The certain look that metal transitions – be it stainless steel or aluminum – bring to a commercial project is becoming incredibly popular. Metal transitions for carpet, luxury vinyl, resilient flooring and luxury plank are all showing up in specifications more and more. Even with a finished manufacturer’s edge on carpet or carpet tiles, designers and architects like the finished look of the metal lip over the carpet, as well as the durable installation, offering a huge advantage in terms of longevity. Anodized aluminum floor profiles take more abuse, and we are starting to see metal transitions specified in schools and hospitals where carpet and vinyl are dominant.

Selection has opened the door to a range of possibilities. The varied designs and dimensions are so numerous that the contractor no longer has to pick a trim that is “close enough” for his or her application. Each project’s specific transition needs have an equally specific solution now. Examples of this show up in the many lines of carpet trims available on the market today. Not only are there various design options, but height options as well to accommodate hard or soft surface flooring next to carpet and vinyl – along with quite a few “reveal,” or lip dimensions, to cover the edge of either flooring or both sides of the application.

A typical transition of 1/4” or 3/8” tile or wood to carpet, whatever the thickness, can be solved using a 1/4” reveal, 11/32”, 3/8”, 7/16”, or even 1/2”.  If there is a prominent height difference, you can simply install a trim with a wider reveal and deeper slope to avoid having to flash the carpet up to make it work.

The two applications popping up with consistency in commercial construction are a carpet to vinyl (usually 1/4” to 1/8”), and a carpet to concrete (1/4” or 3/16” to 0”). Many times on a jobsite the carpet, even with a factory edge, has to be cut, so it makes sense to have a metal lip to prevent fraying. In the example of vinyl to carpet, having a lip on either side to protect both sides of the flooring is ideal. Soft surface flooring in commercial construction often sees quite a bit of foot traffic; protecting its edge will make the floor last longer, as well as giving it that desirable industrial look on the finish.

Carpet to concrete carries with it the same design element: a metal transition with a lip on one side to cover the edge of the carpet, but reducing all the way down to 0” instead of stopping at 1/8”. This product will also have to be compliant with ADA standards to be used in most, if not all, commercial projects. Contractors don’t usually like to have a large, bulky metal threshold in these applications, but the reality of heavy foot traffic – or in the case of a medical facility, wheelchairs or gurneys rolling over these transitions – means that something pretty substantial is necessary. All of these conditions can be met with the different metal transition products available on the market today, almost all of them compliant with ADA regulations.

“Anodized aluminum transitions in the floor adds to the design appeal and durability of any project, but you have to be able to be consistent with all your transitions,” said Peggy Heuler, president of Ceramic Tool Co., a manufacturer of metal trims and transitions, with 30 years of experience in the construction industry. “With a lot of the projects we supply these products to we have to consider what conditions are going to be paramount: ADA compliance, consistent finish, the ability to bend the metal to a particular design in the floor and protection for the edges of the flooring. This is, of course, in addition to the conditions of all construction jobs: lead time and pricing.”

Rubber floor transitions have the ability to bend in an application calling for a reducer, and they have a wide color selection; while you will never get a metal reducer to bend in a circle, many metal carpet trims are easily bent, which opens a door most contractors don’t know about or have no experience with previously. Metal transition manufacturers have also broadened their horizons with color, using powder coating, anodizing and special paint. Stainless steel or the look of stainless is the most desirable, but the anodizing process offers a range of colors from champagne to antique bronze, to matte black. Color coating offers white, gray, and other colors that need a non-metal looking finish.

All of these applications illustrate the evolution of metal transitions as a great choice for any flooring type, instead of sticking primarily to hard surface applications. Metal transitions have followed the emergence and progression of higher-quality soft surfaces, luxury vinyl and plank flooring. As the design community begins to use these flooring surfaces more and more in commercial construction, so will the accessories that accent that design partner up to make the project last a long time and looking its best.