Transitions made of metal.

Edge protection and transition profiles between hard and soft surface flooring are probably the last thing consumers consider important in having an installation performed, when in fact they are a vitally essential part of the installation process. The cosmetic difference – of significant importance to consumers – can be either flawless or a major disaster. Admittedly, the easiest type of transition to install is a piece of flat metal (either screwed or nailed into the substrate), bridging both surfaces. However, most consumers will find the look ugly, and they will want anything but that used.

Transitions made of rubber or vinyl.

The primary purpose of installing edge protection or transition profiles is to keep the edge of the hard surface (ceramic, hardwood, laminate, resilient, and others) from chipping, splintering, curling, etc. They also aid in preventing the backing of the carpet from delaminating or pulling loose and the carpet from fraying. Not only will the proper type of transition or edge protection help alleviate these problems, but the use of such will also help prevent a tripping hazard where the two surfaces join.

Numerous types of transitions for use between hard and soft surfaces exist. To choose the type best for a specific installation, both the hard and soft surfaces to be joined must be considered. These include reducers, flat, T-mold, square nose, Z-bar, and baby threshold, just to name a few of the more common. Likewise, these profiles can be constructed of a variety of materials, such as metal, wood, laminate, stone, ceramic, vinyl, rubber, etc.

Rubber or vinyl reducer molding transitioning from carpet to resilient.

Most transitions are installed with nails, screws or a particular type of adhesive. Both the transitions and the adhesives need to acclimate to the proper room conditions prior to installation. This is particularly true with vinyl and rubber. Manufacturers state that when vinyl and rubber transitions are properly acclimated, they will not shrink from their pre-installation size. On the other hand, it is not at all difficult to stretch them during installation, which can indeed create a real problem once they “return” to their original size. This is a difficult situation that installers should seek to avoid.

Rubber or vinyl reducer molding transitioning from ceramic to resilient.

Doing it right and doing it wrong

A year or so ago, I was talking shop with a floor covering installer after a training session. We were discussing how most installers are not paid by the hour or even by the job, but are instead paid by the square footage or square yardage installed. All usually agree that the more efficiently they work, the more money they can make. With that in mind, when an installer hears a good installation tip, it is indeed “like money in the bank.”

The installer with whom I was speaking considered the installation of the snap-in type of transition moldings a real pain. However, he told me that just a couple of days prior to our conversation, he had figured out a way to insert the rubber transition into aluminum tract in a fraction of the regular time required. He had just finished a large glue-down direct carpet job that had what seemed like miles of this type of transition, but stated that with his newly discovered method, he didn’t even have to get down on his hands and knees to tap it into the track with a rubber mallet.

He described how one of his workers got the end of the rubber strip started into the aluminum track. Next, he simply applied pressure using his 100-pound roller to lock it into place. He bragged about how his newfound system allowed him to install the transition as fast as he could push the roller. He suggested that I give it a try on my next job since it had worked so well for him.

After hearing his story and considering his tip, I told him that since he had just finished the job he probably hadn’t received the phone call yet – the one where the customer was wondering why there was a large gap approximately every 12 feet in the transitions. Suddenly realizing that his tip might not be so good, he decided it would be a good idea to go back and fix the problem before he got the phone call.

Rubber or vinyl “T” molding installed into an aluminum track base, transitioning from ceramic tile to carpet.

The point is, snap-in type moldings that are made of vinyl or rubber must be laid out flat during the acclimation period. Care must also be taken when installing this type of molding to eliminate the possibility of stretching the material. Important to remember is that the material will always return to its original size, resulting in gaps in the installation. To eliminate such gaps, the material should always be cut slightly larger than the opening. When installing the molding into the track base, be sure to use a rubber mallet to lock it in on both ends before finishing. This also works well when installing several pieces in a row. Transferring the measurement of each section of molding onto the track base with a pencil may be quite helpful, as this will let the installer know if the molding is being stretched.

Incorrect installation of rubber or vinyl transition. The gap is caused by improper acclimation or stretching of the material during installation. After a period of time, the transition returns to its original size, resulting in a gap between the two sections of molding.

Now, for a couple helpful tips: Any time you have a hard surface that will be cleaned with water and that will be joined with a soft surface such as carpet, a bead of silicone placed under the lip of the molding (transition piece) will seal the molding directly to the floor and thus prevent the moisture from wicking into the carpet. Moisture such as this can over time create quite a problem if not prevented. This method will not work on a floating floor, as the transition would then restrict the movement required for this type of flooring.

Times do exist, however, when a transition piece need not be installed. It is possible to transition from carpet to a hard surface without the use of such if the heights of both surfaces are similar. In these situations, a bead of adhesive placed in the “gully” between the two can prevent the carpet from eventually pulling loose or fraying.