As the information age speeds up instant gratification for everything from product information to bus schedules, flooring takes a cue. Messy, time-consuming installation processes have become as easy as clicking a remote control with mechanical lock technology.
Innovation captures market share, particularly in this economy, and companies like Välinge, Pergo, Unilin and Wilsonart are concentrating efforts to that end. From crossovers to other flooring categories to the development of commercial-grade products, laminate-minded companies are expanding on technology and performance capabilities to grow like never before.
Ease of installation was one of the earliest recognized attributes of click systems. An improvement over gluing methods, mechanical locking systems were first applied to laminate flooring but soon found purpose in other categories.
Evolution of click technology materialized with Valinge and its G lock series—the most current, 5G, utilizes a vertical snap method for short edges. “Only a folding of the long edges is required to lock floorboards,” said Darko Pervan, CEO. “The short sides are automatically locked with a flexible tongue that during folding snaps into a groove.”
Most recently, 5G added the side-push method to increase ease of installation. According to Pervan, panels are not locked at the short edges until the next row of boards are installed, creating a strong bond without resistance during folding. In this method, the floor works with the installer rather than resisting against him.
The locking system is available in several materials for increased flexibilty. Pergo has also advanced mechanical locking with PerfectFold Joint Technology, a plastic-clip patented system that provides greater joint security. Based on the company’s SmartFold technology, it features a rotating clip fold to increase installation efficiency.
“We’ve produced the first volumes in Europe with very positive results,” said Ralf Eisermann, CEO.
Unilin’s Uniclic glueless system has been available since 1997. The proprietary system affords the planks to click to each other creating a tight, waterproof bond, said Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing. An evolution of the traditional tongue-and-groove system for joining strips, a hooked tongue on one side and a slotted groove on the other lock pieces securely into place. Uniclic also comes in angle-in or flat installation, which provides convenient options for difficult areas such as under a doorjamb, toe kick or recession.
Expanding on flexibility, Wilsonart has been glueless since 2002 and utilizes Tap-N- Lock technology for non-angled installation. Two tongue-and-groove edges are treated with a hot wax-oil emulsion, in which the oil carries the wax emulsion into the high-density fiberboard core, eliminating moisture from getting in the floor. It also offers a faster, non-angled installation system, which makes it easier to install in difficult places and eliminates peaking for a smooth, even-level finish.
“It’s the flexibility that installers have grown to love and trust,” said Anthony Marshall, product development engineer.
In true entrepreneurial spirit, the makers of laminate click systems have broadened their scope beyond laminate flooring. One of the first categories to benefit from this technology was engineered hardwood flooring. For example, Unilin systems are featured on several Mohawk and Columbia lines.
“Adding the Uniclic locking system to hardwood enables a hardwood floor to be installed more quickly,” said Farabee. He added whether the consumer chooses to go the route of do-it-yourself or professional installation, overall installed cost in time and resources of a hardwood floor is lowered with click system flooring.
Pergo also forayed into a new category—LVT. Planks and tiles feature an LVT layer on Pergo Smartlock boards, the residential adaptation of the company’s ProLoc system with 50% more joint strength than other click systems, Eisermann said. Smartlock has a double locking system, making the joints safe and secure.
“We are confident that this will become a new category of flooring material because it shows the best possible LVT design,” Eisermann said. “It is just the kind of product that our specialty retail customers are waiting for.”
Click systems have also been proven to function well in areas of high moisture—Wilsonart’s new commercial program is an example of that. A Type II PVA, BlueFusion, has enhanced the product’s seam strength to handle larger areas and harsher conditions, all with the convenience of installation in a snap. “Installers won’t witness any adhesive squeeze out with our system, so cleanup is a breeze,” said Tammy Weadock, marketing communications manager.
Pergo has also stepped into the commercial arena with the Pergo Commercial collection. The proprietary dual-locking click system is the base of an AC-4 performance rating with scratch resistance three times greater than residential direct laminate, Eisermann claims. Joint strength is one of the features that stand up to the wear-and-tear of Main Street.