Q: I'd like to put one of those beautiful round wood inlays in my wood floor. How do I go about it? —Mark Turner, Leesburg, Va.
Charles Peterson of CP Wood Floors replies: What you're talking about is a floor medallion, a type of ornamental flooring designed to give a room a dramatic decorative focal point. They're made to order using colorful pieces of precisely cut hardwoods mounted to a plywood backing. In the best ones, these pieces are at least 5/16 inch thick and can be sanded multiple times.
Installation requires cutting into your floor with a router and then bedding the medallion in adhesive spread on the subfloor. The process is painstaking but, thanks to the router template supplied by the factory, takes only a few hours.
Make sure to do these steps in one go. If you wait more than a few hours after routing the floor, your cutout may change shape or size slightly, forcing you to rout it again.
Shown: Charles Peterson sets a 36-inch compass-rose medallion, made of Brazilian cherry, walnut, maple, red oak, and wenge, into a bed of adhesive.
Measure the Flooring's Thickness
Medallions are made to match the thickness of your flooring. Before you order yours, use a hole-saw or chisel to cut out a small piece of flooring from the spot where the medallion will be, and send this piece to the medallion maker. Flooring that's thinner than ⅜ inch can't accommodate a solid-wood medallion.
Find the Flooring Nails
Using 1-inch painter's tape, make a rough approximation of the template's shape. Lay the template on the tape, and mark it by running a pencil around the template's inside edge. Place a magnetic nail finder where each floor joint crosses the pencil line. If you detect a nail, adjust the template location and repeat the process until the line is mostly nail-free.
Rout a Circle
Using double-stick carpet tape, secure the template on the pencil line. Chuck a ½-inch template bit with a top bearing into a router, and run it clockwise around the inside of the template. Start with a 1/16-inch-deep pass, then increase the depth by 3/16 inch for each pass until the bit reaches the subfloor. If you hit a nail, pound it down with a nailset.
Check the Subfloor
Pry up the flooring inside the routed groove, then remove the template and tape. Make sure that the subfloor is flat and even by laying a straightedge across the cutout and sliding a piece of scrap flooring underneath. If necessary, smooth the subfloor with 40-grit sandpaper and a random-orbit sander.
Spread the Adhesive
Use a 3/16-inch V-notch trowel to comb wood-flooring adhesive evenly over the subfloor. Peterson prefers Bostik's Best moisture-cure urethane for its strong grip, low VOCs, and flexibility. If this adhesive gets on the floor or your hands, wipe it up with a cleaner, such as Bostik's Ultimate adhesive remover.
Drop in the Medallion
The trick here is to set the medallion in the cutout vertically, without any sideways tilt; an assistant with strong fingers will be invaluable. Once it's in place, tap it flush with the surrounding floor, using a scrap of wood to prevent marring. When the adhesive cures, the medallion can be finished, if needed.