwood floors in my second floor. Currently it is carpeted. The stairs are oak with a carpet runner. The subfloor upstairs is plywood and the height matches the height of the stair nose at the top of the stairs. Once installed, the new hardwood floor would sit 3/4″ – 1″ above the existing stair nose at the top of the stairs. What options do I have to bridge this gap in floor height versus stair height?

We would like to remove the carpet runner if possible. What options do I have in this case? If I keep the carpet runner, can I use a piece of 3/8 reducer at the edge of the stairs and just tuck the carpet and staple it to the top stair nose? Would that be safe? Would it look presentable?

A: Can you cut off (remove) the existing nosing and replace it? Or, can you cut back the lip of that nosing so that it is flush with the riser and then install a new nosing over top of it? In either case you will have to install some sort of trim piece under the nosing to hide the exposed area.

Related Q: Answer from 2007 was a big help! My top stair nose will be removed or cut flush so I can put a taller one on to match height of new floor. The top step will be a full 1/2″ taller (7 1/2″) than the rest (7″). Will that be a tripping hazard given the other 12 steps are exactly the same and 1/2″ shorter”? Great answers! Great site. How long have you been installing wood floors?

A: Thanks. I find it near impossible to believe 1/2″ difference in height would be a tripping hazard. Especially when it is the first or last step, depending whether you are coming up or going down. One might be able to make a case that in the middle of the stair run such a difference could cause a misstep. I’ve been working with wood floors over 40 years. Still learning.