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Mohawk’s paradigm shift

Change in laminate brand marketing strategy reflects product’s evolution

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Reginald Tucker

 

After conducting extensive consumer research, Mohawk has decided to dramatically alter the way it markets its laminate flooring product offerings at retail. In a nutshell, laminate products previously positioned under the “laminate” banner will now be labeled RevWood—although the core construction of the product has not changed. Ditto for the company’s Quick-Step division, which will now market its laminate lines under the NatureTEK banner in a separate marketing initiative.

FCNews looks at the specifics of the respective changes and enhancements:

Same but different
With LVT, WPC and rigid core flooring continuing to nip at laminates’ heels, Mohawk is exploring ways to keep some of the focus on laminate. How? By not referring to the category—which is still based on traditional HDF core plus melamine-infused designer paper construction. The move, according to the company, is designed to make consumers rethink the hardwood category.

“RevWood is for people who desire the beauty of wood floors without compromising performance,” said Gary Lanser, president, Mohawk hardwood and laminate. “The vintage allure and incredible hardwood realism of RevWood Plus looks and stays gorgeous no matter what your family throws at it.”

All in the messaging
Mohawk laminate marketing and promotional collateral, including merchandisers and displays, will now carry the header: “RevWood Plus: Wood Without Compromise.” According to Mohawk, this is designed to correlate to the way some consumers view laminate flooring today.

“In a study we conducted, consumers ranked RevWood and TrueTEK [the new Quick-Step laminate brand] right up there with real wood,” Lanser stated. “In the consumer’s mind, solid wood flooring is still the gold standard, but now you have all these other hybrid products crossing lines. The fact is, whether it’s our real wood products vs. NatureTEK, once it goes down, the customer has no idea which one is real wood vs. a laminate. It’s hard to differentiate just by sight.”

Takes a licking…
According to Lanser, RevWood planks offer impressive, reliable durability that resists stains, scratches and dents and is 100% waterproof. That means spills, accidents and tracked-in stain-makers are kept on the surface for quick, easy cleanup thanks to Uniclic MultiFit technology. RevWood Plus also features All Pet Protection & Warranty covering all pets, all accidents, all the time.

“As a leader in the flooring industry, retailers can trust Mohawk to take our products to the next level in the coming years,” said Karen Mendelsohn, senior vice president of marketing.

 

What’s in a name?
In much the same way that Mohawk-branded laminate flooring is taking on a new identity, the company’s Quick-Step-branded laminate product

s are undergoing a big change. Henceforth, Quick-Step laminate offerings will now fall under the NatureTEK banner. (This is in keeping with the division’s decision to promote its previous Q-Wood offerings as TrueTEK products, and its luxury vinyl products—launched in 2016—as EnduraTEK (formerly Quick-Step LVF).

Billed as the new face of performance in flooring, Quick-Step TEK is built for people with active lifestyles. “From resilient to laminate to engineered hardwood, we have TEK covered,” Lanser said. “Our TEK products are a leap forward in providing customers simplicity in their hard surface purchase journeys along with bringing them what they want.”

Form plus function
Mohawk executives are confident in the ability of its new laminate offerings to not only stand the test of time but also dazzle consumers via realistic visuals.

Quick-Step’s NatureTEK Plus line, which features a waterproof laminate wood construction, combines Mohawk’s patented Uniclic Locking System, GenuEdge beveled technology and innovative HydroSeal coating. So NatureTEK Plus withstands everyday spills and wet mopping while also resisting fading, scratches and stains.

“In 10 years we expect these floors will look the same as they did when they were first installed,” Lanser stated. “The realism of NatureTEK and RevWoods is incredible, and the moisture resistance is incredible. We’ve put down millions of square feet of product; when there are spills the water doesn’t leak through. We’ve done a lot of real-world testing that bears this out.”

First impressions
Distributors on hand for the official rollout of the NatureTEK at Surfaces 2018 were impressed with the realism of the visuals as well as they performance story. They also embraced the new marketing strategy.

