Jeremy Waldorf, the owner of Legacy Floors in Howell, Michigan, has been a part of the flooring trade since he was a little kid, the son of a passionate flooring installer. At age 18, Waldorf’s dad got him started in the business as a subcontractor, first with cove base, VCT, and sheet vinyl, and then quickly into hardwood and tile. “Working with hardwood and tile was more involved,” says Waldorf, “but it was a lot more rewarding to me.”
“Over the years, my dad has taught me more about flooring installation and the business than anyone else,” adds Waldorf. “More than that, he taught me the importance of doing things right and ending a job with a result I could be proud of. This job ended with just that.”
A few months ago, one of Waldorf’s clients gave him a very precise CAD drawing and a few photos he’d found online as inspiration for a floor he wanted to be installed. “I knew right away this was going to be a challenge, but it was something I knew I could do,” says Waldorf.
“After months of planning, including many random moments where ideas would pop into my head about installation methods to help make this floor a success, the job finally started,” says Waldorf.
Two types of flooring were used to complete this intricate installation. The border and field were created using a urethane factory finished 3/4” engineered character grade hickory in mesquite. The only difference in the material used for the border and the field is that the material for the border was 7” wide and the material used in the field was 5” wide. The inlaid tiles were an 18”x18” natural polished limestone, installed over double layer 3/4” CDX plywood, using Laticrete’s Strata Mat™ uncoupling membrane.
“This project was significant for me because it demanded most of everything I know about hardwood and tile installation,” says Waldorf. “This included my knowledge of layouts, measuring, planning…the list goes on.”
The border was laid out and cut in first. Each miter was routered and joined with spline and Titebond® wood glue. The border and inlay were glued to the plywood with MAPEI® moisture cured urethane adhesive, as recommended by the manufacturer. The factory tongue was inside the border so the field would be routered into it.
Next, a center line and two parallel lines were chalked to keep the pattern straight while working around the kitchen island.
“Each piece of the border needed to be the same length in the field, and basket weaved, so I contacted the manufacturer in advance to find out what percentage of the box quantity would contain board lengths over 41 inches (two 18” tiles and a 5” board width),” adds Waldorf.
Each board in the field was cut to 41 3/16” and routered to fit in the factory tongue of the adjacent piece. Wood templates were made from 3/4” plywood that was the size of the tiles, plus 1/8” on the two sides. A drawer pull was attached to the top of each template to keep inlays consistent during the cutting and fitting process.
The field was disassembled again, then glued and blind nailed with finish nails. Most of the unused section of factory tongues were marked and cut off just before fastening them. “Every intersecting joint in the floor was connected with tongue and groove, with the exception of about five around the edges that were physically impossible to connect that way,” says Waldorf.
After all the wood was fastened and the glue cured, the remainder of the factory tongues were cut off with an oscillating tool, and the uncoupling membrane and tile were installed. The space around the perimeter of each tile varied from 1/16” to 3/16” and was filled with LATASIL™ 100 percent silicone sealant in a color that coordinated with the limestone tiles. “The silicone sealant provided room for movement and expansion,” adds Waldorf, “which a grout would not do.”
Shoe moulding was then installed, and the project was finally complete.
After three weeks of diligently working on this installation, Waldorf’s work had come to an end. “On the day I finally finished, it was truly one of the most rewarding installations I’d ever done,” exclaims Waldorf. “It was a great sense of accomplishment and in many ways, the culmination of virtually everything I’d learned over the past 20 years. To have successfully married the mediums of hardwood and stone in a layout like this was a very satisfying achievement,” says Waldorf. “My client was happy with the final product, and so was I.”