Tag Archive for: installation

Replacing the flooring in a house is always a big decision — it can be expensive and there are almost endless flooring material choices. When it comes to hardwood flooring, you also have the question of what size and color of planks to buy and what wood pattern to use when installing the floor.

Things get really tricky if you only want to replace the flooring in some of the rooms at one time, or if you only want to replace a section of flooring.

Sometimes an accident, like a kitchen flood, can necessitate replacing at least part of a floor. If you can’t match the same wood flooring exactly, you might wonder if putting two different wood floors next to each other will look okay.

If you’re thinking about installing two different hardwoods next to each other, this article will help you find the techniques you need to make it look intentional.

two wood floors with concrete brick transition

Can You Put Two Different Wood Floors Next to Each Other?

The simple answer to this question is yes, but you need to do it right.

If you simply install two different sizes or stain colors of hardwood flooring next to each other, with the planks running the same direction and little or no transition, it will look terrible. The mismatch suggests that you could not afford to replace the whole floor at one time.

If you’re going to place one type of wood floor next to a different type, you need to include some special design choices to make the transition look like a real transition, not just an accident.

For example, transitions should happen in a doorway, not the middle of the room. If you can’t make this happen, it’s even more important to include elements like a border to help offset the difference in woods.

Do All the Wood Floors in a House Need to Match?

It’s definitely not a rule that all the hardwood floors in a house have to match.

While it’s beautiful when you can make it happen, sometimes it just isn’t practical. It can be a huge investment to install a whole house of hardwood at one time. And some rooms look better with different floor colors or patterns, even within the same house.

The key is that you manage the transition between wood floors nicely. The easiest solution is to keep different hardwood floors separated by a section of carpet or another flooring material. If this doesn’t work for your design, then the advice in this article can help make the transition look beautiful and intentional.

How to Transition From One Wood Floor to Another

There are a few great design techniques you can use to make the transition between two wood floors look a lot more natural. You might have to adjust them depending on whether you are installing both wood floors or if you are placing a new flooring next to an existing section. Check out the following ideas to see which might work best for you.

Keep in mind that the best solution for your space might be a combination of two or more approaches listed below.

Use T-Molding

T-molding is a great tool for blending different wood floors, and it’s probably the easiest technique of all. It doesn’t always look great, but it can do the trick, especially in a natural transition like a doorway.

Wood floor T-moldings are shaped like a T, with the thicker stem piece attaching to the subfloor and a thin, rounded top piece designed to cover the transition between two different floors. They work best on floors of the same height but create a very gentle transition both visually and underfoot.

This is the most basic technique to separate two floors. It only requires laying the flooring with a gap of about 1 inch, cutting the T-molding to size, and attaching it to the floor.

When you buy new wood flooring, you can usually pick up matching T-molding at the same time.

Use a Seam Binder or Transition Strip

A transition strip is like using only the top of a piece of T-molding. It’s a thin, rounded piece of wood material that you can nail down across a wood flooring seam to “bind” the two areas together.

It’s one of the simplest options, but it has the potential to look tacked-on. It’s good in a pinch because it will still blend the two flooring materials more smoothly than a natural joint, but it’s not the best.

Use a Thin Metal Transition

The wooden transition pieces discussed above are classic solutions, but in recent years metal transitions have become very popular. Most metal transitions are very narrow (1/8th of an inch), but their straight lines and shiny appearance make for an attractive joint between floors.

Metal transitions give a contemporary look to a room and can also be very smooth to step on. If you want a modern look, and you are sure that your two wood floor stains will go well with the metal color, this might be a great option for you.

Like the techniques before, this one is not too hard to achieve. You only need to leave a thin gap between floors and mount the metal transition strip between them using the right adhesive.

Install a Threshold Piece

A threshold looks like a flat, rectangular block about the thickness of hardwood flooring. It doesn’t have tongues like a regular hardwood plank and it may come in other materials such as stone or marble. They are usually several inches wide.

A threshold is designed to be placed in a doorway between two different types of flooring. It can be quite an attractive option because of its larger surface. If you choose a threshold made of a nice wood or stone, it can really shine.

