Transition strips are used between two different flooring types.
Note – There is a lot of information here – it’s the ultimate guide to transition strips!
So, if you don’t want to get too bogged down in the details, use the Navigation to find the section that you need. Or, if you want to learn all about transition strips, get comfortable, and read on!
The info here will assist you in buying the right type of transition strip – and you’ll understand your material, style and color options for the strips you need.
Or you can take what you know to your local flooring expert, tell them what flooring types you have and give them an idea of the transition strips you’d like to have. They should be able to assist you in choosing options you’ll be happy with.
Terminology tip: Transition strips are also called cover strips and molding (also spelled moulding). You will also see the term floor divider.
Did you know? Molding that is installed where flooring meets a wall is also considered a transition strip – and they’re covered in this guide.
- Cost of Transition Strips
- Purpose and Use of Transition Strips
- Transition Strips for Same-height and Different-height Floors
- Floor Transition Strip Types
- Seam Binders
- Flush Transition Strips
- Reducers Strips – Uneven Floor Transition Strips
- Carpet Gripper
- Schluter Transition Strips for Tile and Stone Flooring
- 4-in-1 Transition Strip
- End Cap/End Molding/End Bar/End Strip
- Stair Nose/Nosing
- Scotia/Quarter Round Molding
- Baseboards or Skirting Boards
- Carpet Tack Strip
- Transitional Strips for Same Flooring Materials
- Transition Strip Materials
- Transitional Strips for Different Flooring Materials
- How to Use End Strips/End Caps
- Creating Unique Flooring Transitions
- How to Install Floor Transition Strips
Cost of Transition Strips
The cost of transition strips is less than $.70 (70 cents) to about $8.00 per linear foot for most styles including solid hardwood like oak and mahogany. Some cost more – up to $10 or so per linear foot, but most flooring doesn’t require costly options like that. Installation adds up to $1.00 per linear foot.
Doorway transition strip – installed: $10 – $35 depending on material
10-foot transition strip – installed: $14 – $60 depending on material
Note – The cost of the transition strips might not be itemized in your flooring installation estimates from contractors. If you want to know specific costs, you might have to ask.
In order of cost:
- Finished wood: $4.00 – $12.00 per linear foot
- Unfinished wood: $1.75 – $7.00 per linear foot
- Metal: $.50 – $1.75 per linear foot
- Plastic: $0.25 – $1.50 per linear foot
Purpose and Use of Transition Strips
Most homes have a variety of flooring because rooms have different functions. For instance, you might like carpet in the bedroom or living room, but need tile in the kitchen and bathrooms. To make these changes in flooring smooth and appealing, there’s a type of flooring accessory called a transition strip that bridges dissimilar flooring.
Transition strips can also act as room or floor divider in a great room where the kitchen is tiled but open to the carpet or wood-floored dining and family rooms.
Transition strips are available in a variety styles and materials including metals like aluminum or lightweight steel, vinyl, composite, tile, and wood.
Why Do I Need Flooring Transition Strips?
Transition strips serve a number of purposes including finishing the edges of the flooring, smoothly joining flooring materials that are different heights, protecting flooring edges from the wear and tear of foot traffic, and providing an attractive visual break that flooring is changing.
Transition strips will protect the edges of your floors from the wear and tear of foot traffic. They help keep carpet edges from fraying, tile edges from chipping, and allow wood, laminate, and vinyl plank flooring room for expansion. Without expansion space, a wood or laminate floor can warp or crack.
When two floors meet that are not the same height, for instance where thick tile meets a low-pile carpet or laminate, a tripping hazard is created. Installing a reducer transition strip creates a slope between the two floors, provides a visual clue that the flooring is changing, and eliminates the chance of someone tripping.
Transition strips help create a more appealing appearance when two dissimilar flooring materials meet. The visual break provided by the transition strip eases the effect of the change. It also covers any unsightly gaps between the flooring materials and overall, creates more attractive flooring.
Transition Strips for Same-height and Different-height Floors
Now that we’ve covered the cost of transition strips and why they are important, here are the types of transition strips and what is available in each type in terms of material, style and color.
