What Is a Microbevel and Why Is It on Flooring?

A close-up of a hardwood floor
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When you purchase a solid hardwood floor, the boards sometimes feature a barely visible seam along the side called a microbevel. What is a microbevel and why is it there?

What a Microbevel Is

Sometimes called an eased edge or kissed edge, a microbevel is a 45-degree cut down the sides of the long sides of floorboards. A microbevel is a shallow hairline cut, not a deep incision.

When two square-edged solid wood floorboards meet up, the result is a close-to-smooth floor with no visible seams between the boards. When two microbevel floorboards meet up, the bevels create a V-shape.

Reason For Microbevels

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

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. The result is a perfectly flat floor. 

Pre-finished wood flooring is installed and is ready to use immediately, no sanding and finishing. But that can prove to be a detriment, too, since you cannot sand down those unequal heights between boards.

Microbevels are becoming the norm in much of pre-finished wood flooring. Microbevels are a way to hide unequal heights of pre-finished floorboards. The heights are still in place, but they just aren't as easy to see.

Pros and Cons of Microbevels

Pros

Hides Dirt Better

Some homeowners like microbevels because they channel and collect dust rather than leaving it on the surface, where it can scratch. Homeowners should use a microfiber mop for cleaning floors that have microbevels. Mop in the direction of the floorboards' length.

Hides Chips

Square-edge flooring that happens to get chipped or gouged on the edges can look unslghtly. Microbevels help to hide some of these chips and gouges.

Gives Depth and Dimension

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.

Hides Subfloor Flaws

Square-edge flooring shows imperceptible subfloor flaws. Microbevel flooring helps hide some, though not all, of these flaws.

Cons

Difficult to Clean

Some homeowners dislike microbevels because they collect dirt. Owners need to gently sweep in the direction of the bevels or pick up the dirt with a vacuum.

Cover-Up

Flooring purists sometimes criticize microbevels as a gimmicky to make inexpensive flooring look better. Flooring that is not expertly milled can cover up its factory flaws by running a microbevel down the side.

Fun Fact

Laminate flooring, in its ceaseless striving towards realism, has in many cases adopted the microbevel. Faus Group, a laminate manufacturer, has patented the Embossed-In-Register. Used by DuPont and other flooring manufacturers, Embossed-in-Register simulates a microbevel. It is featured within the board as opposed to the edges, and it is included purely for aesthetic purposes. 

Tips For Laying Hardwood Flooring

  • Acclimate the wood flooring in the home for at least 48 hours before laying it.
  • Lay pre-finished wood flooring with care, since scratches and gouges cannot easily be sanded out.
  • Leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of the floor. Usually, this gap is either 1/4-inch or 1/8-inch. This gap will later be covered over with shoe molding or baseboards.
  • Order 15-percent more flooring to account for wastage and for broken or otherwise damaged boards.
  • Cut wood flooring outside or in the garage, due to the large amount of dust created by the electric miter saw.
  • Never let two short seams match up. Always stagger the seams.
  • Rent an electric or air compressor floor stapler from a rental yard or home center. Regular nailers cannot be used for floorboards.
  • Test your room for humidity before laying the hardwood floor.
  • Decide in advance which direction you want the flooring to lay. Generally, flooring is laid in line with the room's longest wall. But you can decide to lay the flooring in any direction that works best for the room.
  • Keep the subfloor scrupulously clean when installing the flooring. Any debris, no matter how small, can cause the flooring to be misaligned.