Microbevel: Why It's On Your Pre-Finished Flooring

Wood Floor
Wood Floor. Getty / jim kruger

The first time I purchased pre-finished solid hardwood floor, the boards came with a microbevel. The product literature praised the virtues of microbevel and how I was such a lucky homeowner to get this feature at no extra cost.  But I never knew why my flooring had it. Finally, I learned.

What They Are

Sometimes called an eased edge or kissed edge, a microbevel is a 45 degree cut down the sides of the floorboards.

The opposite of a square-edged board, it is just a shallow hairline cut.

When two microbevel floorboards meet up, the bevels create a "V" shape. When two square-edged solid wood floorboards meet up, the result is a close-to-smooth floor (we'll find out in a bit why it's not perfectly smooth).

3 Reasons Why They Are Loved...and Hated

  1. Dirt Collector:  Some homeowners hate microbevels because they collect dirt. Owners need to gently sweep in the direction of the bevels or pick up the dirt with a vacuum. But other owners like them for precisely the same reason: the channels collect dust rather than leaving it on the surface, where it can scratch.
  2. Dimension, Shadows:  Some owners love them because the shadows they create give the flooring added dimension.  For them, square-edged boards are monotonous and make for a boring floor.
  3. Cover-Up:  Flooring purists may have the opposite view, criticizing microbevels as a cheap and cheesy way to make sub-standard look better.  Flooring purists also don't like pre-finished flooring much, preferring site-finished (or unfinished) flooring.  And that leads us to our answer...

    The Real Reason?

    Because pre-finished wood flooring doesn't get sanded.

    When you lay site-finished, square-edged hardwood floor, you end up with various floorboard heights. It doesn't matter that the floor boards have a locking mechanism called tongue and groove, which in theory should keep all floor boards at the same height.

     But the real world doesn't quite work that way.

    Sanding--even a light sanding--will equalize these heights and bring it all down flat.  Then, if there are any hair-thin gaps left between the boards, the sealant will fill in those gaps.  Result:  a perfectly flat floor.  

    Pre-finished wood flooring is installed and is ready to use immediately--no sanding and finishing. But that is its failing, too.  Microbevels are a way to hide the unequal heights of pre-finished floorboards.  Today, you really can't get away from microbevels in pre-finished flooring.  A few companies make square-edged pre-finished floor, but the microbevels are the norm.

    Faux Microbevel For Laminate

    Now here's where it gets interesting: laminate flooring, in its ceaseless striving towards realism, has in many cases adopted the microbevel.

    Faus Group, a laminate manufacturer, has patented something called Embossed-In-Register® (used by DuPont and other flooring manufacturers) to simulate this feature. This microbevel is not between actual floorboards but is between the product's simulated floorboards.