Plus, it’s easy to install. Simply order a precut length that is nearest to your transition area, cut it to size if necessary, and install the threshold in between your two flooring materials.

Transition Between Floors of Different Heights

Sometimes you will end up with floors of different thickness, or built on different levels. There are a few solutions you can choose, depending on how high the difference is.

A difference of less than an inch may be solved with transition pieces that are kind of similar to T-molding discussed above. You may need molding with a square nose or an angled nose, instead. These wood detail pieces can bridge the transition nicely.

If the difference in floor height is several inches or more, then you want to start looking into options that would be used on a staircase. There are stair nose pieces that create a rounded edge on the higher floor, which is laid over a piece of wood flooring standing vertically against the face of the step. You can apply staircase flooring principles to many steps of offset floor height to create a beautiful and smooth transition.

Lay One Floor With a Border

One way to create an intentional-looking transition between floors without buying any special pieces is to lay one floor with a border. This can actually come out looking great in a room.

Simply lay a square of hardwood one or two planks wide (no wider) around the outside of one wood floor area. Then you can lay the flooring inside that square and it will appear more offset from the other flooring.

This technique depends on a nice smooth edge on both floors since you will jamb the flooring materials right up against one another. If you are putting a new wood floor next to an old one that had its rough edges hidden under a transition piece, you may need to cut the old floor off by about 1 inch to create a new, clean edge to receive the border of the new floor.

Lay the Two Floors in Different Patterns

If your first floor is installed with a typical vertical or horizontal layout (parallel to one of the walls in the room), you can set the second floor off by installing it with a very different pattern.

Some hardwood floor layout options include herringbone, diagonal, or parquet. Each of these will look like a completely different flooring material, even though they are really just layout techniques.

two wood floors transition

It’s usually best to combine this approach with the border technique mentioned above.

If you think this might work for your space, check out our article on choosing a hardwood floor pattern.

Tips for Transitioning Between Two Hardwood Floors

In addition to the more detailed techniques we’ve covered, you should keep the following tips in mind to make sure your wood floor transition comes out looking like you planned it.

Choose Contrasting Colors

There may be some exceptions to this rule, but you will usually have the best-finished product if you keep adjacent wood floors at a high level of color contrast. This means that you shouldn’t have two light-colored floors next to each other, but rather you should choose a dark, complementary color for the second flooring material.

Colors that are too close together can suggest that you couldn’t afford to match all the flooring or put it in at the same time, or can even just look like a mistake.

If you can, it’s better to pick two materials that aren’t so similar. If you really want the floors to match, you can get a flooring professional to try and match the original wood and stain for you.

Think About the Room Size

You should always think about the qualities of your rooms before you choose flooring. If you have a smaller room and you place very dark flooring in it (or if you paint the walls a very dark color), it can make it feel smaller and more closed-in. On the other hand, lighter wood floors can brighten up a small room and make it feel bigger. In big rooms, this effect isn’t so dramatic, so you can get away with more colors.

Is your room big or small? How much natural light is in it? Could you choose a certain color or type of wood to enhance the room? Think about these questions when you choose to transition between floors.

Consider Other Flooring Types

If you’ve thought about these methods and tips and none of them seem right for your room, maybe it’s time to think about other flooring types, such as tile or vinyl. You can apply some of the same principles to create a transition, but you might not have to worry about contrast or layout as much.

It can be a tricky balance to install two wood floors next to each other and make them work naturally. If another material is right for your space, go for it!

Installing a hardwood floor is all about protecting your investment with good techniques.

No matter how nice of hardwood material you buy, even a simple mistake installing the floor can throw off the beautiful, seamless look of a new hardwood floor.

The easiest way to make your new floor look more professional is to do a great job staggering the wooden planks. If you do this right, the flooring will appear as one beautiful surface from wall to wall. If you mess it up, you will create patterns that are impossible to overlook and leave an amateurish feeling in the room.

You want your expensive hardwood floor to look as warm and natural when it’s in your room as it did when you picked it out from a website or catalog. The best way to do this is by following the steps in this guide to nail a carefully randomized installation that will let the beauty of your new floor shine.

