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How to Install a Floor Medallion

A guide to creating a beautiful inlaid ornament in a wood floor

man installing a floor medallion
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.


Steps // How to Install a Floor Medallion
1 ×

Measure the Flooring's Thickness

 
Step One // How to Install a Floor Medallion

Measure the Flooring's Thickness

using a pry bar to remove a piece of flooring to check its thickness
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.

 
2 ×

Find the Flooring Nails

 
Step Two // How to Install a Floor Medallion

Find the Flooring Nails

using a magnetic nail finder to find the flooring nails
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.

 
3 ×

Rout a Circle

 
Step Three // How to Install a Floor Medallion

Rout a Circle

using a router to make a circular cut in the floor to accommodate a floor medallion
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.

 
4 ×

Check the Subfloor

 
Step Four // How to Install a Floor Medallion

Check the Subfloor

using a straightedge and some scrap flooring to check that the subfloor is flat and even
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.

 
5 ×

Spread the Adhesive

 
Step Five // How to Install a Floor Medallion

Spread the Adhesive

spreading an even layer of wood flooring adhesive into the subfloor area of the circle
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.

 
6 ×

Drop in the Medallion

 
Step Six // How to Install a Floor Medallion

Drop in the Medallion

tapping the medallion flush with the rest of the floor with a rubber mallet and a piece of scrap wood to prevent scratches
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

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.

 
 
 

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