Wood floors are durable and easy to
clean, and they never go out of style. If
they garner a few oohs and aahs along
the way, all the better. Here’s a recipe
for taking three shades of laminated
wood flooring and a few granite tiles to
create your own ooh-aah floor.
Even though it looks fancy, this is a
relatively straightforward project, especially
if you’ve laid a wood laminate
floor before. You’ll need a table saw to
rip the narrow floor strips, and a miter
saw for precise crosscuts. Most DIYers
can complete a medium-size floor like
this in a day. We’re not going to cover
all the steps of a normal floor installation
(there are a couple of articles elsewhere on
our Web site that can help you with
that). Instead, we’ll zero in on the oohaah
Figure A: Order of Assembly
Figure A: Order of Assembly
Cut and install the different elements of the floor in the order shown here.
Get your materials and get ready
We used tongue-and-groove engineered
wood flooring that was 3/8 in.
thick and 3 in. wide. It was the perfect
fit with our 12-in. granite tile since it
was the same thickness, and four of the
planks laid side by side were the same
width as the tile. This made installing
the border a cinch.
We chose three different shades of
flooring. It comes in random
lengths 5 ft. and shorter. Since you
have to order full boxes, and each box
contains about 25 sq. ft. of flooring,
you’ll probably wind up with extra
material, especially the flooring for the
accent strips. (If you have a closet that
needs new flooring, here’s your
chance.) This type and thickness of flooring is available in a wide range of styles and prices. Just be sure the flooring
you select is designed for gluedown
applications. This project won’t
work with floating floors or cushion-backed
After removing the old carpet, we
installed a layer of 1/4-in. lauan plywood.
It covered up the old subfloor,
which was full of nail holes, glue
residue and grime from previous floorings,
and provided a clean, flat, fresh
start for our glue-down floor.
There are five parts to the floor:
field, accent strips, border and perimeter,
all wood laminate, plus the tiles
(see Figure A). You can adjust the
size of any of them to fit your room and
tastes, but as you plan, keep these tips
This is the middle, and
largest, part of the floor. It will mimic
the shape of your room. The shade of
wood for this and the perimeter are the
same, making it the dominant color;
select it carefully. If your room is rectangular,
you can install the planks
either the long or the short way.
These are the floor’s
“racing stripes.” We cut two 1-1/4-in.-
wide accent strips from each 3-in.-
wide plank. When you rip them, don’t
remove the “tongue edge.” The tongue
will come in handy (Photo 5).
This consists of four dark-colored
planks sandwiched between
the accent strips. Four 3-in. planks
installed side by side are exactly the
same width as the tile (12 in.), meaning
we didn’t have to rip any of the
border planks to width. You can use
any size tile or flooring, but you may
wind up having to cut either the tile or
the flooring to fit.
This is the outer “frame.”
You want your perimeter to be equal in
width on all four sides of the room. We
made ours about 17 in. wide; slightly
wider than the border. If your room is
slightly out of square, use the perimeter,
where it will be least noticeable, to
absorb the difference.
The sky’s the limit here—as long
as the thickness is right. We found a
huge variety of 12-in. tiles in granite,
marble and ceramic, all of which had
the necessary 3/8-in. thickness. We borrowed
sample tiles and laid them out with our wood to pick the one we liked.
Photo 1: Establishing the Layout
Use short pieces of flooring and two tiles to lay out a sample stretch of floor. Your goal is a layout with full-width flooring boards for
the field and a border and perimeter of equal width around the room.
Start square and true
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Photo 2: Install guides
Screw down a straight 1x2 guide board, parallel to the wall,
to indicate the edge of the field. Install two more guide boards
the same distance from the walls, perpendicular to the first guide
board. (Use the 3-4-5 method to square them.) These last boards
must be exactly the same distance apart their entire length.
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Photo 3: Glue the field down
Lay the field. You'll probably use two or three boards butted
end to end for each row; stagger the ends of boards at least
6 in. from the previous row. Be exact! Don't force the guide boards
outward or leave gaps. Use a tapping block to protect board edges
as you install them.
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Photo 4: Bevel the ends
Use 180-grit sandpaper and a block to create a "micro bevel"
along the ends of the boards. This mimics the slight bevel
on the factory edges, gets rid of sharp edges and creates a more
uniform look. Do this to all the cut ends and edges of every board
and accent strip you install.
