Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay



Creating an end grain flooring inlay was something I was looking forward to for months. We installed plywood wide plank flooring in the dining room and kitchen earlier this year and the living room was next on the list.

The flooring in the dining room and living room were going to be laid in different directions and a regular threshold separating the two spaces was going to be – well pretty boring.

While initially doing my Pinterest research on flooring, I came across pins with different floor designs created using wood slices.

That gave me the idea of doing an end grain flooring as an inlay. It was the perfect solution!

I couldn’t wait to try this project.

 

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The Shopping List

Tools List

Here’s a list of the tools we used on this project.

Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.

Belt Sander

Palm Sander

Miter Saw

Oscillating Multi-Tool

RotoZip

Hearing Protection Ear Muffs

 

Supplies List

These are the supplies used on this project.

Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.

Water Based Oil-Modified Poluyrathane – we used 1 gallon

4″ Polyester Synthetic Brush – 4 brushes to apply the poly

Liquid Nails

What Is End Grain Flooring?

End grain flooring is basically branches and logs cut into slices, then placed in a pattern, in our case, it’s the shape of a river. The slices are glued into place and grout is applied to fill in the spaces between the slices. Then a protective finish is applied and you have yourself an end grain floor!

I call it a wood river, but I’ve seen it called a bunch of different names. Wood slice flooring, end grain flooring, log end flooring, cordwood floor and even cross-cut tree slice flooring to name a few.

Figuring Out End Grain Flooring Inlay Layout

The beauty of doing something like this is that there is no limit to the design you make. It can be as simple or ornate as you want.

Since our house is in the Poconos, in a wilderness setting, we figured a river made of wood would go with the house and its surrounding nature.

The end grain flooring inlay would separate the dining room from the living room. Starting in the corner of the dining room and making it’s way to the corner of the living room fireplace.

We wanted the flooring inlay to start off wider on one side and have it gently curving its way across the space.

We had the idea when we did the dining room earlier in the year and that’s also when I started cutting the wood slices for the river and traced out the shape of the wood slice flooring accent.

We were going to do the living room floors and the inlay a few months later, so that gave the wood slices time to dry.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape and Filled in With Wood Slices - Seen From The Dining Room
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape

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Cutting The Wood Slices

Now that the general shape of the end grain flooring inlay was in place, the next step was to fill it in with wood slices. I got a bunch of branches that had fallen on our property and started cutting them to the width I thought I needed… more on that later.

I cut enough pieces of wood to fill in the inlay, with a bunch of various branch thicknesses. I cut them in May to have them dry up a few months before installing them in the fall.

The flooring was 1/2″ thick and the floors are uneven so I cut the wood slices a bit thicker… at least that’s what I thought….that was a big mistake. It’s important to cut them to the right size right off the bat.

I used a miter saw to cut the slices, it went pretty quick considering how many slices were needed.

Important Tip: When cutting the wood pieces try to cut them as close to the final thickness as possible.

I didn’t do that with this project and it took me days to get the slices down to the right size.

I cut the slices 3/4″ and most of the wood slices needed to be about 1/2″… a big mistake.

That extra 1/4″ was a struggle to remove.



Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape - Seen From The Living Room
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape - Seen From The Living Room

Drying The Wood Slices

I had cut most of the wood slices months ago so those were dry when I was ready to install them.

But I guess I was able to get the wood slices tighter together when I was actually doing the project… so I needed more wood slices.

I found this article on drying the wood slices.

http://theplywood.com/drying-wood-in-oven

Using the oven on low heat (200 F), the wood slices were dry in a couple of hours so it worked really well.

Cutting The End Grain Flooring Inlay Into The Floor Boards

The original plan was to cut each floorboard individually using a rotozip. I was going to cut them outside since the rotozip causes a lot of dust.

Instead, I ended up cutting the floorboards in place using the Oscillating Multi-Tool. That worked really well and it didn’t make very much dust.

After the boards were cut I went over the cut with the belt sander to soften the curves and round off the edge of the boards. That way there aren’t splinters. 🙂

 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Where The Inlay Will Go
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Floor Boards Are All Cut
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Figuring Out What Floor Boards To Use Next To The Inlay
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Cut Into The Floor Boards and Wood Slices In Place - Seen From Fireplace

Placing The Wood Slices In The Inlay

When placing the slices inlay, make sure to mix up the different sizes. That way it looks more organic and natural.

I secured the wood pieces in place with liquid nails. It just takes a dollop on the back of each piece and applying a little pressure to get it to set. 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Cut Into The Floor Boards and Wood Slices In Place - The Inlay Cut Into The Floor Boards and Wood Slices In Place

Seal The Wood Slices Before Applying The Grout

I sealed the wood slices before applying the grout by applying a coat of the polyurethane. Otherwise the grout will darken the wood slices. You’ll be sanding everything down later but sealing the slices makes it easier to get them back to the lighter color.

Mixing The Sawdust Grout

I found an article from Bob Villa that talks about the grout that can be used with the wood slices. It’s called sawdust grout.

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/quick-tip-sawdust-grout/

Sawdust grout is a combination of 2 parts sawdust to 1 part polyurethane.

I used a water based, oil-modified fast drying polyurethane for the sawdust grout mix and the finish.

The polyurethane dries quickly and it’s orderless. 

It’s the same one we used on the plywood wide plank floor boards in the living dining room and kitchen.

Applying The Grout

The Grout is a pretty dry paste that can be pushed into all the nooks and crannies between each wood slice.

Using latex gloves grab a small glob of Grout and push it into the spaces between the wood slices.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The wood slices are in place and the sawdust grout is being applied
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The wood slices are in place and the sawdust grout is being applied

Sanding The End Grain Flooring Inlay

I used a belt sander to sand down the wood pieces.

Of course, that was only after I fixed my huge mistake of cutting the wood slices the wrong thickness.

The sand paper I used was 36 grit. I wanted something that gave the wood pieces a rough texture so they wouldn’t be slippery.

Because sanding is a pretty messy task, I tented off the area, that way the dust didn’t go all over the house.

 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Tented Off To Reduce The Dust Around The House While Sanding
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Tented Off To Reduce The Dust Around The House While Sanding
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Tented Off To Reduce The Dust Around The House While Sanding

This is what the wood slices and the sawdust grout looked like after the sanding was done.

I sanded the wood slice inlay to the height of the flooring on either side of it. I also used the sander to knock off the edges of each of the wood slices, removing any hard edges that may be uncomfortable to walk on.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay After Grout Dried And Sanded Before Poly Finish



Adding The Polyurathane Finish

The polyurethane was the same one I used on the wood board flooring and in the sawdust grout mix.

 I put three coats of finish on the end grain flooring inlay.

Although the poly is colorless, it did give the wood slices a little bit of a yellow tint.

The grout also darken quite a bit when I applied the poly on top of it.

 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay After Grout Dried And Sanded After Poly Finish

More Pics Of The End Grain Flooring Inlay

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - cross cut flooring inlay from the dining room
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The End Grain Flooring Inlay Finished
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - End Grain flooring Inlay from the fireplace
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Finished - Seen From The Dining Room
End Grain Flooring Inlay Finished - Log End Wood Floor Inlay Closeup
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - End Grain flooring Inlay toward the fireplace

What Do You Think?

We love the way the end grain flooring inlay turned out.  It’s so much more character than a simple threshold would have given.

What do you think? Do you like the way it turned out? What would you do differently? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - A closeup of the End Grain Flooring Inlay Finished

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve. My wife Sandy and I have been doing DIY projects for years now and we finally created a blog to help share our projects and ideas.

We hope you find these posts useful. 🙂

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