Is Transition Molding Needed?
You purchased a new click style floating floor for several rooms, you did not use transition molding. You wanted the floor to flow seamlessly between each room. The salesperson tells you, “We can install the floor without gaps and transition molding.” The installer tells you, “The installation instructions require expansion space in the doorways. We can cover the gap with a T-molding.” You say to the installer, “The salesman tells me I don’t need transition molding.” You decide to listen to the salesman who has been selling floors for the last 20 years. Will you experience problems? Time will tell!
A Few Months Later
A few months have passed and the flooring looks great. Suddenly the flooring starts to squeak. You put up with the squeaks and then one day you return home from vacation. The floor is no longer squeaking but you discover that your beautiful floating floor looks as if it is shrinking. There is a wide space along the wall, a gap through the middle of the living room, another gap in front of the office door and yet another in the hall. Your large living room has a very wide gap between the sides of the planks. The wide gap makes sense for a tiny amount of shrinkage over a 30′ span will be 3 times as great as that over a 10′ span.
You phone the dealer to voice your concern. The dealer blames the installer, the installer blames the manufacturer and the manufacturer blames you. Now is the time to call a company like the Weinheimer Group, get and independent inspection and evaluation and find out if the floor has shrunk or expansion gaps and transitions were actually needed.
Where Transition Molding is Used
For click style floating floors, most floor manufactures require an expansion gap around all walls, vertical objects and at doorways where the floor continues between rooms. They also require expansion gaps at kitchen islands or irregular shaped areas, such as T, L, F, H. Many manufacturers require additional expansion space for rooms over a certain size.
Transition molding and other styles of trim is used to cover the space left by the expansion gap. You may think that the manufacturer is only interested in selling more accessories. There is a logical reason for expansion gaps and you will want to cover them. To determine where the flooring manufacturer wants these expansion gaps placed, read the installation instructions of the manufacturer for the product you want installed. Read the remainder of this article to prevent a problem in the future.
Why Expansion Gaps are Required
As room temperature and relative humidity changes, laminate, wood, bamboo and even vinyl will expand (grow) and contract (shrink). During the heating season, with lower relative humidity the floor will contract (shrink). During summer months when relative humidity is higher, flooring is subject to expansion (growth).
By design, floating floor expands and contracts as a single unit. When unable to move as a unit, significant stress pulls the planks in different directions. Stress can cause annoying squeaks and the release of click joints. When joints release you are left with gaps between the planks or tiles.
A Floor Can Expand in Both Width and Length
Most gaps develop across the width of planks. The separation may be near a doorway, kitchen island or an area where the flooring changes direction. As the flooring pulls in different directions, it will often separate in the field of a hall or room.
The narrow ends of planks (butt Joint) may also start to pull apart. End gaps are narrow at first. The click joint disengages as gaps become wider. Expansion gaps and transitions would have prevented these separations. See Click Floating Floor Gaps for additional information.
I Still Don’t Want Transitions in Doorways
When you insist on your click flooring being installed without expansion gaps in doorways, remember the term “Caveat emptor” “let the buyer beware.” A flooring manufacturer writes their warranty not only to protect you but also them. If the installation instructions have an expansion gap requirement and none are found, the warranty is not going to protect you. If you insist on not having transitions you should select a different style of flooring.
Some floating floors have a glued joint option. While glued joints can pull apart, it is far less common than with click joints. If an end-user or decorator insist on the floating floor being installed without transitions in doorways, consider glued joints. Even then, “buyer beware” for the manufacturer may still have a requirement for expansion space and transition molding in the installation instructions. Trust your installer to lead you in the correct direction. You will usually need to pay a bit more for a knowledgeable installer. A wise installer will save you money over time.
Other options for eliminating transitions would include glue down or nail down floors. With these floors you will need to leave expansion space around walls while allowing the floor to flow seamlessly through doorways. To help you make a wise decision, listen to your flooring installer.
The Knowledgeable and Wise Installer
A knowledgeable and wise installer will also want to protect their own pocketbook. If the installation instructions require expansion gaps and you refuse them, a wise installer will have you sign a release for his or her own protection.
Some installers believe that they can prevent the planks from separating. They do this by leaving extra expansion space at walls and under door casings (jambs). They must first acclimate the flooring thoroughly and to the expected living conditions. Before, during and after the installation you must control the relative humidity and temperature within very tight, stable parameters. If you are lucky and the flooring gods are on your side, this may work. If not, you will end up with gaps. Correction of gaps is possible.
To correct gaps, the installer will need to join planks back together, make relief cuts in doorways and install transition molding. Sometimes repairing gaps, requires taking up and reinstalling all or a large part of the installation. Wouldn’t it have been easier to have had the T-molding installed in the first place?
Types of Transition Molding and Their Use
T-moldings: Used in doorways where the floating floor continues through or meets up with a different hard surface floor of similar height.
Overlap reducer: Unites a floating floor with a floor that is not as thick such as sheet vinyl or VCT.
End Caps lay over the edge of a floor and then drop straight down over the edge. Used where floor meets carpet, a fireplace, a sliding glass door or and exposed stop.
Quarter Round, installed against baseboard, toe kicks, and other fixed objects to cover an expansion gap.
Overlap Stair Nosing
Used on steps and landing areas where expansion area needed.