Hardwood Floor Inlays Add Style

By HomeAdvisor

Updated November 5, 2018

Wood Inlay

Hardwood floor inlays are made by fashioning a pattern or design out of different colored woods and fitting them together in a floor, wall, or ceiling. They can create a dramatic effect in any room. Inlaid borders can be used as a separation between flooring styles, on thresholds between rooms, to mark the outline of furniture groupings or to add a distinctive accent around certain areas or the perimeter of a room. These decorative designs can add real character to an otherwise normal room.

Due to plentiful amounts of inexpensive labor, inlays were often used in the past with more frequency than they are today. The high cost, however, has recently been lowered because of computer laser-cutting technology. Among all the technological advances are a handful of companies that still do their floor work the old-fashioned way: by hand and scroll saw.

Types of Hardwood Floor Inlays

With the types of wood and finishes available, a wood floor can be put in virtually any room in your house – even kitchens, bathrooms, and utility rooms. Hardwood floor inlays, though slightly less expensive than they were a few years ago, are still pricey enough that you want to make sure they are placed in an environment where they will be protected.

You can make a hardwood inlay out of just about any kind of wood on the market used for a full floor. The grain and color of the woods you choose for your inlay will determine what kind of effect it will have. If you’re unfamiliar with what different woods look like, here is a list of some of the most commonly used species and some basic information about their appearance:

Oak is known for its dark tight grain.

Birch is a softwood similar to pine. It tends to have more knotholes.

Ash is another popular hardwood known for its uniform light texture and grain.

Maple has a light color and a less pronounced grain.

Pine is a popular softwood often found in older homes.

Fir is another common softwood that has large patches of dark grain.

Specialty woods are more expensive; however they are often quite beautiful. If you have an ample budget, you may want the luxurious look of specialty woods. Walnut, teak, and cherry are popular choices.

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When looking for a dramatic addition to any room, think about adding an inlay pattern. Today there are a wide range of distinctive designs, medallions, borders, and styles to choose from in almost any size or type of wood. It’s even possible to turn your own design ideas into reality.


You can customize your wood floor with pieces arranged in a special design, or stain a contrasting color to reflect a special theme or design. Inlay elements turn an already striking hardwood floor into a work of art, making it distinct and decorative.

Border sections with inlaid designs are a popular choice to add ornamental relief or detailing to a room. The medallion design, another popular selection, is a panel with a figure in relief that can be used as decoration.

With so many designs available, choosing an inlay can be challenging. To make the selection process easier, determine the overall style of the interior – rustic, contemporary, or traditional, for example. At this point, eliminate certain flooring design elements that typically do not lend themselves to your particular interior style.

Mixed media floors are another option. These feature wood floors accented with at least one other type of material, such as brass, stone, aluminum, leather, and ceramic tile.

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