“This is good stuff,” said Keith Slobodien, president, Apollo Distributing, a top 20 wholesaler. “Laminate has become secondary to wood in terms of prestige and waterproof capabilities. By focusing on TEK—whether it’s vinyl, wood or laminate—it’s probably a better overall product positioning.”

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Laminate: Advancements spark innovation in form, function

January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15

By Reginald Tucker

 

In a mature flooring segment such as laminate, one might not expect to see groundbreaking advances emerge with regularity. However, suppliers point to several recent and developing innovations that stand to build on an already durable, fashionable and desirable product.

“Innovation is always key to business and we have seen a lot of changes in the past years to laminate (i.e., water resistance and enhanced design) and composite product (new categories and product features),” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “We expect this to continue at an even faster rate in 2018 and beyond.”

Other industry executives share that view. Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminate at Mannington, and president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), sees the industry continuing to invest millions of dollars in the production of laminate flooring in support of strong demand. “There have been significant innovations in the category, including water-resistant coreboard technologies, improved visuals and different surface treatments. “It’s not the laminate flooring of 20 years ago.”

In Mannington’s case, some of those innovations are evident in new technologies designed to repel moisture in places where laminate coreboards are most vulnerable: at the tongue and groove areas and along the edge seams. Its new technology—SpillShield—is a factory-applied, moisture-resistant coating exclusively available on its Restoration Collection of laminate floors. It is designed to protect customers’ floors from everyday spills and messes by resisting moisture. “Floors protected by SpillShield will not be damaged by ordinary spills and pet messes that are removed within 72 hours,” Natkin stated.

Mannington is not alone in the fight to improve laminate flooring’s chances against water incursion. Shaw Floors recently rolled out its Repel line of laminate flooring, which is designed to stand up to the toughest household conditions, including spills. “The biggest innovation within the category is centered on the advancements in water-resistant technology,” said Drew Hash, vice president, hard surface. “Our Repel laminate collection features beautiful styling and superior scratch-, stain-, fade- and water-resistant performance attributes, making it a great investment for retailers and consumers interested in high-end laminate products.”

Laminate manufacturers are not just “talking the talk” when it comes to improving the product in terms of both form and function. Many are pumping resources, capital and manpower into both new and existing facilities. Case in point: In 2017, Swiss Krono broke ground on a $200 million laminate and coreboard facility in Barnwell, S.C. That investment comes on the heels of several multi-million-dollar cash infusions made over the past few years.

“Customers are continuing to demand products produced in the U.S., and in response we are adding higher value product manufacturing capacity,” said Erik Christensen, president and CEO. “We will continue to shift our domestic product mix to higher value products, and as a result we anticipate overall growth of around 10%.”

Mohawk is another company that’s literally banking on laminate’s success. “We have invested heavily in a new laminate facility in Thomasville, N.C., which makes some of the most realistic product on the market,” said Gary Lanser, president, laminate and hardwood.  “These investments will increase our laminate capacity as we continue to grow and extend our leadership position in the category.”

Suppliers’ commitment to the advancement of the category is not overlooked by its retail partners. For San Jose, Calif.-based Conklin Bros., which adopted the Mohawk laminate line over a lower-end product some time ago, the decision was a no-brainer. “At one time we brought in some inexpensive laminates and sold them for a while, but our customer base wanted the Mohawk product,” said Rick Oderio, owner. “Since then we have literally sold miles and miles of Mohawk laminate flooring.”

On the horizon
As suppliers look deeper into 2018 and beyond, they predict continued innovation across the category—albeit at a marginally slower clip. “The product mix in laminate is expanding to include more high-end products with enhanced realistic visuals, thicker coreboard and increased durability,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president, laminate and hardwood, Mohawk. “Today’s consumers expect affordable laminate floors but refuse to sacrifice quality, style and design.”

But that also means the industry must take a more proactive role in educating the consumer on the different types of products entering the market—especially in light of stiff competition from alternative categories. As Shaw’s Hash explained: “The broad range of products available within the laminate market can create misconceptions for this product category, making it increasingly important for manufacturers and flooring retailers to be able to effectively communicate the benefits and attributes of each product line and how it does or doesn’t meet a particular customer’s needs.”