Stagger Flooring for Strength and Stability

Laying your hardwood floor with good staggering technique makes a more beautiful floor, but did you know that it’s also essential for the strength of the floor?

Hardwood floors are like a puzzle of interlocked wooden pieces. They need to be strong enough to walk on and to hold heavy furniture. Proper staggering helps to dissipate this weight across all of the nearby boards.

Wood flooring is also known to expand and contract slightly as temperature and humidity change. It’s like a living material. If you have weak staggering patterns in your floor, it’s more likely that your floor will buckle when this expansion occurs, creating unattractive gaps in your floor, or worse.

Staggering your wood planks properly is what makes the floor strong. It’s similar to how a brick wall is built: the bricklayer doesn’t stack bricks in tall columns that can fall over. Instead, the bricks overlap to create one strong wall.

You may also want to check our guide on acclimating hardwood flooring correctly.

Overlap Wood Floor Planks by at Least 6 Inches

The basic rule to remember for creating a strong stagger is that all planks should overlap by 6 inches or more.

This means that the short joint between planks should be at least 6 inches away from the nearest joint in any adjacent row.

This type of stagger will lock the flooring tightly together. This is especially important on the first 2-3 rows of wood flooring that you lay because these will create a strong base as you lay the following rows.

This is also the first step to creating a stagger that looks good. Parallel seams within a few inches of each other will be very obvious when you look at the finished floor.

Avoid Creating a Patterned Appearance

We always recommend a randomized installation of hardwood floors because it creates a floor that looks seamless and draws attention to the natural color and grain of the wood, rather than the joints.

patterned wood floor installation

Some installers and DIYers choose a rigid, patterned look, but they can appear amateurish and distract from your wood floor’s natural beauty. Here are the common patterns that you should avoid:

Stair-Step Pattern

We recommend avoiding this pattern when you are laying the stagger for a hardwood floor.

You can create a stair-step pattern on the floor if you are using boards of the same length and you offset each row by the same length. For example, staggering the joints in each new row to be 6 inches to the left of the joint in the previous row.

This will create a diagonal pattern of joints across the room. If you crave an orderly, patterned look, you may choose the stair-step technique. Just know that you are choosing to emphasize the joints in the floor over the more subtle beauty of the flooring itself.

“H” Pattern

The “H” pattern is another one to avoid.

This pattern forms if you use planks that are all the same length and you offset each row by half of one plank. This makes the seams line up on every 2nd row of flooring, so you can easily see two columns of alternating joints that line up across the room.

This is another pattern that is obvious to the eye and will take the focus right off of your gorgeous flooring with its natural patterns and color. All you will see is the pattern of short joint lines. Again, it’s a fine option if you prefer the orderly appearance, but the best recommendation is to randomize your layout so that the joints disappear and the wood itself is the focal point.

avoid h joints

How to Randomize a Wood Floor Layout

While the ideal appearance for a hardwood floor is a completely randomized installation, that doesn’t mean that you can achieve this look by chance. It takes a lot of patience and planning to make sure that every row is unlike those around it.

If you just install the boards one by one as they come out of the box, you will likely create patterns by accident.

This section will show how to lay out hardwood planks ahead of time in a process called “racking.” You will choose planks and lay them out next to each other on the floor to see how they look, before locking the tongues or gluing them down. Racking a floor is great because it lets you experiment and make changes.

Once you’re satisfied with the layout, you can just move your racked rows slightly out of the way and install them using whatever method your flooring requires.

Not all hardwood products are the same. Some materials come with boards of all the same length. Others include 3 or more lengths of board inside the cartons. Each has its own challenges to randomizing your layout and avoiding a patterned stagger.

Randomizing Hardwood Flooring of Varied Length

To prepare yourself for racking a beautiful, random installation, first lay out the wood planks in stacks of matching size. Create stacks of 5-10 of each size a few feet in front of your first row.

Always mix wood pieces from different cartons as you make your stacks. This is because one package can have significant color differences from another carton. If you just lay wood from one carton at a time, you can end up with all dark pieces on one end of the room and all light pieces on the other end.

