Guide to Floor Transition Strips

Illustration of floor transitions

Illustration: The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

In a perfect world, your flooring would be seamless from room to room. Your hardwood would flow continuously from living room to bedroom to kitchen to bathroom. In the real world, however, you cannot help but transition from one flooring type to another because different rooms need different types of flooring. For example, the Brazilian cherry works great in the living room, but you must transition to porcelain in the bathroom due to moisture issues. For each of these situations, there's a proper type of transition strip.

Seams Between Similar Floors

If you are transitioning from one type of flooring to the same type (e.g., ceramic to ceramic), it may be possible to have them meet without a transition strip, especially if they are the same thickness. But a transition usually is a better option. For one thing, seams are often incorporated between rooms of like materials to provide for expansion and contraction. A transition strip cover the expansion gap for each material. Also, unless the two floors happen to blend in an aesthetically pleasing way, you'll probably want the visual break provided by a transition.

Stairs and corridor in new house
Spaces Images / Getty Images

Seams Between Different Materials

If you are dealing with two different types of floor coverings, a transition strip is almost always required. Each material needs some kind of finish along its edge, and different materials often create a change in floor height as well as how the floor behaves underfoot (soft, yielding carpet vs. hard tile, for example).

You may think that the less noticeable a transition is the better, but usually that is not the case. Clearly visible transitions are safer because the person walking toward them can see and anticipate the change in flooring elevation or feel, and this help to prevent accidents.

Fortunately, transitions are not just those "clacky" aluminum strips anymore. You can purchase genuine hardwood transitions, even if the floors you are connecting are not wood. For laminate flooring, you can purchase transitions that look just like your laminate.

  • 01 of 07

    Carpet to Tile Transition

    M-D carpet to tile transition strip

    What it is: This transition strip joins low-pile carpet to the ceramic tile floor.

    Details: First, an aluminum strip (which will not be visible) is laid down. Upward-protruding spikes grip the carpet. On the other side, the ceramic tile butts up against this aluminum track but does not attach to it. Finally, a vinyl transition strip is snapped into the track, bridging both floors.

  • 02 of 07

    4-In-1 Transition Strip

    Floor transition strip

    Simple Solutions/Amazon

    What it is: The "Swiss Army Knife" of transition strips, the multi-floor, 4-in-1 strip has interchangeable parts that work for different types of floors.

    Details: A typical 4-in-1 transition includes a metal channel for mounting the system and a T-molding, which fits into the channel and is used alone for floors of the same height. For other situations, different pieces are used in conjunction with the T-molding:

    • Carpet strip: to transition from carpet to another material
    • Hard surface reducer: to go from a thick hard flooring (such as hardwood or tile) to a thinner hard flooring, such as vinyl
    • End molding: to create a final finished edge on one floor material, rather than a transition between two floors
  • 03 of 07

    T-Strip for Hard Surfaces

    Schluter Systems 1-in Satin Brass Aluminum transition trim

    Schluter Systems

    What it is: An aluminum T-shaped transition strip connects any two hard-surface floors of the same height.

    Details: This is a narrow, low-profile transition that works between any two hard surfaces (stone, ceramic, wood, laminate, etc.), where both are the same height.

    The strip inserts into a very narrow gap between the floor coverings. The top "reveal" area lies low—closer to the floor coverings than any other type of transition strip.

    The one notable concern with this type of transition is that, being aluminum, it aesthetically matches neither of the two floors being connected.

  • 04 of 07

    Tile to Laminate Transition

    Tile to laminate transition strip


    What it is: This transition strip connects a laminate floor to a tile floor, with the appearance of the strip matching the laminate.

    Details: Ceramic tile floors tend to be higher than laminate floors because tile is installed over cementboard, while laminate lies over a thin underlayment. This assembly includes a mounting channel that is installed in a gap between the flooring materials. The finish molding piece snaps into the channel.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Transition Between Wood Floors

    Wood to wood transition seam binder

    M-D Building Products

    What it is: Called seam binders, these wide (about 5 inches) transition strips are flat and bridge two wood floors of equal heights.

    Details: A seam binder is low-profile strip of hardwood with predrilled mounting holes running down its center. It is installed with screws that are driven in between the two floor coverings so that the seam binder is not attached to either floor, thus allowing for expansion and contraction of the wood flooring.

  • 06 of 07

    Vinyl to Tile Transition

    Tile to vinyl transition strip

    M-D Building Products

    What it is: A hardwood strip, this attractively finishes a vinyl floor and transitions upward to a tile floor.

    Details: Much like the tile-to-laminate strip, this one reduces from a higher tile floor covering to a lower vinyl floor. In almost every case, vinyl will be lower than laminate.

  • 07 of 07

    Carpet Edge Gripper

    Traffic Master pewter fluted 36 in. carpet gripper with teeth


    What it is: An aluminum (typically) strip holds the edge of carpet with sharp metal teeth and transitions to any surface that is below the carpet.

    Details: An edge gripper is installed by being tacked to the subfloor. Then, the carpet is forced into the toothed side of the strip, which holds the carpet backing much like a tackless carpet strip.