Transition Time: How to Connect Tile and Hardwood Floors

Transitioning a bathroom’s tile floor into the wood of some other room is often given little forethought. However, not going the transition could cause a final product which doesn’t satisfy your expectations, or even a floor assembly that is destined to fail.

Most of the floor framing in North America is designed to fulfill a base business standard. This regular (usually quantified as a deflection score) enables for materials such as little ceramic tile, vinyl, carpet and wood to be used on floors. However, these days a lot of my customers want large, natural stone tile.

Many also want the tile to transition seamlessly from one room to another. This can be done, but most homeowners don’t know that their home has to be equipped with extra strength and rigidity to carry this weight.

Below you will learn what to define when planning a transition from tile flooring to hardwood.

The Turett Collaborative

This bath is a great example of current trends in bathroom design: plenty of room, bright light, a good soaking tub and a walk-in barrier-free shower.

Notice the flush transition out of hardwood flooring to tile. Looking closer (click on the photograph to enlarge it), you will understand that the tile is large (approximately 1 foot by 2 feet) and made of marble; both attributes require a more solid floor than most houses have.

Tip: If you’re working with large-format tile or natural stone, define that your rooms fulfill a stronger deflection score: L/720, rather than the base-standard L/360. This number indicates how much flex a floor has before tile is set up — both the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Association of Canada (TTMAC) need L/720 for thick installations.


Many of today’s floor tile is ⅜ inch to 3/4 inch thick. Most hardwood flooring is 3/4 inch thick. It follows that when you place tile beside hardwood flooring, your tile selection will be critical to get a flush transition.

Simply tiling along with a plywood subfloor is not an option — this practice is frowned upon and is not allowed by the TCNA or even TTMAC. Nevertheless, you can install a thin uncoupling mat (such as Laticrete’s Strata Mat or Schluter Systems’ Ditra) to fulfill with the tile business’s requirements.

Tip: Installing another layer of plywood over your subfloor and under your hardwood enables for more floor preparation options later on. In addition, this is a valid option if your house’s floor joists were not designed for a stronger, thicker floor. Nevertheless, this should be planned early on, since it affects how your stairs and stair risers are built.

Here’s an action shot of timber being installed over an uncoupling membrane out of Laticrete, which adopts the plywood subfloor for tile.

Tip: If your floor is not powerful enough to satisfy the right deflection rating, an uncoupling membrane will not help. Increasing the floor joist width or adding another layer of plywood is a much better and safer option.

Before Photo

Tarkus Tile, Inc..

Here Tarkus Tile is prepping to get a tile installation with another layer of plywood and an uncoupling membrane. The orange substance (Schluter Systems’ Ditra) was set up with a quality modified thinset (mortar). Since this house’s existing framing wasn’t suited to maintain the new tile choice, the installers beefed up the subfloor to make sure that the installation would last for many years to come.

Tip: The selection between a flush installation from tile to hardwood and one which meets business guidelines shouldn’t be a hard one. Always follow industry guidelines! They will most likely be stricter than local construction codes.

This custom walnut transition helps adjust for the difference between the bathroom floor and the bedroom floor in this master suite. This is often referred to as a reducing wood transition, since it functions with two surfaces, reducing their height differences.

We focused the tile installation below the door, so as soon as the door is closed you see only tile in the bathroom and walnut in the bedroom.

Tip: I discover that these alterations seem cleaner if the door jamb (the perpendicular area of the door frame) overlaps the tile just a bit. However, this is hard to do if the tile has not been set up yet. If you can, install your bathroom door after the tile installation.

Megan Buchanan

The simplest way to link floor tile and hardwood of different heights is with a transition strip. These strips may be finished to look like the ground or painted to stand out.

Tip: Leave ⅝ inch to 3/4 inch of space based underneath the door for the base of this transition strip. Should you affix a bit of scrap baseboard or plywood in precisely the exact same dimensions, it’ll help keep this channel clean of thinset, making the transition strip simpler to install.


A custom made transition could be milled by your floor contractor for installation after the tile is complete. Notice in which the wood transition matches the tile — the wood is not cut into a feathered edge but kept to approximately ⅛ inch thick. This produces the advantage stronger. The transition also overlaps since tile and wood expand at different rates, the tile, which assists with motion.

More: 20 Great Examples of Transitions in Flooring

See related