Installing Hardwood Floors: How to Change Floor Board Direction

What You'll Need
Spline or T-molding
Circular saw
Wood glue
Finish nails

Changing the floor board direction in a room with hardwood flooring is sometimes necessary. It could be that the room is irregularly shaped. Or, it can be the room where two different hardwoods, meet. Changing the direction of floor boards makes for an easier transition between rooms. Rather than continuing in the same direction with tongue and groove floor boards, the transition piece lets you basically start from scratch and work out from the transition point. There are two ways in which to change floor board direction: a T-molding joint or a spline. Both are effective in changing the direction of the tongue and groove flooring, although they produce very different results. 

Step 1: Decide Which Transition Piece is Best

You have your choice of using either a piece of T-molding or a spline. T-molding is shaped like a T when looked at from the cross section while a spline is a rectangular or oval-shaped strip of wood. In a doorway, both transition pieces join two planks with their tongues facing opposite directions. In other words, the grooves of each piece face each other at the transition point with the joining piece in between. T-molding fits between the two but leaves a lip sticking up off the surface of the floor. A spline, by contrast, is concealed between the adjacent grooves when the planks are finally joined.

Step 2: Cut Spline to Size

If you are using a spline and do not have a pre-made piece, you can make your own if you have access to a table saw. Measure the thickness of the grooves and their depth. Cut the spline to the right thickness and wide enough to fill twice the depth of the groove.

Step 3: Sand Down Edges of Spline

Smooth out the angular edges of the newly cut spline with an electric sander. It does not have to be an exact oval, but with rounded edges it will make a nice fit in between the grooves. 

Step 4: Cut T-Molding or Spline to Length

Whether you are using a spline or T-molding to make the transition, measure the length of the transition area. Measure the equivalent length on the transition piece and cut it to size with the circular saw. 

Step 5: Check the Fit

Before you permanently attach it, check that the transition piece will fit. Place the T-molding up to the grooved side of the last plank in the finished room. Have the first plank for the second room ready and hold it up to the other side of the molding and check the fit. If using a spline, insert it into the groove and then cap it with the first plank after the transition, groove side over the spline. Make sure there is no large gap between the two planks.  

Step 6: Install the Transition Piece

You can now install either the T-molding or the spline. Place a bead of wood glue along one side of the spline and set it into place in the groove.