I ordered the recommended flooring transitions to match my cork flooring.  They were special order, because of the 6 ft length and to match the cork.  They totaled about $320 for seven transition pieces.  I thought the price was outrageous, but after already saving $700 on the flooring purchase I didn’t give it much thought.

I was nervous about ordering them from the start.  I should have listened to my instincts.  I spent almost an hour with the flooring associate trying to get them ordered and making her verify they would match.  They don’t have any samples to show and the tiny picture on the computer screen looked dark brown.  The associate was very nice.  She verified codes.  She called the supplier.  She did everything to try to make sure they were a match.

Well, sure enough…they were not a match.  They were apparently so bad I did not even snap a picture of them.  They looked like, in my hubby’s words, “chocolate bars”.  They were a very dark brown.  The worst part is they were faux painted that color.  There was a little variation, but for the most part they looked like big painted brown floor transitions.  I was so disappointed, mostly because of the cost.

I took them back to the store along with a sample of my floor.  I worried they would not except them for return, because they were special order.  Once I showed them the transitions next to my floor sample, they did not hesitate to refund my full purchase price.

I looked at other floor transition options in stock at Home Depot and did not find anything suitable.  I went over to Lowe’s and found some unfinished hardwood floor transitions.  They were in stock in the store in 6 ft lengths.  They were also less than $20 each.  I took one home to experiment with staining them to match my floors.

I was able to successfully match the color of the cork by staining the wood with Early American by Minwax and Weathered Gray by Minwax.  It took a few rounds of trial and error to figure out the right order of staining.  I just did different applications on 6 inch sections of my test piece of wood.  I eventually found the closest match by staining first with Weathered Grey, then with Early American, and then again with Weathered Gray.

I measured and cut my transition pieces to size.  Then I laid them out on the cement floor (soon to be covered with carpet).  I raised them on scrap pieces of the cork flooring.

unfinishedfloortransitions

For the first coat of stain, I used Weathered Gray and let it sit on the wood for 10 minutes before wiping it off.

graycoat1

I wipe it off with a clean white cloth.  The result was a nice weathered gray look, but not a match to my cork…yet.

graycoat1wiped

For the second coat, I used Early American.  I let it sit on the wood for 10 minutes before wiping it off.  I used a new clean white cloth to wipe off the stain.

earlyamericancoat

For the last round I used weathered gray again.  I only let the stain sit for two minutes before wiping it off.

graysecondcoat

Finally, the transitions looked the same color as my cork floor.  The match was pretty remarkable.

DIYstainedfloortransition

diyfloortransition

In the end, the new DIY floor transitions only cost me about $80.  Turns out I only needed four 6 ft pieces (3 carpet reducers and one t-molding) to finish the project, not the seven I was originally quoted and paid for.  I saved nearly $240 by returning the poorly matched custom transitions and staining my own.  I plan to finish the transitions with a coat or two of Polycrylic for durability.

I wish the flooring industry would do something about the poor choice of matching trim pieces.  I remember having similar issues getting transitions to match our bamboo floors in our last house (Lowe’s now carries in store two colors of bamboo transitions).  I have heard that transitions for cork flooring are particularly troublesome.  They don’t make them out of cork, because it not a good product for transitions.  There are also so many different colors of cork available now.  John and Sherry were able to special order an engineered dark wood floor transition to match their darker cork floor.   Just something to keep in mind if you plan to install a cork floor.

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4 Responses to DIY Floor Transitions (or How I Saved Another $240)

  1. Lisa says:

    Great job on the color match. You must have a lot of patience! I’m wondering how you installed the transitions. Do you nail them down? Also, how do you know when you need a carpet reducer vs a t-moulding? I’m going to be installing vinyl wood floors and will need transitions. Right now I have those gold metal ones. Yuck!

    • Jackie says:

      Lisa, we installed ours with liquid nails over the cement. If we had a subfloor we would have screwed them in. You can screw them into cement, too, but that seemed like overkill to me. You should only use a t-mold when transitioning between two hard floors of the same height, like tile to hardwood. We used a t-mold in the doorway between two rooms that both have the cork floor. The carpet reducer is for carpet transitions from a hard surface or when you have two uneven height floors. Our cork actually floats under the carpet reducer…the reducer is wide so it can hid the expansion gap for the cork. The other side of the reducer goes down to the cement and is secured with liquid nails. The carpet is tucked right up to the reducer. There are a few other types of transitions for other special situations. Where our carpet goes into the utility room and under stair storage with cement floors, we opted for the little metal transitions, but in silver.

  2. Laurie says:

    We have put hardwood, cork or laminate in all of our rentals and in our own home and we NEVER order the suggested transitions anymore. We’ve had to replace every one we originally used. The only ones that hold up are the solid maple or oak (you don’t want pine or bamboo as they don’t hold up in the long term in higher traffic areas).

    We always buy the solid wood and stain and poly ourselves. The big box stores have the poorest selections – have had much better luck at smaller hardwood stores that can order millwork, custom millwork shops and flooring stores like Floor & Decor that have an entire area just for transitions.

    Hope this helps someone! We figured we’d wasted over $1000 (over three houses) on special ordered pieces before we figured things out.

  3. Dave says:

    I just did the very same thing for the whitewashed bamboo floor I installed last weekend (cali bamboo). I forgot to order the matching transitions and didn’t want to wait a week or more to receive them (plus $50 each is nuts). I too used the Lowes unfinished oak T-moulding and reducer; but I used Minwax pickling stain to match the whitewashed floor. I found your blog post after searching Google to see if polycrylic was suitable for transitions… of course I’ve already put on three coats; hope it holds up! It’s surprising that there isn’t a wider variety of unfinished wood transitions available at HD/Lowes – it’s oak or nothing.

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