Flat Floor Transition Strips
When flat, or flooring materials of the same height meet, there are a number of transition strips that can be used. Although a T-bar or seam binder are common, the best choice of transition strip will depend on the types of flooring that are adjoining each other. Later we provide examples of a number of flooring combinations and the best options for securely joining the flooring.
Uneven Floor Transition Strips
When uneven floors – or flooring that’s not the same height – meet, a transition strip called a reducer is used. A reducer strip bridges the gap between the flooring while also creating a slope from the taller floor to the lower floor. This reduces the possibility of tripping as you cross from one floor to the other.
Reducers are available to work with different types of flooring and in different styles and materials. We’ll detail the various flooring material combinations and how reducer strips will work best with those materials.
Floor Transition Strip Types
Here are the main transition strip or cover strip types and where they are usually used.
T-bars, or T-molding strips are used between two hard-surfaced floors of the same height. They are shaped like a “T” with either a flat, beveled, or slightly curved top which is two or more inches wide. There is also a smaller horizontal bar on the bottom, which is attached to the subfloor, either with glue or held in place with a track and screws, creating a tight fit against the surface of the flooring. T-bars are available in wood, metal, vinyl, rubber, and composite, as well as in various widths.
Seam Binders are very common and used with same-height flooring transitions that nails or screws can pass through, like carpet, vinyl, wood, and laminate. They are usually made of wood or metal and available in a variety of widths, with 2 to 5 inches typical sizes.
Seam binders are a flat strip with curved or beveled edges and are placed over the gap between the adjoining flooring. They usually have pre-drilled holes and are screwed or nailed through the flooring and into the subfloor. They are typically made of wood and sold unfinished, so they can be stained or painted to match the flooring, but are also available in other materials
Flush Transition Strips
A flush transition strip can only be used when the adjoining floors are the same height. It is a strip that is installed in between the two floors with sides abutting each edge of the flooring. The flush transition strip often matches one of the floors, but something different can also be used to create an accent and provide a visual buffer between the floors.
Reducers Strips – Uneven Floor Transition Strips
Reducers are used when two floors with different heights come together.
Carpet reducer strips often include a metal track that is first nailed or screwed to the subfloor. If one of the floors is carpet, use a reducer with gripper teeth on the side with carpet to hold it in place. You can also use a tack strip to hold the carpet. The top piece of the strip will abut, and cover the higher edge of the carpet, and slope down to the lower floor level. The top piece of this type of cover strip is available in various materials and usually chosen to match the hard flooring.
Hard surface reducer strips are used for transitioning from a thicker hard surface like hardwood or tile, to a thinner hard surface like vinyl or laminate. will not use teeth and is made to be installed to the lower floor. As with the carpet reducer strips, the top piece will butt up against the thicker floor and slope down to the lower floor.
Hard surface reducers are available in many materials and profiles allowing you to find something that works best with your flooring materials.
A carpet gripper transition strip is used where carpet meets another type of flooring. The strip includes teeth which grip the edge of the carpet preventing the carpet from coming loose and fraying. Holes are pre-drilled into the strip so it can be screwed to the subfloor. Carpet gripper transition strips are typically made of metal and are available in a variety of finishes.
Schluter Transition Strips for Tile and Stone Flooring
Schluter is actually a manufacturer of transition strips, but the brand is well-known for its products, which are designed to protect tile edges where tile flooring meets other materials that are thinner and lower in height. Schluter trim is used to provide a smooth transition between the flooring. This type of cover strips are often called tile floor transition strips.
The trim features a lip on the bottom edge that is installed to the floor before the last row of tiles are set. The last row of tiles will install over the lip and abut the vertical part of the trim. Schluter features transition strips in many profiles for both same-height and sloped flooring transitions. All of their products are made of metals including stainless steel, brass, and aluminum with a choice of finishes.
A Z-bar transition strip resembles the shape of the letter Z and is typically used with carpet transitioning to vinyl, tile, wood, or other hard flooring material. The top of the Z goes over the edge of the carpet to ensure the carpet is secure and won’t be pulled up or frayed with foot traffic. Some Z bar strips also have gripper teeth to hold the edge of the carpet in place.
