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Q: One visitor asked, "What is the best way to install hardwood around a fireplace mantle? I've heard that you should 'frame' it with the hardwood strips, with corners mitered to 45 degrees, but I wasn't sure how these pieces should be nailed, and how to integrate them with the rest of the floor (i.e. do you install the framing with the tongue or groove towards the rest of the floor). Any information you could provide would be most helpful. In addition, is there a specific circular saw blade that you should cut the hardwood with in order to get the best finished edge?"

A: In most cases, I think it looks better to frame around the fireplace. You starter row will be the board that hits the front of the mantle. If the floor is 2 1/4 you will need to measure out about 2 1/2 to allow for the tongue. Drop a chock line from one end of the room to the other across the front of the fireplace. The first board will be the one directly in front of the fireplace with both ends mitered. Then you will have to miter the side boards. Looking at the fireplace, the piece on the left will have the tongue removed and the groove facing away from the fireplace. On the right side, the tongue is facing away from the fireplace. Make sure the 3 boards are all the same width and that they fit nice and square around the fireplace. Mark out using a square. Make sure this 3 sided frame is square with the chocked starter line that you initially dropped along the face of the fireplace the full length of the room. Squirt down some glue. You will have to face nail these 3 boards. Then apply adhesive down the entire length of the chock line where the first or starter row will fall on both sides of the fireplace. Remember, this first row has the tongue facing away from the fireplace. You will glue down this row, and nail it on the bottom edge of the groove, rather than face nailing. When this row is down and secure, insert splines into the groove. Put a bit of glue on the edge first. The next row will be going in the opposite direction to the first, which is why you need the splines, since the boards will be groove to groove. Again, the second row is glued. The adhesive and splines will hold this row in place. Both rows should also be nailed into the tongues. Once this is done, you are on your way. There is another method to do this, but it is too complicated for the novice and requires very precise measuring.

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