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Installing Hardwood Floor Medallions - Video Series

Often many find our website when their hardwood flooring project is getting near. "Look honey, that would go great with the new floor." Often they think it's too late, the hardwood guy is coming next week.

See My Video Series - Part I Installation, Part II Finishing

The fears can be put to bed. If you happen to be one Aligning templatethat just had a wood floor installed and discovered the options today, it's never too late! This story shows how the same happened. New construction, one customer found us (when we sold medallions) and wanted to know if he could get one, specifically the Golfer 2 in one week. Unfortunately most of the product offered were made as they are ordered. The decision was made to install the floor and wait for the design to arrive.

USA Made hardwood floors

Using The Template

In most cases medallions are positioned in the entry way. Our progress shows the installer centering the template. It is then tacked on each corner with small finish nails to prevent movement when the cutting takes place. Don't be alarmed, finish nails will be removed and you cannot see the small holes once everything is complete. Other options include two sided tape.

This job was actually handled with the use of a Rotozip. As noted in my story about installation on concrete, theRemove pieces after rotozip procedure calls for taking it slow. Never try to complete the template cut out in one pass. Not only is it too much work for the tool being used, but the cutter blade itself cannot remove 3/4 of one inch in this case (the thickness of the floor).

Prep Work For Installing

The next step calls for removing the boards that are being replaced by the medallion. Personally I would have cut some starter areas inside the perimeter with a circular saw making it easier for removal. Leave the template in place when doing this work. You may find a few areas where the cutter didn't break all the way through the wood floor. When prying back, the template serves as a protective element.

The black stuff is common #15 asphalt felt paper many installers use as a moisture retarder when installing solid hardwood floors on a wood sub floor. This has to be removed along with the fasteners that were used to install the hardwood that sometimes remain in the subfloor on board removal. For many homes built prior to the mid nineties you will find cleat nails opposed to the crown staples that are more common today. Another reason for taking the cutting in several passes is locating staples or nails used in the actual installation. Small magnets can also help locate nails.

Don't Hit Those Nails!

Solid 3/4" fastened wood floors have one thing in common. Most are tongue and groove with the machining very alike. In other words, the tongue and groove are milled in approximately the same location on the side and end joints. What I am getting at is; once a nail or staple is fastened during the installation process it generally goes no deeper than 5/16" of one inch into the tongue side of the board. 5/16" represents the depth from the surface of the board. For older floors that have been refinished a few times the depth will be different.

After making that first pass you should be able to locate the fasteners. At this time we want to use a nail punch set or similar and set them into the sub floor so the cutter blade does not hit on remaining passes.

Type Of Adhesive

It is vital all debris be cleaned up prior to installing. Once the area is clean it's time to apply the adhesive. My preference is Bostiks Urethane adhesive but any premium urethane adhesive will do. Templates are precise, providing it did not shift during the cut out. Ordinarily there is no need to check for fit, but you could apply some very thin tape to a few perimeter areas to lift the medallion out. I don't recommend the idea because it may become too tightly wedged, with removal possibly causing damage.

Apply glue to sub floor
Final result after finishing
Applying glue before installation
Parade of Homes winner!

Installation On Concrete

Installation on concrete is far easier to do when the actual floor is being installed. In the set of photos to follow I had used our installation template to mark the area on the concrete where the design was going. Considering this was a glue down floor you don't want to cover the entire area before the design area is cutScribed line for medallion cut out out from the floor. Doing so will create a nightmarish problem trying to remove the boards.

Depending on the manufacturer, all have will different thickness templates. The one shown was 3/8" of one inch. The next step once the floor was installed and the adhesive had a chance to cure (24 hours minimum), is tacking the template to the floor with brad nails in the desired area. Templates must be secured firmly, otherwise once we get the router cranked up it could shift and ruin the whole project.

Lesson number one. Don't do as I did in the photo below. Actually I was doing the photos and did not like what was going on so I continued the rest of the router work. The photo example shows the collar (guides the cutter blade along the template) barely touching the template. Installations are quite easy, but if you fail to double check before you start plunging into the floor you could have a lot of repair work ahead of you; namely pulling out boards and replacing them.Router with medallion

Special NOTE

Designs should not be cut out in one single pass. In our case we made three passes around the template taking off a little under 3/16" of an inch at a time to play it safe. Incidentally, the floor is a select white oak unfinished 5/8" thick engineered plank.

More Special NOTES

Your subfloor has to be flat for this project to work. Thicker products do not bend well. It is also critical your new medallion not be stored in areas exposed to high humidity or reverse, prior to installing. Thinner products also have a tendency to warp if you do not install within a certain period of time. How long? This is unknown depending on your circumstances.

Once you do receive your medallion everybody wants to see it and you're likely to display it proudly. Once you have marveled over the workmanship, we recommend placing it back in the original packaging until it is time to install. It's also best to lay flat when Applying urethane gluestoring.

Next step is cleaning the area where the installation is to take place. If you've followed my advice on spreading the glue on the outside line of the pencil scribe, you may still get some glue squeeze over that line. In this case I adjusted the cutter blade depth on the router to where it was barely missing the concrete. It took off any remaining glue like a charm. For other contaminates or glue use a 4" flooring scraper, but be careful with those sharp blades! Finish by vacuuming.

Time to glue her up and drop that beauty into place!

It's also important to note all perimeter areas should be flush with the floor itself. This is very important with prefinished floors but not as critical with floors that will be finished. After dropping in the medallion, carefully walk on it to seat the adhesive. Don't worry, it will not move. The precision of the template makes for a seamless appearance. Neighbors, relatives, and your best buddy will be impressed with your expert workmanship! For added protection before the adhesive has a chance to cure, place weights on the perimeter area while making sure the medallion is flush with other areas around it.

