Repair & Care
Installing Hardwood Floor Borders
Aside from hardwood medallions and other designs seen on other pages, borders of any design, simple and intricate are possible. Designs without using prefabricated products include narrow one board borders (photo right). Borders in our photo example can be used from contrasting hardwoods to define an area. Different sized widths can be used. While narrow strip material is often harder to obtain, 2 1/4" common strip flooring is often used for simple border designs.
Installing such can be a bit perplexing requiring the use of a circular saw. In addition, when the field (main area) is trimmed, routing and splining of bordered items should be considered. This insures the whole project is connected with surface areas having the same vertical height. Failure to do so will cause creaking or squeaking sounds with everyday foot traffic as the boards will rub against one another.
How & When Are They Installed? One Strip Border Example
Borders are easier when the flooring is being installed. Prior to all work, perimeter areas should be established. In some cases installers will begin in the center of the field so as to allow a perfect alignment of the final board being the same size on parallel walls. Measure from each wall and divide by two to find your center. Once areas are defined, a dry run, or loose lay on the bordered corners will help insure you have everything squared properly. More important would be if you've allowed the proper amount that will be covered by baseboard or other trim moldings
Depending on the layout, many installers will begin working off a preset planned layout. Our square room example below illustrates a black border starting point on the left side and bottom. With groove facing into the field on the edge of the blue chalk lines, install the boards by firmly pressing to the subfloor with construction adhesive on the back.
Once you've found the border to be aligned perfectly, secure the boards to the subfloor by nailing through the tongue on a 45 degree angle (also called bind nailing). Insure all boards are flat and secure to the subfloor while remaining on the edge of the chalk line (not shown, covered).
Splines, Slip Tongue
Splines (discussed below) are used to connect all inside perimeter areas with the field during starting and interlocking procedures. Considering hardwood is milled with tongues on the left side of each board, the first spline is inserted into the left side border groove and glued with Titebond or similar woodworkers glue. Begin the installation from left to right with groove facing front. A spline will also be needed for the starting border on the bottom as well.
Our blue reference chalk lines are stopping points when running the hardwood left to right and top to bottom. Fasten all boards with your tool of choice (flooring stapler or nailer) inside the area but not over the line, as the balance that falls over the chalk line on the right side will be removed with a straight edge and circular saw.
It is not necessary to install the fill area or the portion on the outside of our black border until the rest of the floor has been laid. In our example, proceed bottom to top with the tongue facing forward when starting, stop the last board row as it approaches the other blue chalk line.
Once the field is completed with opposing right area trimmed we want to insure this area interlocks as other sides will. By grabbing a slot cutter and router this can be accomplished in short time. It is vital the groove you are creating on the cut off field side be the same proportion to the tongue it will interlock with on the border. Word of warning; if you do not have a flat subfloor the router will follow the contour making for a harder installation. For all main borders and fill in pieces insure you are using the straightest boards possible.
When the field is completed with opposing wall border trimmed and installed, begin installing the fill by working off each corner and into the center. Corners should be splined if they are mitered. Our next illustration shows working from each corner (darker colored brown boards)
For filling in between the corners, boards will have to be cut to fit. Installers have varying methods to secure ends that are not tongue and groove. One method is milling a new groove (with slot cutter) on the cutoff end, then removing the bottom portion.
With each and every installer being different in what works or what they are accustomed to, one method of securing is by applying an adhesive on the top of the adjacent tongue with the new partial grooved end overlapping. Top and side nailing may also be performed. Others will apply adhesive to the backside of the board and subfloor to fasten the board(s). The procedure described allows for an easier method instead of trying to align in the corners.
What's A Spline?
A spline, also known as slip tongue is a small piece of hardwood that is inserted into the groove portion when reversing direction of the tongue and groove system. It becomes a strengthening or interlocking device when two grooves are facing one another. Splines should be glued into place when connecting the two. Do not leave splines glued overnight without connecting as they may have a tendency to move creating severe problems with fit the next day.
Other more intricate border designs are available prefabricated and are not normally one solid piece, but engineered. Types will depend on each individual manufacturer. They will also be different in construction as some will be pre-grooved on all four sides, while others for solid 3/4" installations will not. Lengths will also vary but the unofficial standard runs in the three foot range.
Minimum thickness for prefab borders generally runs at 3/8 of one inch. Anything thinner becomes a shipping problem because of their fragile makeup and number of pieces involved before installation.
Widths run anywhere from two inches up to twelve. All prefabricated borders are glued and not nailed to proper subfloors.
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