Hardwood Floor Inlays
Hardwood Floor Inlays
My Aunt Clara is a nun. The convent she lives in is in a huge old mansion in an older part of Cincinnati. I believe the house was built in the 1870's or so. The oak staircase from the first to the second floor has a handrail that is 12 inches wide. It is a slide, not a safety device!
The parlor and dining room floors have an exquisite inlay pattern. I remember as a child visiting my aunt and marveling at the different patterns and the variety of colors in the wood. Ever since then I have been a big fan of hardwood inlays.
Not a Lost Art
Inlays were popular when labor was less expensive. Producing an inlay floor takes time, hand-eye coordination and patience. To do one by hand today would cost a king's ransom. New computer aided design combined with laser and precision mechanical cutting devices have made a huge difference in bringing the cost of the floors down and making sure that this craft does not die out.
You can buy affordable inlay patterns that will easily install with standard hardwood flooring. You can also buy thinner inlays that can be added to an existing hardwood floor. It is a product that will become more popular as more people realize it is available.
Medallions and Things
Borders are the inlay items that get lots of attention from people. But you can also buy medallion pieces that work well in an entrance hall or any other open space where you want to make a statement. They come in all sorts of styles, sizes and looks. One of my favorite medallions is one that actually looks like a staircase going down to the next level. Seriously, things like this are available!
Care and Installation
You care for inlay products just as you would any hardwood floor. The wood used to create them is similar in nature to standard flooring. The urethane used on the floor coats the inlay as well. All you need to do is vacuum dust from the floor on a regular basis and wash the floor with a lightly damp sponge or mop that has been moistened with a solution of white vinegar and warm water. That is an excellent hardwood floor care tip. NEVER use an oil soap product or anything else that leaves a film!
Inlay products can't be easily installed by a rookie or even a serious do-it-yourselfer, in my opinion. You need precision cutting tools and experience in dealing with inlays.
Some of the products that are intended to be used with existing flooring require high powered routers and special router bits and templates. Leave this type of work to the pros. Let them make the mistakes, not you!
Inlay products use amazing wood species. You can often find Brazilian Cherry, Santos Mahogany, Makore, Imbuia and Honduran Mahogany, Pink Ivory, Ebony, Wenge, Curly Maple, Quilted Maple and Bubinga. Strange names to be sure, but breathtaking beauty.
Fortunately it takes very little material to make inlay products. The exotic wood used is very rarely more than 5/16 inch thick. This is the amount of wood that is commonly 'above the tongue' in most hardwood floors. Once you sand down to the tongue, a floor is toast. The inlay people use less expensive woods beneath the inlays that are glued up to make a full thickness product.
Inlay products used in existing flooring is always glued into the pocket created by the precision router. You would never, ever want to face nail an inlay pattern! If your installer says he wants to drive a nail here or there, you better stop him!
Some of the inlay products are available for use in tables and other pieces of furniture. If you dabble in this craft, then call the manufacturers and see what they have in the furniture inlay line. You can really dress up a table with a medallion or a small border. They make the difference!
Inlaid Borders and Medallions
The following illustrations are courtesy of most, if not all, of the hardwood inlay manufacturers mentioned in this bulletin. Suffice it to say that the illustrations you see here are just a very tiny sampling of what is available. Prices for the different borders and medallions can range from several hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. If you are building a mansion, there are some incredible entrance hall medallions that will literally take your breath away when you see them. They are striking.
Fortunately, many of the simple borders are within financial reach of many of us. Although my wife and I went for a more expensive border for our family room, we could have picked a great one for an installed and finished price of less than $495.00. I urge you to visit a hardwood flooring store that sells these goods. Your trip will not be wasted. I guarantee that you will be amazed! At the very least, be sure to call the manufacturers and get as much free literature as possible.