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Use a stain pen on the bevel so that it disappears.
You’ll need to do a little head scratching
to get the layout right, and the best
way to scratch is to use the tiles and
small pieces of the actual flooring you’ll
be installing. Temporarily lay out small
sections of the perimeter, accent strips
and border against two opposite walls.
Then lay down short sections of flooring
to fill in the gap or field. Adjust the
width of the perimeter so the field consists
of full-width planks.
Remove your perimeter, accent strip
and border sample pieces and screw a
guide board to the floor as a starting
point for the field (Photo 2). Install two
boards perpendicular to this to act as
width guides for the field. These boards
must be exactly parallel so the entire
floor will be straight and square.
Apply a 12-in.-wide swath of flooring
adhesive using a notched trowel
held 45 degrees to the floor. Spread
only as much adhesive as you can
cover in about 30 minutes. If the glue
starts skimming over, use the flat edge
of the trowel to scrape it up, then apply
Install the field flooring beginning at
the first guide board, working “tongue
out” (Photo 3). Immediately wipe up any
adhesive on the face of the flooring.
After installing the field, let the glue
set, remove the guide boards and then
use a sanding block with 180-grit paper
to slightly bevel the edges (Photo 4).
Note: It’s often easier to run your sanding
block along the edge or end of the
strip or flooring before it’s installed. Use a stain pen to stain this “micro bevel.”
Head for the border
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Photo 5: Fasten the first accent pieces
Install the first accent strip perpendicular to the field boards.
Use a notched trowel to butter the back of each strip with
adhesive, then use a few finish nails to hold the strips in place.
Keep a rag in your back pocket to immediately wipe up any
adhesive that gets on the surface.
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Photo 6: Fasten the next accent pieces
Set the second set of accent strips in place, allowing space
for the tile and short accent strips installed in the next step.
Cut and install the strips.
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Photo 7: Place the tiles
Install the short accent strips. The masking tape tabs on the
tiles allow you to easily remove them so you can permanently
adhere them in place when the project is finished.
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Photo 8: Lay the border
four rows of
that create the
border. The combined
needs to be identical
to the width
of the corner tiles.
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Photo 9: Place the outer accent pieces
Install them so
tongue of the last
Use a table saw to rip the accent strips.
On the strips where you leave the
tongue, move the table saw fence out
(to compensate for the tongue) so the
exposed part of the flooring plank is
1-1/4 in. Sand a micro bevel on these
cut edges as well.
Install the first accent strips tightly
against the cut ends of the field (Photo
5). “Butter” the back and use a few finish
nails to secure these strips in place.
When you’re done, fill these holes with
Next, install the accent strips along
the other two edges (Photo 6). These
strips should be long enough to accommodate
the tiles on the ends plus the
short accent strips installed in the next
step. Leave the tiles in place, but don’t
glue them down. Install the four short
accent strips (Photo 7) that run along the
edge of the tile. Again “butter” the
backs of the strips and hold them in
place with a few finish nails.
Install the four dark border boards on
each side (Photo 8). For the border to be
gap-free, the combined width of these
boards needs to be the same width as
the tiles. But since you planned way
ahead, this will come out perfect, right?
The outer accent strips are last. Miter
the corners and install the strips
“groove in” so the groove catches the
tongue of the outermost border boards
Frame your masterpiece
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Photo 10: Finish the perimeter
pieces herringbone-style in the
corners. Work in
and work your
way around the
room. Rip the
to width if necessary,
between it and
Installing the perimeter is your final
step. The best method is to use a herringbone
pattern in the corners, which
allows you to lock the ends together
using the tongues and grooves on the
ends of the planks. Install one row of
boards around the entire border, then
work in small staggered sections
around the room. Rip the outer board of
the frame to width so there’s a 1/2-in.
gap between it and the wall (Photo 10).
Keep furniture and heavy foot traffic
off the floor for 24 hours. Install the
baseboard and quarter-round moldings.
Press the quarter round tightly to the
floor as you install it, to eliminate gaps.
Finally, remove each tile, apply a
bead of clear silicone caulk and press
it firmly back into place. Then invite friends over to ooh and aah a little.