Installing Tile & Wood Floors Together
The pictures speak for themselves. Maybe you've seen designs in shopping malls, government offices, or fancy banks. The list goes on. Mixed media is a common term used in the flooring industry where wood floors are installed with tile or stone forming a unique design.
Any design is imaginable, using nearly any hardwood or stone that is known to man. My examples show several design ideas. To the right is a site finished Brazilian cherry with a graphite tile inset. This design also won an industry award through the National Wood Flooring Association. The work was performed by Scheller Hardwood Floors of Lemoyne, Pennsylvania.
Natural Stone And Hardwood
Natural stone and mixed media with hardwood are quite popular nowadays. Knowing how each one functions becomes another necessity for a successful installation that isn't pocked with problems down the road. Wood and water do not mix well, yet the components for an adjacent decorative surface such as stone and tile require water during the installation procedure.
Attention to detail is another important key. Hardwood should be installed last, but you're likely to hear disagreements on that issue. If our grid pattern above isn't perfectly square when our hardwood picket area is ready for installation, the entire design is compromised. It can continue, but it takes from the beauty of perfection. Tile and stone can have different vertical heights along with the hardwood chosen. Planning is important! Failure to plan carefully will just end up looking like a botched amateur job. The importance in obtaining the same finished vertical height of both floor coverings is critical.
Bamboo Inset Into Stone Floor
Designs are up to anyone's imagination. The one pictured below is a horizontal bamboo inset into a natural stone floor I handled personally on Marco Island, Florida back in the late 90‘s. The large design basically mirrored a design on the ceiling.
A design of that dimension which measured 14 feet across, required more than a little floor preparation and thought because the installation was handled by two separate companies. It turned out nicely, but planning and scheduling between myself and the stone setters could have been better.
Other forms of mixed media include stone medallions and borders. Many of these are preassembled and don't rely on the enemy of wood floors; water. They are generally glued into place during or after the hardwood installation once the design area is cut out. However planning once again is key.
The use of stone with wood flooring has been a design option that has been used for centuries. In this segment I will take a look at types involved and their installation methods. Because stone has different properties than wood, installation applications differ, specifically with allowing expansion spacing.
How Are Medallions Made? Thickness, Construction
Depending on the source, some medallions may be made specifically for inset into ceramic tile or stone where the overall thickness will be 3/8 of an inch. Depending on the size, some may be fully intact or arranged in sections for safer shipping. While this thickness is ideal for standard engineered floors that may be glued to concrete, we're left with another 3/8" if one desires to install over a wood sub floor system with 3/4 inch hardwood.
In the case of using solid floors with thinner medallions a concrete backer board is recommended. Some manufacturers like Oshkosh Designs out of Wisconsin offer thickness options for their designs if installing into floors from 3/8 up to ¾ inch. Essentially, a plywood backer board is attached to the design that can be pre grouted or not, leaving the final grouting and color selection up to the buyer on the jobsite.
Materials Used In Stone Medallions
By following some of the page links at the end of this section one can get a better idea of how medallions are installed. However, using these materials along with wood floors requires an expansion area. By not doing so, the natural expansion of hardwood against these materials are likely to cause cracking because of the force set forth. The force of moisture with wood and stone has been known for years. In fact it was a method used to split large sections of stone in ancient times.
For all installations with wood floors, expansion areas should be allowed or on the order of one quarter to 3/8 inch followed by filling with a silicone/latex grout.
Image Source: Oshkosh Designs (bottom)