Mohawk’s Farabee agreed, adding, “It’s our job to remind people of the incredible benefits this category offers. There’s a role for the laminate category to play with respect to the new products starting to emerge.”

 

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Retailers recall top intros of 2017

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lindsay Baillie

 

FCNews asked retailers to name the top flooring introductions of 2017. It should come as no surprise that the responses covered a broad range of products across the spectrum—LVT/WPC, wood, laminate and carpet. Some of the products identified were updated designs and looks from intros of 2016, while others were completely new launches.

Following is an overview of the new products that stood out in 2017:

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Laminate: Managing conflict via private-label strategies

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.08.46 AMIn the ongoing battle between independent flooring retailers and the big boxes, laminate manufacturers have come up with a way to keep their channel partners happy: Develop private-label programs for some of the home centers while awarding specialty dealers with long established brands that carry the greatest brand equity.

But this is not a distinction in name only; many of the laminate brands destined for price-conscious shoppers who frequent outlets such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and the like are developed and positioned accordingly. Meanwhile, many of the household laminate flooring brand names consumers might find at the specialty retailer level are designed to provide better margin opportunities; and they are manufactured and marketed to support that strategy.

“We’ve always tried to create differentiated products in terms of style and performance so those products can compete with one another in the marketplace,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president, laminate and hardwood, Mohawk. “So far that strategy has worked pretty well. We’ve not only been able to do that with respect to the quality of the product itself but also with respect to our brands that have meaning to the consumer and the trade. It is a challenge, but that’s why we have so many products in the pipeline.”

Case in point is Pergo, a brand under Mohawk’s Quick-Step umbrella but one that you won’t find at the specialty retail level. (Much to the delight of Lowe’s and Home Depot.) Conversely, Mohawk laminate lines are not available at big box stores—and specialty retailers are just fine with that. Rick Oderio, owner of Conklin Bros., San Jose, Calif., recently upgraded from an entry-level laminate offering to a higher quality line from Mohawk. And he hasn’t looked back. “We literally sell miles of Mohawk laminate. More importantly, we don’t get any callbacks with the Mohawk brand. It has been a very profitable category for us, and the visuals are truly amazing.”

Armstrong is another household flooring brand name that is benefitting from the multi-channel approach. The goal, according to Morgan Hafer, product manager, is to continue to provide innovations in performance and design to not only compete but also give specialty retailers more products that can’t be shopped at the big boxes.

In that same vein, Shaw Floors maintains its commitment to the specialty retail channel by offering laminate products under the Shaw brand name. But it also manufactures a separate range of laminate lines for home centers as well as private-label collections for buying groups. However, new high-performance products like its Repel line—which is specially designed to withstand liquid spills and accidents—is strictly available to specialty retailers.

It’s a model that seems to be working for other manufacturers who cater to various channels. Uniboard, for example, is probably best known in Canada as the manufacturer of brands such as Allegria—which you won’t find in specialty retail stores. (In fact, the company supplies a host of other producers around the world with laminate flooring whose clients, in turn, market under other brand names.) However, when it comes to providing distributors with differentiated laminate products that can boost their profit margins, a Uniboard-branded strategy is the way to go.

“There is tremendous equity in the Uniboard brand name, which is why we decided to focus on that brand recognition when we re-entered the U.S. market,” said Don Raymond, vice president of sales and marketing. “For many retailers and distributors, the Uniboard brand is synonymous with high quality, and it only makes sense for us to leverage that name recognition.

Specialty retailers seem to be embracing the strategy. For some, the private label distinction—be it home centers vs. independents or independents vs. buying group brands—keeps consumers from shopping around solely based on price. “Being in a buying group has given us many benefits—one being able to have our own private-label brand,” said Carlton Billingsley, president and owner, Floors and More, Benton, Ark. As a member of both the FCA Network and Starnet, this approach sets him apart from the competition. “Private labels allow us to focus on products that are important to our market, and we work with our vendor partners to have a good assortment. This allows our customers to receive very good products at aggressive pricing while seeing products that are different from the dealer down the street.”

