Hardwood Floor Medallions
Hardwood floor medallions and borders graced only the homes of the elite and industrial barons years ago when they were handcrafted on site without the use of power tools. Since, times have changed bringing down the costs along with it. These types of additions can add substantially to the resale value of a home, not to mention the personal satisfaction of having something different.
Most common medallions and borders are manufactured similar to engineered wood floors when considering a 3/4" thickness. The top layer or veneer is approximately 5/16" in thickness. The underlying makeup is generally high grade Baltic birch plywood. Both veneer and ply is glued and attached under intense pressure. Design pieces themselves are made up from a few individual pieces into hundreds (mosaic) depending on which type of design you're seeking. Custom designs are always an option.
Where Are They Installed?
Medallions usually become the main focal point when entering a home. However, leave it to anyone's imagination, as they can be used virtually anywhere. Borders on the other hand, usually define a room or area. Some border designs highlight areas or warp around the perimeter of wood floors throughout the home.
How & When Are Designs Installed Into Floors?
Most manufacturers ship templates or guides used to help install a pattern. Exceptions include designs over 48" in diameter. For others, a swing arm jig is used. Borders on the other hand are best installed working off the design. All methods are discussed on additional pages.
Designs are typically installed when new floors are being laid. For geometric or straight cut types, the medallion is often set first then the installer works off the design in different directions. Moreover, circular designs or radiuses are cut out and installed after the floor has been laid, while keeping a keen eye on where fasteners have been used to install the hardwood.
This kind of work requires planning and patience. When this article was originally written (2003) I considered this work an unfriendly do it yourself project. However, after several wrote to me showing off their work I've changed my opinion, providing you are familiar with power tools and especially the router.
Prefinished or Unfinished? Are They Stained?
Many products today have the option of arriving prefinished. However, the majority come unfinished only. All 3/4" medallions will require verylight sanding. All finer quality medallions and borders are natural hardwoods and not stained.
If you're seeking colors out of the realm in wood floor species in the likes of green, red, and blue, impregnated hardwoods can be utilized, but not all manufacturers offer such; exceptions being custom orders.
Can I Buy Thinner Medallions For My Engineered Floor?
Yes, all manufacturers can produce medallions or borders down to approximately 3/8" thickness, but they will generally be unfinished only. Any experienced floor finisher can finish the project with a sheen level that matches your prefinished floor.
Depending on the manufacturer, most prefabricated border designs are produced in three to four foot lengths.
How Are They Made?
Contrary to what some think, most designs are made entirely piece by piece. None are stained and today all individual pieces are cut either by CNC laser or CNC routing machines, with the exception of some simpler designs that can be made on the jobsite. My preference of tool is the CNC router, as lasers have a tendency to show minuscule burning on the edges of lighter species.
What does CNC stand for? CNC is the acronym for computer numerical control. By way of explanation, a design is programmed into a computer. With the click of a mouse, the whole system performs its automated cutting of patterns. I first saw the routing system through a cabinet maker friend in the early 90's and exclaimed..."I gotta get me one of these gadgets!"
I've only had the chance to see how medallions are made by laser but look for the opportunity to see how they are done by a router system. The photo above was provided by friends in the Ukraine showing a portion of the CNC routing process. Assembly can be seen in another photo towards the bottom of this page. Such small pieces, yet incredibly precise.
The next image shows how delicate pieces can be until they are assembled into the pattern. The outer band in this design are the pieces being cut out in the photo above. Made from natural Wenge, an African hardwood, you can barely make out the seams in the photo. The directional letters in this compass design is what caught my eye especially. Shown is one inserted and another set aside for the next one to be constructed.
Finally once all the pieces are assembled, the medallion is placed in a vacuum with a backer board applied with adhesive.