Everything You Need to Know About Tick Sticking for Your Next Flooring Project

Elisa Greenberg
Written by Elisa Greenberg
Updated April 29, 2022
modern kitchen with stone floors
Photo: chandlerphoto / Getty Images


  • Carpenters and DIYers can make ticking sticks from scrap wood.

  • Tick sticking is an easy way to trace and produce complex flooring shapes.

  • Use the A, B, C method to draw and connect multiple scribe lines.

  • Perfectly fit irregular flooring patterns into odd corners and curves.

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Whether you’re planning to add textured stone tiles, natural wood flooring, or an exciting floor pattern to your home, you might come across odd shapes or curves that don’t match the rest of your flooring. These shapes might have multiple complex or jagged lines. When deciding on the right tool to use—you’ll turn to tick sticking to fix your irregular pattern issues. 

Here are ways to use tick sticking to complete your flooring project.

What Is Tick Sticking?

A ticking stick is a measuring stick cut from a thin piece of wood. Tick sticking is a centuries-old method used by boat builders to cut complex lines in various parts of ships. 

Today, tick sticking helps home remodeling professionals cut jagged, irregular lines around corners on flooring, carpeting, drywall, roofing, and more. Ticking sticks come in handy when measuring tapes or rulers can’t get the job done.

How to Make a Ticking Stick

Whether you’re going with travertine tile flooring or hardwood, you may need a ticking stick to complete the job. However, ticking sticks are unique—you can’t typically buy them. Instead, carpenters (and DIYers with woodworking experience) can easily make them. 

You need a thin piece of scrap wood and a woodcutter. Ensure that the stick is big enough to cover the surface area of the shape that you’re trying to replicate. Each ticking stick should have a point on one end and one or more notches along the edge. These notches serve as reference points during the measuring process.  

Pro tip: Projects that require a ticking stick also typically use heavy paper, such as cardboard, and a pencil. 

How to Use a Ticking Stick

You’ll use a ticking stick to draw a complex shape onto a sheet of paper. You’ll use this shape to trace a pattern onto flooring material, which will then fit into the irregular shape on your floor.

Follow these steps to using a ticking stick for your next flooring project: 

  • Choose a sheet of paper small enough to fit inside the irregular shape. Make sure all corners of the shape are exposed.

  • Secure your paper with tacks or tape, ensuring it won’t move during the measuring process.

  • Start from one end, typically the left side, and work your way to the farthest end.

  • Take your ticking stick and place it on each corner in the pattern. You can label each point alphabetically (A, B, C) for guidance. 

  • Carefully outline the straight edge of your ticking stick from the corner point to the end of the stick. Keep the ticking stick steady, so you don’t make a measuring mistake.

  • You’ll now have various outlines—or scribe lines—across your paper.

  • Place your paper outline on top of the flooring material and secure it with tape or non-damaging sticking material.

  • Place your ticking stick on point A. Trace the scribe lines up to the pointed end of the stick and make a dot at the tip. 

  • Continue to trace each point and make a dot. You can find the correct alphabetical scribe lines by matching them up with the notch in your ticking stick.

  • Remove your guided sheet of paper and connect the dots—you can use your ticking stick or a straight ruler.

  • Use a flooring cutter to cut the connected pattern.

  • Place your piece of flooring into the odd shape, secure it, and voila! You have a perfectly cut piece of complex flooring.

Pro tip: Have a cutting tool handy if you need to make minor adjustments to your irregular floor pattern. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Tick Sticking?

Tick sticking provides an inexpensive way to cut complex corners on flooring—and it’s the best solution for creating a perfect fit. 

However, as shapes become more irregular and odd, it’s harder to measure your cutout accurately. Carpentry professionals who aren’t used to tick sticking can prolong a project or even create material waste if they need to keep tracing and cutting.

How to Scribe Flooring  

Floor scribing is an important component that goes along with tick sticking. If you’re trying to cut an irregular flooring shape on the curve of a wall with a ticking stick, you’ll need to first fill all the gaps between the floor and wall by scribing the floor.

Floor scribing uses a full paper template to cover the entire floor’s perimeter, including irregular shapes, to match flooring to the contours of the wall.

Carpenters use a 6-by-8-inch steel square to scribe flooring. The template is then transferred to the flooring material and cut to exact measurements.

Floor scribing ensures that a wall and flooring material match perfectly, eliminating gaps and allowing easy access to move forward with the tick sticking process. 

Should You Hire a Pro?

contractor talking to a woman at home about a house project
Photo: Hispanolistic / Getty Images

We recommend that only experienced DIYers with carpentry skills take on a flooring project with a ticking stick to ensure a smooth and perfect finish. 

The price of flooring repairs averages $400 if you make a measuring mistake. And because measurements need to be exact—you should consult a home remodeling professional near you before starting your flooring project.

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