Z-bar transition strips are often made of metal and available in a range of colors and finishes.
4-in-1 Transition Strip
A 4-in-1 transition strip has interchangeable parts that work with different types of floors. They usually include a metal channel for mounting to the subfloor with a T-bar that fits into the channel. The T-bar can be used alone for same-height flooring or either side can be used as a reducer in conjunction with the T-bar. 4-in-1 strips are commonly made of wood.
End Cap/End Molding/End Bar/End Strip
These transition strips are used when wood, vinyl plank or laminate meets a door, step, or other type of flooring. They are notched on one side to cover the edge of the floor and bull-nosed or sloped on the other side. End strips are typically made of wood and can be finished to match the flooring.
Stair nosing is installed on the front edge of each stair tread to provide a finished appearance while protecting the front edge of the step. This type of strip makes the tread a little longer creating better footing and making the stairs safer. Stair nosing generally slopes downward at a 90-degree angle.
Wood flooring, luxury vinyl plank flooring, and laminate manufacturers often sell stair nosing that matches their flooring products. Metal can also be used, typically on basement stairs, but you can sometimes see it used as a decorative accent on main living area stairs.
Scotia/Quarter Round Molding
Quarter round, considered a type of transition strip, is used around the perimeter of a room to fill the expansion gaps between the flooring material and the baseboards. It’s used primarily with hard flooring materials like wood, vinyl, laminate, tile and stone. Quarter round is most often made of wood and finished to match the floor.
Baseboards or Skirting Boards
Baseboards are considered a transition strip that transitions the flooring to the wall and gives the perimeter of the room a finished look. Baseboards can also be used to cover the expansion gap when quarter round isn’t used. Baseboards are made in various heights and thicknesses and from a range of materials including wood, composite, PVC, and foam.
Carpet Tack Strip
A carpet tack strip isn’t technically a transition strip but it’s often used where carpet meets other flooring material. The purpose at these locations is to hold the carpet extra-securely.
Tack strips are narrow lengths of wood that are studded with small nails or tacks with the sharp ends pointed upwards at an angle.
Tack strips are nailed, screwed, or glued to the subfloor with the tacks angled towards the carpet edge. The carpet edge is pulled over the tacks which grip the carpet and hold it in place. The seam where the carpet meets another flooring material is then covered with a transition strip.
Transitional Strips for Same Flooring Materials
Carpet to Carpet Transition Strips
If carpet is being installed in multiple adjoining rooms, a seam will often be placed in the doorway. Carpet rolls are not usually large enough to cover more than one room without a seam. A doorway is a convenient and practical place for a carpet seam, but it’s also an area that will receive the most foot traffic.
The transition strip will be attached to the floor and securely cover the carpet edges to prevent them from pulling free or fraying. Some carpet transition strips have teeth to grip the carpet edge and some are nailed to the floor through the carpet edges.
You can find these in various metals, wood, vinyl, and rubber.
Hardwood, Vinyl Plank, Laminate Flooring Transition Strips
Hardwood, luxury vinyl plank, and laminate will expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes. These materials are installed with small gaps around the perimeter of the room but if the flooring is installed in multiple rooms, an additional expansion gap may be needed and a convenient place would be in a doorway. In this case, the transition strip would be made of the same material as the flooring.
Buying tip: Flooring manufacturers often sell or include matching transition strips and moldings with their flooring.
Wood Floor Transition Strips
When wood meets wood, you will always need a cover strip to cover the edges of the wood and to allow room for expansion. Wood to wood transition strips are often made of matching wood. If the floors are the same height, a T-bar is used. If the floors are uneven in height, a reducer strip would be used.
Wood transition strips are often sold unfinished and can be stained to match the flooring.
Same Wood Species Transitions
Sometimes you have wood or wood-look flooring meeting the same material, but changing direction, for instance, where a room meets a hallway. Because these floors will be the same height, a very flat T-bar that is made of the same flooring material is a good choice.