While private labels can certainly help improve profitability, some believe exclusive brands are the way to go. As Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One Floor & Home, told retail members during the group’s summer convention: We provide our members with exclusive brands, not just private-labeled products. “We add exclusive colors, superior warranties, product attributes and guarantees that cannot be offered by simply slapping on a private label. We integrate our exclusive brands in a comprehensive selling system that helps make the selection process easier for customers and the presentation process easier for retail sales professionals.”

Many flooring retailers, mindful of the dilemma that manufacturers have to contend with by serving different channels, appreciate the ability of suppliers to diversify the product mix. Most specialty retailers would prefer not to compete with home centers on price alone, and the branding strategy laminate manufacturers have developed sufficiently addresses this problem.

“We try not to compete with box stores on any product,” said Char Smith, manager of Gallagher’s Flooring, Grand Junction, Colo. “For the most part, they are selling to people who are only interested in a price point and have no idea or concern regarding quality of product. We have chosen to deal with laminate suppliers that produce quality products.”

 

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Distribution: Despite threats from LVT/WPC, segment hold its own

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.04.14 AMPrior to the explosive growth of LVT/WPC, hardwood was the hot product in the hard surface flooring segment. In fact, 2012 and 2013 saw some of the largest increases in the wood category, with double-digit gains each year.

Since then wood has continued to grow, albeit at a declining rate. Some observers surmise that this slow growth, which in many ways mirrors the overall flooring industry over the past five years, is the new normal. “I think wood growth is going to level off for the industry in the low single digits going forward,” said Torrey Jaeckle, vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, Madison, Wis. “What we are seeing is the wood jobs we are getting are larger average sizes, which has a positive impact on growth. The average order size (in square feet) is up 15% from several years ago. Wider widths and scraped product continue to show steady gains, and while you can get those same looks in a number of different product categories now (LVT, ceramic, laminate), real wood still remains an aspirational product for many consumers and will continue to do so. I think what we are seeing is the designs of other products have become so good now some consumers are becoming more willing to give up the real thing for the wear, maintenance and other benefits these other products offer.”

Another leading distributor suggested wood flooring “will never be back to where it was.” His view is the pace of new home builds is down 60% from its peak in 2007 and will be hard-pressed to match the pre-recession levels anytime soon given the shortage of skilled labor that is impacting construction. “The peak of home building is when wood really shined,” he said. “New homes drive building flooring contractors. I don’t know that the builder market will have exuberant growth but I expect it to climb in the low- to mid-single digits.”

Based on the percentage of business distributors still do with hardwood, they are clearly still bullish on the category. Many of the top 20 have wood portfolios in the 25%-35% range; some are lower; a few much higher. Scores of consumers still want genuine wood, not something that merely replicates it. “What we are noticing is wood styling trends seem to be changing quickly. It’s imperative for us to work with our suppliers to provide the latest and greatest looks,” said Chip Moxley, president of Tingle Flooring, Lees Summit, Mo.

Several wholesalers said they have seen a significant shift toward engineered wood vs. solid, and others have seen a steady increase in their unfinished wood business as well.

For Galleher, William M. Bird, Belknap White, All Tile and others, wood remains a constant. It is the largest segment for each of these wholesalers. In its New England market, Belknap White executives says customers remain passionate about solid wood, whereas in its southern area more engineered is being sold.

Laminate
For most top 20 distributors, laminate represents well south of 10% of their product mix, with several saying it is now 5% or less. “Laminate is taking a severe dive,” one prominent West Coast distributor told FCNews.

Blame it on the success of LVT/WPC, which has eroded virtually every other category. But while some have given up on laminate, there are those who are encouraged by new developments, in particular some of the new water-resistant offerings.

Mannington’s Spill Shield, for example, was cited as a product that offers true differentiated advantages. “Laminate has surprisingly held its own because it has been embraced by the builder channel,” said Jeff Striegel, president of Elias Wilf, Owings Mills, Md. “[The 12-mil format] has made them more comfortable. You can get the wood visuals at a fraction of the cost. It is a much more durable floor from the time it goes in to the time the homeowner takes over [occupancy of the home].”

