While you can use the same type of flooring throughout your home, many homeowners have multiple styles. That’s especially true in homes with carpeting, as it’s uncommon to find it in areas like kitchens or bathrooms.
If your flooring switches from carpet to tile, you’ll need a transition strip and there are dozens of options to choose from. In this guide, we’re going to discuss the types of transition strips available to homeowners today and let you know what to expect from the installation process.
What are Transition Strips?
Simply put, a transition strip is used in homes or commercial spaces where two styles of flooring meet and change. They are used for virtually any type of flooring whether it’s laminate to linoleum or a transition from hardwood to luxury vinyl flooring. In most cases, the process is rather simple but can become tricky when you’re dealing with thick materials like carpet.
Normally when we break down a product we like to take a look at the pros and cons. Well, that’s not necessary for transition strips as there are no disadvantages to using them in your home. They can provide a nearly seamless look when switching from one style of flooring to the next. Transition strips also protect the edges of your flooring while keeping people in your home from tripping.
Types of Carpet to Tile Transition Strips
The term “transition strip” can refer to a wide variety of products, but the field narrows considerably when you’re only going to transition from carpet to tile. With that in mind, here are the most common types of transition strips available when you need to bridge the gap between carpet and tile.
Tuck-in Transition Strips
While this transition strip can go by many names, it’s commonly known as a tuck-in strip. It’s the simplest type of transition strip you can buy for rooms that go from carpet to tile, and they are incredibly easy to use as well.
These strips are best suited for areas where the tile has already been installed but will work if you only have carpeting down as well. You only need to stretch the carpet across the transition and tuck the edge under the gap where a small row of hooks holds it in place.
Z-Bar Transition Strips
This type of transition strip gets its name from the way it has been designed. The Z-Bar looks like a Z and is the best type of transition strip to use when safety is a concern. It allows for a nearly seamless bridge between these surfaces, and the design ensures your carpet stays put.
As with Tuck-in strips, how easy a Z-Bar is to use depends on your flooring. Ideally, you’ll want to install the carpet before the tile has been put down in the adjoining room. Here is a video showing a Z-Bar being used to transition from carpet to vinyl flooring.
4-in-1 Transition Strips
If you want to leave nothing to chance on your flooring project, you’ll want to consider a 4-in-1 transition strip. While not specifically engineered for a carpet to tile transition, its design allows it to be used in a variety of circumstances.
A 4-in-1 transition has interchangeable parts including a piece of T-molding if you’re transitioning between two hard surfaces of the same height, end molding, and a hard surface reducer. A carpet strip is also part of the design, so you can transition from carpet to tile or other styles of flooring.
Can I transition carpet to tile without a transition strip?
While we highly recommend using a transition strip to join rooms together that have carpet and tile, there are a number of techniques professional use that will work without a transition. Again, it all depends on how far along you are in the installation process, but the video below shows a quick and easy method without a strip.
Once you’re familiar with the types of transition strips available for carpet to tile, you’ll want to consider the materials they are made from. Unfortunately, there are more options with T-molding, reducers, and stair edging, so you’ll need to consign yourself to metal or wood for the most part.
- Plastic – Plastic transition strips are the cheapest, but not necessarily the most stylish option unless you’re trying to match it to a shade of carpet or tile. They are easy to find and install, although not very durable and not suitable for highly trafficked areas.
- Metal – If you’re interested in a Z-Bar transition, it will be made from metal and aluminum is the most popular choice. While more expensive, they will hold up better and are ideal when you want a non-slip grip on your carpet.
- Wood – Metal may be durable and plastic is versatile, but neither hold a candle to wood if you want something warm and natural between your tile and carpet. It’s a perfect match for homes with wood-look tile as well.
Transition Strip Cost & Availability
While you can order a transition strip for a tile to carpet project online, your best option is to purchase one locally. They are long, which makes them awkward to ship and they’re also easy to damage before they have been installed. If you do plan to pick one up online, there are a handful of options from companies like TrafficMaster and M-D Building Products.
TrafficMaster produces two tile to carpet transition strips, with a 36” model and an identical, but longer strip measuring 72” in length. Both are made from hardwood, not MDF, so they are easy to cut and can even be stained or painted. These transition strips are designed so that you’ll never see the fasteners, and won’t break the bank at between $17 to $22.
If you’re not keen on wood and want something more secure, consider this Z-Bar transition from M-D Building Products. You’ll need to use a tack strip with this model which is made from aluminum, but they are incredibly cheap at $2.00 for a 48” long transition strip. While we didn’t find any 4-in-1 strips online that would be perfect for tile, you can pick one up locally for around $30.
On the DIY difficulty scale, transition strips rank relatively low for homeowners dealing with new construction or a complete remodel. While you can cut a wooden transition strip with any saw, you may still need to pick up a few tools beforehand.
The easiest and cheapest way to get a clean cut if you don’t already own a saw is to pick up a Mitre box set like this one from GreatNeck. It allows you to produce both straight and angled cuts and is far easier than breaking out a powered saw for small projects around your home.
You don’t need to purchase a specialty carpet cutter to install a transition strip, but you should have a sturdy utility knife with some extra blades on hand. The most expensive tool you’ll need to do the job right definitely falls into the specialty class with a Knee Kicker.
As the name implies, you use your knee to “kick” the tool, which in turn pulls the carpet tight across your tack strips. One of the more affordable options is 80742 from MaxWorks, which has a telescoping handle and 7 adjustable height settings. Alternatively, you may be able to rent one locally depending on where you reside.
While transition strips themselves are simple to track down, it’s not quite as simple when you need to run a transition strip between rooms with carpet and tile. That’s due in part to the relatively poor selection online, although things will open up considerably when you visit your local hardware store or flooring dealer that sells carpet or tile.