Other Photos
Taking three passes
Insert medallion
Several passes with router
Inserting medallion
Before sanding floor
After finish is applied
Before final sanding
Final result

See Another Medallion Installed - Wood Sub Floor

Part I of a two part series. Our first video details installing a medallion along with a new inset of hardwood installed on a diagonal. Previously the area had been carpeted with hardwood on the perimeter.


Part II - Sanding, Preparation & Specialty Stain

Part two goes into sanding the medallion and the field from a first rough cut to final grit. A neutral stain is also applied to the medallion enhancing the exotic hardwoods in the design.


See a water based finish application mentioned in the video.

See staining floors also mentioned in the video.

Sanding The Bordered Area

This section shows and discusses how to sand the border area and outside existing hardwood along with the 45 degree field.

See floor filler - troweled, mentioned in the video above.

Video Transcript Part I

After the carpet and padding was removed the field or Video transcriptinset was installed. The next task was finding the center of the room. This room will also receive a six inch border so the crew installed the hardwood to a point where a few straight saw cuts can be made where the borders can be placed making it look like a seamless fit.

Let’s check in with Al and more thoughts about the job.

“What we have here is a pre-existing floor that has a large cut out area where they had a carpet inset in the middle. The customer chose a really nice medallion called Newport Harbor. The entire floor in the house is 2 ¼ inch select red oak, so we chose to fill that in with a 3 ¼ inch select red oak on a diagonal to add some contrast.”

Here Justin places the medallion on the pencil marks he laid out in the beginning. Once a satisfactory placement is achieved he places a template that comes with the medallion to be used as a guide that allows a precision cut where the medallion is then placed into the floor.

Tools of choice can be several for this next step. Some pros will use a router to make the cut out, while others a rotozip or in our case a palm router made by Bosch. Considering we’re cutting into a solid ¾ inch hardwood at least three passes around the template need to be done.

On completion of the cutting the template is removed along with the center cut out waste, then the area vacuumed and prepped for a dry fit of the medallion. To make matters easier Justin has taped the bottom of the medallion so it can be removed easily once they determine the cut out job is to their satisfaction.

The next step involves applying adhesive on the sub floor. In this case a tube of adhesive was supplied by the medallion manufacturer. Al gets the best coverage he can as shown here.

Simple guess what goes next. Al and Justin drop the medallion into the precut area, placing some weight on it to get what they call adhesive transfer between the medallion and sub floor. This manufacturer has a nifty way (shown) of making sure the medallion lays flat while the adhesive cures.

In four areas around the medallion, knockout areas are left loose where screws are driven into the sub floor allowing a tight grab and not having to depend on weighing the area down overnight until the adhesive dries. Once that’s accomplished the knockout areas are glued into place.

Part II

Once the medallion was placed and glued, the company waited one day to begin sanding after adding some filler around the medallion. Here a first rough cut is done with the drum sander with 36 grit paper to smooth out any vertical height variances

Moving along, another step involves drum sanding the diagonal area again with a finer grit paper while staying clear of the medallion that has been sanded with the edger and 100 grit paper.

To completely sand out any left over edging or drum sander marks, Justin goes over the entire area with a buffer and 100 grit mesh screen on the last sanding sequence prior to the stain and finish coats

Let’s check in with Al again on the remaining steps.

“We’re going to tape off the medallion so when we stain the medallion it doesn’t go over on to the field of the floor. The medallion is going to get stained a neutral color. A neutral color is just a clear stain that brings out the colors of the exotic woods. Then we’re going to stain the rest of the floor a golden oak color. When we get done staining the rest of the floor, we’ll apply three coats of a water based urethane called street shoe and that’ll be that.”

To keep the neutral stain process contained in the medallion area,Justin tapes around the perimeter so none of it bleeds or is accidentally wiped on in the diagonal area that will receive the golden oak stain. In the next few steps the neutral stain is applied evenly then wiped off; only in the medallion area.

Moving on to another day or once the stain dried properly a water based sealer coat is applied. More steps are continued to finely tune the finish on the medallion on still another day. First a maroon pad is applied that removes any rough surface feel in preparation for additional coats of finish.

Al and his team place a heavy emphasis on a clean surface prior to additional applications. Here Justin not only vacuums, but tacks the surface twice with a damp rag and cheese cloth.

As all required coats are completed for staining the field in the next step the tape is removed. Considering the medallion area now is very slick there’s no need for taping off the medallion as any stain that gets into the medallion area is simply wiped off.

Sanding The Bordered Areas

The procedures for sanding this prefabricated border run in three steps. First the finisher runs the drum machine on a 45 degree angle over the bordered area. The emphasis is flattening any vertical height differences from the new to the existing older floor.

In the next step, the rest of the existing floor is sanded with the grain while keeping aggressive sanding away from the border. It’s more of an easing or tapering effect the man behind the machine is performing. Barely noticeable you can see the drum lowered and raised near the center of the border

Once the existing area is rough sanded, he starts the tapering process on the inside of the border. You can hear the light pressure by the sound of the sand paper hitting the floor compared to the initial 45 degree sanding. This also creates shallower scratch marks making the border easier to sand with the edger in later steps.

After trowel filling the entire floor the edger is brought in to eliminate any deeper scratch marks left by the drum. In this step the finisher uses progressively finer grits until he reaches 100 grit, matching the grit progression used on the drum sander.

Once all areas are sanded to the same grit the buffer is called in while using a 100 grit wire mesh screen. What this does is blends all previous sanding patterns into one making it ready for the staining process.