Distributors who have not abandoned the category have picked up share from those who have. For Herregan Distributors, Eagan, Minn., laminate is still 10% of its business.  “Laminate is showing some positive trends because of stronger moisture warranties,” said Pat Thies, vice president of sales and marketing.

 

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Laminate: I4F system benefits consumers and installers alike

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.08.11 PMInnovations4Flooring (I4F), a technology company focused on the development of patents and flooring installation solutions, has more than doubled its number of licensees over the last 12 months. This growth is driven largely by acceptance of the company’s flagship technologies, including 3L TripleLock and Click4U. 3L TripleLock provides a one-piece drop-lock installation innovation, and Click4U delivers an angle system for the long side, combined with drop-lock on the short side.

3L TripleLock is being acclaimed as the new market standard with more retailers in the U.S. asking their suppliers to switch over to the system. Results, so far, are proving extremely positive with those implementing the solution witnessing a sharp sell-out growth rate that is outperforming the overall market.

According to retailers and installers, the solution is extremely easy to use, enabling the placement of floors to be much quicker while maintaining the highest quality levels. The system’s appeal is now also extending to consumers as it is suitable for all types of flooring and, in particular, products made from new, high-demand materials.

In the U.S., installers are voicing their support of 3L TripleLock, expressing how easy and fast it is to install floors using the solution. They especially like the fact that it delivers tight seams without the inconvenience of any moving parts, according to I4F. 3L TripleLock is up to 30% faster to install than basic clicks and doesn’t need any special tools, including tapping blocks or tool bars. In addition, replacing or swapping out planks is straightforward with its simple slide and lift system.

All this enables installers to meet and exceed their customers’ demands.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the global flooring industry by bringing meaningful innovations into the market and, at the end of the day, the customer is king,” said John Rietveldt, chief executive officer of Innovations4Flooring. “People will always choose the easiest and fastest solution, and when they can also use the same technique on the newest materials, their decision becomes very clear cut.”

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Laminate: The latest innovations in ‘click’ technologies

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.25 PMWith all the attention being paid to WPC-type floors—and rightfully so—one might think there’s not much happening in the way of innovations with other competing hard surface categories.

That notion could not be further from the truth as evidenced by what’s taking place in the mature-but-still-evolving laminate flooring sector. As several manufacturers continue to fortify their coreboards with materials and proprietary processes designed to better resist water or repel moisture altogether, several companies responsible for developing glueless locking systems are ramping up their own innovations.

Following is an overview of the latest glueless locking system developments along with a summary of how several click system licencees are incorporating those technologies in their respective products.

Innovations4Flooring (I4F)
One company at the forefront of glueless locking systems is Innovations4Flooring (I4F). Its latest innovation—3L TripleLock—provides a unique one-piece, drop-lock installation system for flooring panels that eliminates the need for an additional insert on the short side. The system works with all types of flooring materials, including laminate coreboard panels. According to I4F, the elimination of the additional insert on the short side provides manufacturers with the possibility to improve productivity levels while at the same time reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Furthermore, the 3L TripleLock click system (see illustration) is suitable for existing high-speed production. The good news for installers is shorter laying time. According to I4F, boards featuring 3L TripleLock technology can be installed up to 30% faster than basic click systems. Plus, there are no special tools required for installation.

While the 3L TripleLock system addresses installation issues on the short side of the plank, I4F’s Click4U technology, an angle-system, takes care of the long side. Combined with the drop-lock on the short side, the locking strength is very high. And just like 3L TripleLock, Click4U is suitable for existing high-speed production machinery.

I4F’s technology is already being used on millions of square feet of flooring around the world. “We believe the global flooring market is ready for change, and our innovations will play a significant role in this huge industry transformation,” said John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F.

Unilin Division Technologies
Unilin Division Technologies is the intellectual property unit within the Unilin Group that grants licenses with regard to Unilin’s patent rights.