Once you have the stacks sorted, start racking your first row by choosing a variety of lengths and laying them out end-to-end.

When you create the following rows, pay attention to the joints in the row behind it. Make sure there is always an overlap of at least 6 inches in between joints on adjacent rows. Remember that this is especially important on the first 3-4 rows you lay out because they will create a strong foundation for the rest of the floor.

Once you rack 3-4 rows, stand up and look at them from a distance. Are there any obvious stair step or “H” patterns, or any joints too close together? Now is the time to rack a different combination of planks to remedy the problem.

When you are satisfied that the several rows you have racked to install create a random stagger pattern with at least 6 inches of overlap on all joints, you are ready to install them!

Randomizing Hardwood Flooring of the Same Length

Begin laying out your flooring for the racking process by opening several cartons of wood and creating stacks across the room just in front of where you will lay your first few rows. This will make them easy to reach as you lay them out. Stack 5-10 planks in each pile.

Always mix planks from several different cartons because the color of the material can vary from box to box. Pulling planks from multiple boxes will spread out the wood from each carton and hide any color differences.

If your hardwood is all the same length, you need to cut your starting end piece on each row to be different from the piece that started the previous row.

As long as your starting board overlaps the adjacent joint by at least 6 inches, the stagger will continue across the whole row.

The fastest way to create a good stagger when working with boards of the same length is to take 4-5 planks out to the chop saw and cut each board to a different length. You can use these cut ends to start several rows at once. You can trim the unused cutoff ends to complete the rows on the wall opposite your starting boards.

When you make your starter cuts and rack 3-4 rows by laying them out on the floor, stand up and look at the flooring from a distance. Are there any joints that are too close together? Are there any stair-step patterns or H-patterns in the rows you racked for installation? If so, choose a longer or shorter starting piece to offset the joints in the row.

Always remember to keep at least a 6-inch overlap between seams for stability and appearance.

When you have created a good, randomized stagger across several rows, you can install the boards you racked and repeat this whole process for the following rows.

As you plan for a new hardwood floor, you have a lot of choices to make. From the species of wood to the color of stain, there are endless possibilities. Some homeowners overlook one of the most important aspects, which is choosing the proper direction to lay hardwood flooring.

This guide will help you understand the various options for hardwood flooring layout design and choose which one is best for your room. With the right layout, you can accentuate nice features in your room or hide the parts you aren’t so fond of. The right flooring pattern has the potential to seriously upgrade your home’s visual appeal.

Types of Hardwood Flooring Patterns

There are several common options that you may choose from when planning your hardwood flooring. They vary in difficulty and some methods work better in certain rooms than other methods do.

Keep in mind that a skilled installer can combine two or more patterns, such as by placing a straight border around a herringbone floor. Here are six of the most timeless patterns:

1. Vertical Pattern

The first two methods, vertical and horizontal, are somewhat relative to the room. But you can think of vertical as laying the boards parallel to your line of sight as you look into the room from the main entrance.

A vertical pattern should be one of the most natural ways to install your floor. The long lines created by the floorboards should align with your sight as you look toward the back of the room. It works great in most rooms, especially those that are deeper than they are wide. A vertical pattern is also easy to install, even as a DIY project. 

vertical pattern wood flooring

2. Horizontal Pattern

Again, horizontal vs. vertical installations are somewhat relative to the room, but horizontal floors usually appear to run perpendicular to your line of sight as you look into the room from the entrance.

The horizontal pattern is natural and easy to install, just like the vertical pattern. You should choose horizontal for rooms that are not deep from the entrance to the back wall. This pattern will draw your eye from sidewall to sidewall instead of front to back, balancing the shape of the room.

horiontal pattern wood flooring

3. Diagonal Pattern

Like the first two patterns, this one lays all the boards parallel to one another. The difference is that instead of running the boards parallel to either wall, they are cut and installed at a 45-degree angle relative to the walls.

