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As a child I walked a lot with my head hung low, looking at the ground beneath me watching every step I took, being sure to not step on a crack because, of course, that would break my mother’s back! As a flooring guy I still spend a lot of time with my head down, looking at every floor I walk over, wherever I go. I can’t help myself; I critique every substrate I cross watching the endless combinations of flooring and how they transition from one type of floor to another. The majority of you reading this do the very same thing; sure you do and that’s ok. It means you’re paying attention; life has tripped you up so many times that you are trained to be cautious of that dreaded next step!

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So let’s define a transition; the termination of one type of floor covering and the beginning/start of another! That was easy, right? Well I’m here to tell you that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Tap-down, track type transitions were designed to allow removal (at any time after installation) and re-installation when new or replacement adjacent flooring was installed. The perceived advantage is not having to re-adhere a new track or fastening base for the transition. Perception has been said to be 99% reality. And this is also true in the real world of floor coverings. If the base/track for this system is not installed properly to begin with, the system will not be reusable. How many times have you pulled out an existing/installed T molding stick and the track came with it? Probably more often than not!

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All manufacturers state that both moldings and adhesives must be site conditioned at room temperatures for 24 hours prior to, during and after installation. Room temperature must be maintained between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Ok so not only should I acclimate the flooring but the transitions as well. Sounds easy enough, but can you remember when you actually had the time to do this? Hell, most of the time just getting the finished goods to the jobsite the day of installation is hard enough much less dropping them all off the day before! In most cases you’re short the right color or profile need to finish the job! So what happens? You come back the next day and finish the job by installing the transition. It is the last thing you do before you load the tools back in the van.

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Here is a short selection of photos that show some of the most common problems we all see beneath our feet! Photo 1 is a small doorway transition with a line running the length of the stick! What causes the line and what should have been done differently? “You Make the Call.”

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Photo 2 is a close-up showing the stress line in the middle of the molding; if allowed to wear further this line will eventually crack and presents an even worse tripping hazard. Photo 3 is one edge at the door jam that the installer overcrowded the vinyl when installed, which is evident by the pucker/bulge in the molding.

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Photos 4 and 5 show more of what is going on underneath the molding. The profile or shape of the transition molding is the wrong size! It is about 3/8-inch too high! This gap can only hide/harbor debris and makes a great tripping edge to catch the thin-soled toe edge of unsuspecting patrons.

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Photo 6 is both aesthetically and functionally incorrectly installed. If given a choice I would put the fill piece in longer and take a little off the first stick I installed. Also why are there so many gaps in vinyl transitions? Because of improper installation. Take one hot van with a tube of top cap sitting in it all day (because it gets in the way in the building) tap it in hot (away from the starting spot), cut it to fit and presto change-o in a few days (or less) you have what George Costanza calls shrinkage!

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Photos  7, 8, 9 and 10 are same situation, shrinkage. All of the gaps you see are on one job. The only juncture I found without a gap was this one, as shown in Photo  11. But I’m not sure what looks worse: the gap or the fit of one stick to the other! Remember geometry? Yes I too forgot most of it but for me and everyone else who forgot, here is the term to remember, bisect the angle. It’s easy to remember and easy to do. Split the angle you are given to work with evenly right down the middle and this gives you the proper cuts for both sides. Finish carpenters who do crown molding and quarter round are experts at this. They do profile cuts and trace cuts that look mitered.

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Here are a couple of good hints in a pinch for those problem T-moldings. Glue down seam sealer can help when installing in a track to fat for your molding. Running a bead along the opening of the track may help hold it in but nothing beats new track and cap! Also cut your (acclimated) moldings longer, about ¼-inch, and install both ends (about 6-8 inches each), then cut the difference between each and install another 8 inches, being mindful to angle the rubber mallet back towards the ends in an effort to crowd, not stretch the vinyl.

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Any idea why they use vinyl? Because it expands and contracts like a banshee? No, because it wears like nothing else and it’s easy to extrude into any shape. I must say that I found Johnsonite’s Web page to be the easiest and most helpful when double-checking my understanding out of the other three that I visited. I have more, but have run out of space; we will re-visit this topic again for more information and knowledge. Thanks again for reading, and have a great day!