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A Guide to Flooring Transition Strips

Laminate and tile floor joints - floor connector - decorative strip or sill

In our dream home, our flooring would seamlessly flow from one room to the next. In the real world though, that may not always be possible as different rooms require different flooring. For example, that beautiful solid wood flooring in your living room is not suitable for your bathroom, where as a porcelain or ceramic tile is better suited for those moisture areas. So, how do we transition from one floor to the next to ensure that seamless look throughout? There are several different types of accessories, called transition strips, that are used in the flooring industry to achieve this. But, before we dive into the different accessories, we will look at how transitioning from similar floor products differs from transition between different materials.

Transition Between Similar Materials

Although you may not need a transition strip between materials of the same thickness, you may still want to consider using one. There are two reasons for this. One, seams are incorporated between rooms of similar materials to account for expansion and contraction. The transition strip will cover that gap between rooms. And finally, unless the two different products aesthetically blend together in a pleasing way, you will probably need a transition strip.

Transition Between Different Materials

In this case, a transition strip is almost always required. There could be a couple of reasons for this. One, the materials need some kind of finish along the edge. Two, different materials may not have the same thickness which creates a change in floor heights and change in underfoot characteristics.

Luckily, these days we are not limited to the aluminum strips we remember from grandma’s house. You can now find real hardwood, engineered wood and vinyl transition strips that can be used with a variety of different flooring types.

Carpet to Tile Transition

A carpet to tile transition strip is designed for a low-pile carpet and ceramic tile floor. The aluminum strip is tucked under the edge of the carpet, which grips to protruding spikes. Ceramic tile butts up against the strip but does not attach to it. Finally, to bridge both floors and cover both edges, a vinyl strip is snapped into the track of the aluminum strip, this is typically referred to as track & cap.

4 In 1 Transition Strip

A 4-in-1 transition strip has interchangeable/adjustable parts that allows it to be used for different flooring types. Your typical 4-in-1 transition strip has a metal channel for mounting and a T-molding to fit into the channel. This is used as a T-molding if the materials are the same height, whereas it can be modified to different profiles as needed for each scenario.

Carpet strip is used to transition from carpet to another material, hard surface reducer is used to transition from a thicker hard surface to a thinner one, and an end molding is used to create a final finished edge on one material, rather than transition to another.

Transition strip between laminate flooring and carpet.
Source: Schluter

T-Strip for Hard Surfaces

A T-strip is used to link any two hard surface flooring materials of the same height and uses a special sealant. The vertical portion of the T is forced into the gap and is bonded with the sealant/adhesive. This top T portion fits snug against the surface of both flooring materials.

Source: Schluter

Tile to Laminate Transition

This transition strip is used for joining laminate flooring to tile floor. Tile floor is usually higher than laminate flooring, therefore this transition strip features a molding with offset edges to accommodate the different heights. The strips can be made from unfinished hardwood and can be stained any colour to match your laminate floors or in other cases a standard size is available from the laminate supplier to match the flooring. There are also a variety of Schluter tile edges available that may be used to create the transition to a different height. 

Source: Schluter

Wood to Wood Seam Binder

Typically referred to as “seam binders” they are flat strips of hardwood with beveled edges. It is used to bridge floors of equal heights. It is installed over the seam and is attached to the subfloor with screws. It is not screwed into either floor, which allows the floor to contract and expand without cracking the transition strip.

These transition strips are also available in different widths (typically 5 inches) and come unfinished so it can be stained to match your flooring.

Vinyl to Tile Transition

This transition is much like the tile to laminate transition strip. It is made from hardwood and is used to create a smooth transition from a vinyl floor to a thicker tile floor. If a vinyl reducer is being used, a metal channel is anchored to the subfloor, the top strip is then snapped into the channel to cover the floor seams. A hardwood strip can be used and it can be stained or painted to match your floors or a Schluter tile edge can be installed with the tile to create the transition down to the vinyl flooring.

Source: Schluter

Carpet Edge Gripper

This is an aluminum strip that holds the edge of the carpet with metal teeth and is used to join carpet with any flooring surface that is thinner than the carpet. It is tacked to the subfloor and the carpet is forced into the toothed side of the strip. This is commonly known as naplock and is available in several color options.

It is recommended to discuss, with your flooring sales person, the various options available for your specific flooring application, as aesthetics will play a roll in what best suits each particular scenario.

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