By Mara Bollettieri
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: So an installer is getting ready to lay down a laminate floor. He has all the necessary tools for the job—including the plastic, wedge-style spacers that came with the standard installation kit he purchased at the store. While the spacers were designed to ensure the requisite space around the perimeter of the installation, he finds the planks keep moving anyway.
This is precisely what happened to Adrian Battle, a carpenter with 35 years of experience who works in the San Diego market. Over the years, he grew weary of using traditional spacers that were not always effective in keeping floating floors—especially laminates—in place during installation. In one instance, Battle was in a customer’s home installing laminate flooring on a steamy summer day. On this particular job site, there was one section of the wall that was not perfectly straight. So every time he would get to that section, he would push the floor together but the planks would pop apart, leaving him to start the installation all over again.
It was in that exasperating moment he envisioned a spacer that would hold the floor in place properly. This led him to devise his own solution: The J-Lock spacer. “I was frustrated,” Battle recalled. “Then I thought, what if I had something that was in the shape of a ‘J’ on top of the board?”
Battle noted the spacers he used in the past were either too expensive, very clunky, wouldn’t stay put and/or were difficult to pull out. The beauty of J-Lock, he says, is it stays in place and it’s easy to remove.
How it works: The longer leg in the “J” rests between the flooring material and the wall, while the shorter leg sits on the surface of the floor. If there’s a gap under the drywall that’s big enough for the flooring to slide under (something that, according to Battle, happens often when you push against it), the J shape will make it lock in place on top of the board. “It gives you a nice, stable, vertical surface to push and work against,” he explained. “And they’re easy to get out—I can stick my finger under there and pull them out.”
Designed with both novice installers and professional floor layers in mind, the J-Lock spacers—which are made of high-density polyethylene and come 20 to a pack—are easy to use and intuitive, according to Battle. “There’s not a lot to figure out about how to use them. You just put two on every long edge and one on every end, and you get going. Plus, they’re small—you can just throw them in your bags and go on to the next job to use them again.”
Installers and retailers alike are singing J-Lock’s praises. Independent contractor John Herald, located in San Diego, was skeptical about using the J-Lock spacers at first, given the fact they were a bit wider than the spacers he normally used. But his reservations quickly subsided. “I used them on a job and was impressed,” he recalled. “The base still covered all the way around the room, and my gaps were wide enough for expansion and contraction.”
While designed primarily for floating floors, the J-Lock spacers can be used in other installation scenarios as well. “I’ve also used them on glue-down products,” Herald noted. “They sit on top of the product; they don’t get down in the glue. It just makes things a little easier.”
Dezarai Gonzales, customer service supervisor at San Diego-based Coles Fine Flooring, an NFA retailer, is also a believer. In fact, she was so impressed that she insisted that all of her installation crews switch to J-Lock spacers exclusively. Aside from expediting installation, she touted another major advantage: Use of the spacers provides a bit of a legal “cushion” in cases where potential claims might arise out of challenges regarding the provision of perimeter expansion gaps.
“I’m sick and tired of manufacturers denying claims,” Gonzales said. “With the J-Lock spacers, we can put them in room by room, snap some pictures and leave those in our file. Then, if we have a claim on that floor in the future, we have proof that we did, in fact, leave an expansion gap. It’s not disputable.”
J-Lock spacers have even made an impression among installers outside the U.S. James Scully, a senior fitter/installer who formerly worked for Floors & Doors in Palmers Green, London, commended the product for its innovative design. “These spacers are a game changer,” he said.
At present, the J-Lock spacer is patented in the U.S., Europe and Turkey. Battle is optimistic about the future potential of his invention. “It’s my hope it will become the industry’s standard,” he told FCNews. “I think it’s going to end up being like peanut butter and jelly—when somebody goes into the store to buy laminate, the salesperson might say, ‘You need a few packs of those J-Locks.’”
Visit jlockflooringspacers.com for more information.