In fact, many wood flooring manufacturers also make wood transition strips for a “perfect” match to their flooring – like this one from Kahrs.
Dissimilar Wood Transitions
Where wood flooring meets wood of a different color or style, you can use a transition strip that matches one of the flooring materials or even create a border, or “buffer zone” of an entirely different material, like tile, to keep the eye from focusing on the dissimilar flooring. Whether the floors are the same height or not, buffer zones can also include transition strips to further blend the floors.
Transition Strip Materials
You’ve got plenty of options to fit your floor type, style preference and budget.
Wood Transition Strips
Wood transition strips are the top choice for wood, laminate, and luxury vinyl plank transitions. The wood can be purchased or stained to match the wood flooring. These are available in a variety of woods, unfinished or finished, sizes, and styles.
You can find wood transition strips used in floor transition strips wood to tile applications. They work well for wood to tile or stone and wood to carpet. Wood transition strips are available in T-bar, seam binders, 4-in-1, and reducer profiles.
Metal Transition Strips
Metal floor transition strips come in a variety of metals including steel, aluminum, pewter, and brass. You can also find them in a range of sizes and in finishes that mimic copper, antique brass, bronze, and colors such as black, brown, and white. You can find metal transition strips in all profiles.
Rubber Floor Transition Strips
Rubber transition strips are common in commercial environments but are becoming more common in homes. They can be a good choice for areas exposed to moisture, but because they are available in a wide range of colors and styles, they can be used to compliment any flooring.
Rubber transition strips are available in T-bar, z-bar, and reducer profiles.
They are also flexible and can be used in unique flooring situations, such as curved flooring applications.
Vinyl Transition Strips
Vinyl flooring transition strips are a good option when moisture is an issue like in a basement or mudroom and are often used with vinyl flooring. Today, vinyl flooring transition strips are available in so many colors and finishes, including wood-grain textured and colored, that they can look good anywhere. You can find them in various sizes and styles including T-bar and seam binder profiles.
Flexible Floor Transition Strips
Flexible transition strips are typically made from polyurethane or rubber and are used when two flooring types meet in a curved line. Flexible transition strips can be used with any flooring type and are available unfinished and ready for paint or stain.
Schluter Systems Metal Radius Flexible Tile Trim
Schluter Systems makes a flexible transition strip for use with tile to other flooring materials. Schluter strips feature a bottom edge that is installed under the edge of the final row of tile, holding it secure and protecting the tile edge.
Radius or flexible Schluter strips are available for same and different height flooring in a variety of sizes and metals including stainless steel, brass, and aluminum.
Black Floor Transition Strips
If you have a black floor, such as black marble, or you just want to use a back transition strip, you can find them in most profiles, materials, and sizes. A black transition strip would create an interesting accent in a light floor or blend in nicely in a black or very dark floor.
Transitional Strips for Different Flooring Materials
Transition Strips for Carpet
Carpet to Carpet
Where carpet adjoins other flooring, even if it meets other carpet, you’ll want to use a transition strip with a carpet edge gripper to hold the carpet in place and prevent the edges from fraying. You can also use tack strip and cover the edges with a seam binder.
Carpet to Tile or Stone
When flooring transitions from carpet to tile, use a transition strip that both grips the carpet edge on one side, and covers the tile edge on the other side. You can also secure the carpet with a tack strip and cover the seam with a T-bar or reducer-style cover strip.
A neutral material, like metal, can be an attractive choice, but transition strips that work with tile are also available in a range of materials including wood.
Carpet to Wood, Vinyl Plank, or Laminate
When carpet meets wood or wood-look flooring, the most common transition strip to use is one that matches the wood floor. Use a tack strip under the carpet to secure the edge then cover the seam with a T-bar, reducer, or seam binder strip. You can find these in finished wood or unfinished, which can be stained to match the wood floor.
Transition Strips for Tile or Stone
When tile or stone floors meet other materials, the tile or stone will often be higher than the other floor, so you will need to use a reducer transition strip.
