By Brett Miller, NWFA Vice President of Education & Certification
Over the past few years, sales of factory-finished hardwood flooring have risen dramatically. In 2014, about 55% of all wood flooring sales were for engineered flooring products, most of which are factory-finished, and about 31% was for solid factory-finished flooring products. These figures come from the 2016 US FLOOReport, and show that more than three-quarters of US wood flooring market sales are for factory-finished flooring.
This presents some challenges for wood flooring installers because many consumers are looking for custom looks with their flooring choices, but want the convenience offered by factory-finished materials. One option to create a custom look is to install factory-finished medallions.
Factory-finished medallions come in a variety of styles, shapes and formats to complement any décor. They offer installers the ability to customize a floor with minimal time and effort, but they do require some skill and knowledge to install.
The most critical factor for any flooring installation is good communication between the installer and the consumer to ensure that all the elements of the floor design meet the customer’s expectations. Focal points in the room, fireplaces, doorways, ceilings and even furniture placement should be discussed in advance so that you can determine the best location for a medallion.
Many factory-finished medallion manufacturers provide a template and pattern bit that can be used to cut the flooring to the proper size and shape. It is also possible to produce custom-designed inlays and matching borders with some manufacturers of these products.
When installing a factory-finished medallion, you should always follow the medallion manufacturer’s recommendations for installation. However, if those are not provided or available, the following general guidelines can be useful.
Before installation, check the medallion to ensure there are no missing parts or damage caused in shipping. Look specifically at edges to verify there are no missing pieces, dents or rough spots. If a shop drawing is provided, compare the drawing to the inlay for accuracy in measurements, thickness, and selection of species.
Follow the medallion manufacturer’s recommendations for acclimating the product prior to installation. If the product requires acclimation, the HVAC system needs to be operating, with temperature and humidity levels set to normal living conditions.
Once acclimated, position the medallion, taking into consideration walls, vents, doorways, fireplaces, bump outs and furniture. Have your client approve and sign off on the placement of the medallion before proceeding.
Medallions should be installed after the floor is laid to ensure a proper fit into the main field of the floor. Installation can be started by placing the medallion on the floor and marking the outline with a pencil. Use magnets to find any fasteners along the outline and mark them. (Photo 1)
Most companies offer a template, thereby reducing the chance of making bad cuts outside the proposed area for the medallion. Pay attention to small pieces of the floor that may be on the edge of the cutout area.
To assist in smooth routing, it may help to sand the adjacent area prior to routing. Fasten the template to the main field of the flooring. The template can be fastened with double-sided tape, or by finish nailing it into the field flooring between the floor boards (Photo 2).
Using a plunge router and bit, cut away the existing flooring on the inside of the template in a clockwise direction, starting with a plunge depth of 1/8 to 1/4“.
Ensure that the router bearing rides against the template (Photo 3). Make at least three to four passes at increasing depths to avoid overheating and damaging the router bit. Denser wood species may require more than four passes. Continue this process until the router bit reaches the subfloor (Photo 4).
If you expose nails on any pass, use a nail set to drive the nail further into the floor and out of the way of the router bit. Use a sharp chisel or corner chisel to clean up any areas, such as corners, not removed by the router bit (Photo 5). Vacuum the subfloor thoroughly to remove all debris (Photo 6).
It is important to install the medallion as soon as possible after routing the outline. Delaying inlay installation may allow the field to expand beyond the outline.
Dry fit the medallion to ensure proper fit. Make sure it is flush with the floor surface. Use packaging tape or similar tape across the back of the medallion to create handles extending above the sides that can be used to lift the medallion out of the opening after dry fitting.
Unfinished medallions often include knockouts (loose pieces) that can be removed to allow screwing the medallion to the subfloor. With this type of medallion, you will need to remove the knockouts before installing the medallion.
Apply adhesive to the subfloor in a thickness that will match the overall elevation of the floor. Follow the medallion manufacturer’s recommendations of the proper adhesive to use (Photo 7).
Install the medallion, applying weight to it to ensure a good fit, and let it set up in the adhesive. Be sure to follow the adhesive manufacturer’s recommendations for ventilation, application and drying time.
If the medallion contains knockouts, screw the medallion to the subfloor in the knockout areas. The knockouts should then be glued into place. If there are gaps between the medallion and the main field of the flooring, use slivers or a compatible wood filler that will match the color of the wood species to minimize them.
There are many companies offering factory-finished medallions. You can search for them on the NWFA’s web site at www.hardwoodfloorsmag.com/resourcebook. You also can learn more about installing medallions for both new and existing wood floors through training programs offered by the NWFA. A full schedule of NWFA and NWFA Certified Professionals training is available at www.nwfa.org/tech-ed-schedule.aspx.
You also can learn more about medallion installation techniques with the NWFA’s Ornamental Floors Design & Installation technical publication. Ornamental Floors is provided to all NWFA members as a member benefit. The Sand & Finish Guidelines are available to non-members for purchase. For more information, contact the NWFA at (800) 422-4556 (USA and Canada); (636) 519-9663 (international), or visit www.nwfa.org.