Hardwood Medallions & Borders
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 hardwood 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. The thickness of the veneer should not be a deciding factor in making the choice of which one to choose if one is familiar with how traditional 3/4″ tongue and groove floors are milled. More traditional 3/4″ type hardwoods have a wear layer or usable surface area only above the tongue and groove. Once any floor sanding reaches that area (1/4″ deep) the floor needs to be replaced as the nails or staples used to fasten the floor will begin to appear.
Where Are Medallions & Borders Installed?
Medallion designs usually become the main focal point when entering a home. However, leave it to anyone’s imagination, medallions 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 hardwood flooring throughout the home.
How & When Are Designs Installed Into Floors?
Most medallion manufacturers ship templates or guides used to help install a pattern. Exceptions include some designs over 48″ in diameter. For others a swing arm method 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 hardwood 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. On the other hand, 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) we considered this work an unfriendly do it yourself project. However, after several wrote to us showing off their work we’ve changed our opinion, providing you are familiar with power tools and especially the router.
Prefinished or Unfinished? Are They Stained?
Many medallions and borders today have the option of arriving prefinished. However, the majority come unfinished only. All 3/4″ medallions will require very light sanding. All finer quality medallions and borders are natural hardwoods and not stained. If you’re seeking colors out of the realm in hardwood floor species in the likes of green, red, and blue, impregnated hardwoods can be utilized, but not all manufacturers offer such; exceptions being large custom orders.
How Does One Finish An Unfinished Medallion?
Unfinished medallions typically arrive with a very smooth uniform surface. All irregularities have already been sanded out prior to shipping. It’s best to install after your unfinished floor has gone through rough, medium, and finer cut sanding. Without doing so and using a heavy grit across the designs, machine sanding markings will be extremely hard to feather out as the hardwood pieces that make up the design are not aligned with attention to which way the grain runs.
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. Border Lengths Depending on the manufacturer, most prefabricated border designs are produced in three to four foot lengths.