Tile or Stone to Wood and Wood-look Flooring
When transitioning tile or stone to wood flooring, a transition strip that matches the wood color is the most common choice. Depending on the height difference between the flooring, you can use a T-bar or reducer strip. The vertical piece of the strip will cover the edges of both floors and the horizontal piece will cover the seam between the materials, sloping slightly to accommodate the height difference.
Both T-bar and reducer cover strips are available in finished wood or unfinished wood that can be stained to match the wood or wood-look floor. If moisture is a concern, use a vinyl, composite or rubber T-bar or reducer strip.
Transition Strips for Laminate Flooring
Most laminate flooring is made to look like wood although there are laminate choices that look like tile or stone. Transition strips used with laminate flooring should generally match the color of the laminate. The style of transition strip used will depend on the flooring material the laminate will adjoin.
Laminate to Carpet
Laminate flooring that joins carpet will likely be quite close in height, unless the carpet is very thick. The carpet edge should be secured with a gripper or tack strip. With same height floors, a T-bar transition strip will work and with different height floors, a reducer transition strip is necessary to slope one floor to the other.
You can find both T-bar and reducer transition strips in various materials including wood, metal, and vinyl. Using a transition strip that is the same, or similar in color to the laminate will provide the most attractive appearance.
Laminate to Hardwood
Both hardwood and laminate need room to expand with temperature and humidity changes so there will need to be a gap in between the joining floors. If the flooring is the same height, a T-bar strip can be used. If the flooring height is not the same, a reducer strip is needed. Either type of cover strip should be wide enough across on the horizontal top piece to amply cover the gap between the floors.
Laminate to Tile or Stone
Because laminate is usually installed on a foam pad mounted to the subfloor and ceramic or porcelain tile is mounted on a backing board which is attached to the subfloor, laminate will be lower in height than the tile or stone. In this case, you will need a reducer transition strip. Look for a reducer that has a vertical piece with a notch that abuts and covers the tile edge and a horizontal top piece that slopes to create a smooth transition across the height difference.
These types of transition strips are made in a variety of materials including wood, but for concerns about moisture, choose one made of vinyl, rubber or polyurethane.
How to Use End Strips/End Caps
End caps are used with any flooring material where it meets a vertical surface, such as at a fireplace, or when a floor ends, such as at a doorway. End caps can also be used where a higher floor meets much lower floor, like vinyl meeting very plush carpet. An end cap ends a floor rather than blending the height of two floors like a reducer strip or seam binder would.
End caps can also be used, instead of a quarter round or baseboard, where a floor meets a wall. End caps are usually made of wood but you can find metal and vinyl as well.
Creating Unique Flooring Transitions
When flooring changes it can create an opportunity to add a unique feature to your floors. Changes in flooring are often resolved with traditional transition strips but there are a number of other options that can add personality or a focal point.
Whether the adjoining floors are very similar or very different, creating a buffer zone with an accent border can help two floors blend perfectly. These transitions work best with flooring that is the same height, but sloping reducer strips can be used along with the accent border.
The accent border can match one of the floors, or very different materials can be used to create an attractive focal point on the floor. For instance, ceramic tile could be used between two dissimilar wood floors or between a wood and stone floor. The accent border is typically the width of the threshold.
Irregular Flooring Transitions
Flooring can be installed so that the line where they meet is irregular, angled, or even curved. There are flexible transition strips made of rubber or polyurethane that will work with irregular flooring transitions. They are available for flooring that are the same, or different heights.
How to Install Floor Transition Strips
Transition strips are installed where two flooring materials meet. If possible, the floors should meet in a doorway. If there is a door, install the strip so it will be covered when the door is closed.
Installing uncomplicated transition strips like T-bars and seam binders can be fairly straightforward and easy, requiring only nails or screws and a hammer or screwdriver and something to cut the strip to size.
Installing z-bars and Schluter strips that need to be installed with one edge under the last row of tile or stone can be complicated. Also using carpet grippers or tack strip requires additional tools for installation.
Below are some videos for installing various transition strips.
Installing wood reducers and a T-bars:
Installing a carpet to wood transition strip:
Installing a Schluter strip: