Dear James: I have always liked decorative inlaid hardwood flooring in older homes, but it is not used much today. I would like to install some in my dining floor. Can it be done in an existing floor? -- Kathy G.
Dear Kathy: Inlaid hardwood floors are actually more commonplace today than you might realize. The new computerized design and manufacturing methods have brought the cost of inlaid floors down to a reasonable level by reducing the labor cost component. A cost of about $30 per lineal foot is typical for an attractive, but narrow, trim strip.
Inlaid trim can be installed in an existing hardwood floor. To keep the overall cost down, have just some trim pieces installed, such as a small border or intermittent detail sections. If you install too much inlaid trim, it will be extremely expensive and may overpower any other decorative features or trim in your dining room.
Before you select the style and amount of inlaid trim, have the entire existing hardwood floor sanded and prepared for refinishing. This will give you a uniform surface to begin with when evaluating different inlaid patterns. It will also minimize the possibility of damaging the inlaid wood after it is installed before it receives the finishing top coat.
Another, much lower cost option, is to finish the entire sanded floor with polyurethane except for a narrow strip. You can use masking tape to block off the strip. Now apply a dark stain to the uncoated strip. Since this strip is not sealed with polyurethane, only it will absorb the stain.
If any stain gets on the already finished floor, it should wipe off the glossy polyurethane finish easily. Now finish the entire floor, including the darker trim strip, with two more coats of polyurethane.
If you are very competent at using a router, you can do the wood inlaying job yourself, but most homeowners have a professional flooring person install the inlaid wood trim for them. The inlaid piece of hardwood is only about one-quarter inch thick, so it does not allow much room for error and then finding the inlays do not fit. When doing it yourself, always just glue the inlays into place instead of nailing them.
When you are replacing all the hardwood or building a new home, check with the hardwood manufacturer for standard inlaid borders. These are sized to fit perfectly with their regular hardwood strips and planks. This is much less expensive than trying to fit an existing floor.
The inlaid borders are made of a solid backing of wood with a thin veneer of the attractive or exotic wood. The veneer is still thick enough though to be sanded and refinished several times over the life of a typical hardwood floor.
For rooms which are not going to covered with a carpet in the center or for foyers, adding a decorative medallion is very attractive. There are standard ones available or you can have one custom designed with a family crest, for example. The highest quality ones use all natural woods of various colors without stains. These are more durable.
Many hardwood flooring manufacturers have standard patterns from which to choose. Try these companies if you cannot find ones at a local shop: Oshkosh Floor Designs, (920) 582-9977; Koetter Woodworking, (812) 923-8875; and Rare Earth Hardwoods, (800) 968-0074.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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