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adding T-molding between the kitchen and the fireplace room - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
Steve's Livejournal
adding T-molding between the kitchen and the fireplace room
Note: I mention pictures in this message, but I haven't had a chance to get them out of my phone into my photo gallery yet. I hope this isn't too cryptic without the photos.

Today I went back to finish up a part of the downstairs flooring job that I had long left unfinished: I finished the T-molding transition between the fireplace room and the kitchen. There's a gap between the fireplace room floorboards and the kitchen tile, about 7½ feet wide. This kind of T-molding was sold* in 6½ foot long pieces, and rather than finish the job long ago, I left a 6½ foot section of the T-molding over most of the gap, held in place vertically by its own weight, with a piece of scrap in the last foot of the notch (mostly out of traffic, in front of the pantry) to keep it from sliding that way. But besides looking sloppy, it got a bit annoying to have it slide around when we walked on it. So finally I decided to finish the job.

I kept the same 6½ foot piece, even though it was somewhat beat up, because a lot of the scuffs and such had appeared because it's a high-traffic spot. If I replaced it with a new piece, I'd just get more scuffs. For the remaining foot, I found a piece about 1½ feet long that was left over after cutting 2½ foot pieces to fill gaps under doors between the bamboo and more tile. (There are three such doors – the upstairs guest bathroom, the downstairs bathroom, and the laundry room – and this was left over from two of them.) The original long piece and the short leftover would give me more than enough length to cover the gap.

I laid out both T-molding pieces on the kitchen counter because it's the only spot in the house that's both very flat and large enough to accommodate the job. I put some spare floorboards under the joint to lift it enough to make room for the clamps. The shorter floorboards and clamps hold the joint straight, the scrap piece on top and the dumbbell hold the joint level. (Photo 1.)

To join the two pieces together end-to-end, I first cut off the rough ends of the long and short piece; I put one of the cut-off bits on the dumbbell for this picture. I cut a notch in the ends of the lower part of the "T", wide enough for a joint "biscuit". I trimmed the ends off the biscuit so they wouldn't stick out past the sides of the "T". Then I laid it all out for gluing.

I used two kinds of glue: Elmer's carpentry glue between the biscuit and the upper part of the "T", and foaming urethane Gorilla Glue between the biscuit and the lower part of the "T". To keep the glue from leaking out and sticking the joint to the extra floorboards, I used a piece of a plastic bag (which doesn't stick to either of those glues).

I clamped it all, weighted the joint, and used the bottle of vanilla (which happened to be within reach on the counter) to hold down the end of the red-tipped clamp, which is so long that it wanted to tip over until I grabbed something to weigh it down. Then I waited for the carpentry glue to dry and the urethane glue to cure.

And fortunately, I did this at a time when no food preparation was going on in the kitchen. The pieces are at a slant away from the wall so the end of the long piece doesn't block the door of the microwave oven.

* This style of T-molding is discontinued now, so it's a good thing I bought enough in advance.

After leaving the job for almost four hours for the carpentry glue to dry and the urethane glue to cure, I unclamped the joint and took away all the extra pieces, except the plastic. It looked pretty solidly joined.

Everything in the previous picture seemed to have done its job.

The finished joint looks pretty good. There's a slight gap that I'll fill with a mix of urethane varnish and sawdust from cutting the same kind of floorboards. A little sanding and wood oil will make the nicks in the cut edges disappear. When it's all done, it should look about as good as the rest of the long piece, which is bound to show more wear because it's a raised surface along the high-traffic border between the kitchen and the rest of the house. This end will go over the low-traffic end of the gap, which is near the end of a kitchen counter. That way, it's less likely to suffer any impacts hard enough to break the joint.

The final step was to cut it to length and put it into the gap. Now one less spot in the house looks like a construction site.

Update 1: In the process of cutting the end piece to length, I noticed that the joint seemed rather weak. I concluded that it needed some reinforcing. I took a piece of scrap floorboard and put it on the table saw edge-on against the fence, and cut it into a thin sheet, maybe 1/8 inch thick, and glued that piece to the bottom of the "T" part of the joint with foaming urethane glue. It feels really solid now.

Additionally, I needed to make some cuts into the baseboard trim to accommodate the full-length T-molding. (It was either that or cut the T-molding to butt against the bottom of the baseboard trim, and I think having the T-molding disappear under the baseboard trim looks nicer.) I started placing the leftover piece of T-molding against the baseboard trim, and using it as a tracing guide for the cut-out. Then I cut a rough, freehand arch into the bottom of the baseboard trim piece, and smoothed it out with a hand chisel.

But after several attempts to cut a nice arch, it just wouldn't fit. That's when I realized that the kitchen tile is about 1/8 inch higher than the fireplace room bamboo. To get the baseboard trim to fit the fireplace room bamboo, the kitchen tile, and the T-molding, I needed to trim that 1/8 inch or so from the kitchen end of the baseboard trim. Once I had the bottom of the baseboard trim matching the floors, I could get the arch cut to match the T-molding.

Update 2: After a while I realized that the reinforcing piece that I glued to the bottom of the T-molding joint had the additional benefit of limiting the side-to-side movement of the T-molding in the notch, because the reinforcement is almost as wide as the notch, while the "T" part of the T-molding is fairly narrow. The T-molding hardly slides around at all near the joint.

A day or two later, I decided that it would be nice to add a similar piece to the bottom of the "T" to keep it from sliding around near the other end of the floorboard. There was a leftover piece of the scrap from when I cut the joint reinforcement, so I used that to stop sideways sliding. I clamped it more conventionally, on the floor. And now that it's in the notch, it feels quite solid, with just a hint of possible movement.

In addition to the T-molding job, I did a little design work on my hideaway standing desk project.


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