This flooring style is a little more visually interesting than vertical or horizontal patterns. It can be a good option in odd-shaped rooms. It will also work magic in a large installation that goes through doorways into multiple rooms. It’s hard to choose between vertical and horizontal installations if you are working in a hallway that opens into multiple rooms, because the pattern that works in the hallway may look bad in the rooms.

A 45-degree diagonal installation, on the other hand, will look great in both narrow hallways and rooms of any shape. The drawback is that they become much more difficult to install than the first two patterns. You will have to be especially careful on measuring and cutting your 3-4 starter from the corner to make sure you get the angles just right.

4. Herringbone Pattern

This flooring pattern brings a look of extra luxury to your hardwood floor. Two boards are laid next to each other at a 45-degree angle to form a V shape. Pairs of boards then lay parallel to continue the V shape throughout the room.

This flooring pattern is like the diagonal method because it will not draw attention to the shape of the room. Instead, for this pattern, the flooring itself will be the center of attention. A herringbone floor, while difficult to install, is one of the surest ways to add class to a room. This hardwood flooring direction does tend to create more waste because the cuts need to be more precise, so you will pay a little more for materials.

herringbone hardwood flooring

5. Parquet Pattern

The parquet method creates a checkerboard appearance on the floor. It is done by forming a square of planks of the same length and butting it against an identical square that is rotated 90 degrees. The alternating squares cover the whole surface of the floor, mixing both vertical and horizontal patterns.

Parquet ranges from small, 2-inch boards forming squares as small as 8 inches up to large squares (3 feet) made of wide planks.

Parquet is moderately difficult to install, though it is easier than the herringbone pattern. It can work well in almost any room, as long as you choose a corresponding size of parquet. For example, large squares for a large living room or small squares for a tight hallway.

parquet wood floors

6. Random Pattern

This pattern begins with the materials you buy. A random hardwood pattern uses boards of varying width to mix large and small rows. You can choose different ratios of large to small, or even use three different widths.

You can combine random installations with the other pattern listed above. It just takes extra planning to make sure that the rows of various sizes fit correctly with the rows around them. For that reason, random floors can be difficult to install well, especially if you are randomizing a pattern other than vertical or horizontal.

random pattern wood floors

How to Choose Which Direction to Lay Your Flooring

Here’s what to consider when picking a layout for your hardwood floors. Some of these ideas are about creating a strong structural floor while some are purely cosmetic. Your choice will depend on the shape and condition of your room, the look you are trying to achieve, and how much you are willing to spend.

Floor Joists

If you are installing hardwood over a wooden subfloor, one of the most important factors is the floor joists. Your hardwood planks should always run perpendicular (or at least diagonal) to the floor joists.

Over the years, floor joists can settle and move slightly. Hardwood floors need a stable, flat surface underneath them. If you lay hardwood in a vertical pattern parallel to the floor joists, the floor will buckle when the joists settle.

Room Shapes and Hallways

Very narrow rooms or hallways will usually look choppy if you lay the planks parallel to the shorter side of the room. Instead, you should run the hardwood pattern lengthwise down the hall or choose a diagonal pattern.

Connected rooms look best if you can run the wood the same way throughout the entire space, but this is not required. You can buy thin wooden transitions to separate the rooms where the flooring changes direction.

Straightness of Walls

If you are installing your hardwood in a vertical or horizontal pattern, it is important that the seams that run the length of the room appear visually straight. You may want to run the wood so that the planks are parallel to the straightest wall in the room. No house is perfectly square, but if yours is really funny, this might be a good factor to consider.

Usually, exterior walls are straighter than interior walls. You may base the installation off of an exterior wall to help achieve a nice straight-looking floor.

Features in the Room

Some rooms have that one piece that makes you say “wow.” Whether it’s a fireplace, a window, or another feature that captures your attention, you should lay your flooring to draw the eye toward it. Usually, the lengthy side of the planks creates leading lines to which you can align with the central feature.


You can always consider the sources of light when deciding which way hardwood flooring should run. Natural light will highlight the seams in your flooring pattern, so a room with a lot of natural lighting may benefit from a more intricate pattern. Or you may consider one large window to be a focal point in the room, and you may want to lay the flooring toward that window.