Unilin provides several different glueless locking system platforms, including Uniclic, UnitFit (Plus and X) and Unipush. Uniclic is the industry’s traditional glueless locking technology for installation of flooring and wall panels, while Unifit Plus and Unifit X are designed for fold-down installation of flooring panels, which includes laminates.

Lastly, Unipush aims to make push-down installations even more intuitive and simple. How it works: By angling the long side of the panel in, the panel can be connected on the short side simply by pushing the panel down on the short side. No additional materials, i.e., inserts, or equipment, are necessary using this system.

To date, Unilin Division Technologies manages more than 2,000 patents in over 300 patent families. Several licensee partners include: Alsapan, AGT, Berry, BHK, Classen, Clarion Industries, Egger Group, Faus, Kronotex, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw, Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others.

Classen, a Unilin licensee, utilizes state-of-the-art locking technology in its Megaloc system. Manufactured in Germany, the Megaloc locking system Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.48 PMis DIY friendly and makes installation simple and seamless. In illustration: A laminate floor with a Megaloc system has a locking mechanism on the short side. The panels are simply dropped down into the joint of the previously laid row. As planks are lowered, a special patented insert/lock, located on the short end of the laminate, will lock the plank in place. (A locking-clip in the short grooves allows the next plank to be locked directly from above.) Once the panel is installed into place, the locking element also locks and a stable connection is created. All the installer has to do is press along the short side when he hears the click.

Other well-known lines featuring Unilin click technology is the Majestic collection from Quick-Step and Mohawk-branded laminates. Equipped with the patented Uniclic system, the products allow a quick and easy installation for floor layers. The products also score points in the aesthetics department. Majestic, for example, comes in a variety of decors from vintage/reclaimed to rustic and smooth and features surface texturing designed to mimic real wood floors. The line also touts resistance to water and scratching.

“Based on original wooden planks, the R&D team uses innovative techniques to develop a product that combines natural beauty with the practicality of high-end laminate,” said Ruben Desmet, general manager laminate, Unilin.

Uniboard is another Unilin licensee. The company’s lamiante flooring product range includes both 12mm and 14mm offerings, each featuring the “Bestlock” glueless locking technology. The end result, according to the company, is a streamlined installation anchored by strong locking joints.

Välinge
Välinge continues to demonstrate its knack for innovation with the latest iteration of its signature 5G locking system. Known as 5G-i, the new system is designed, in part, to expand the installation options for a variety of new floating plank flooring products hitting the market.

How it works: Slits underneath the groove side of the panel provide flexibility so the tongue side—when pressed downward in a single-action motion—clicks into place.

While the system is new, it doesn’t represent a difficult learning curve for installers. In fact, floor layers don’t have to learn a whole new procedure when installing the panels at all. Installers can take it apart the same way they would with the traditional 5G, the company said. Another advantage of the system is it reduces costs (no need for plastic tongues or insertion machines).

Välinge Innovation’s patent portfolio comprises more than 1,600 granted patents and a global license base of over 200 licensees. The company’s range of locking systems provides an industry standard for installing floating floors. Valinge licensee holders include: Armstrong, Abel Laminati, Alloc, Berry Floor, BHK, CFL, Classen, Faus, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others. For instance, all of Mannington’s current laminate collections (Restoration, Revolutions, Coordinations and Value Lock) can be laid down via a click-lock mechanism for fast, secure installations. While the company strongly recommends using trained, professional installers to achieve the best long-term performance of its various flooring products, it advises DIYers to follow all directions contained in the Installation Guidelines brochure.

Shaw’s VersaLock and LocNPlace patented locking technology securely installs laminate flooring panels on all four sides. This single-action locking system enables installation in a snap, literally, without messy, slow-to-dry glue.

Swiss Krono, which markets the American Concepts brand, is a licensee of locking systems developed by both Unilin and Valinge. The vast majority of these systems are designed for private-label applications.

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Laminate: I4F system benefits consumers and installers alike

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.08.11 PMInnovations4Flooring (I4F), a technology company focused on the development of patents and flooring installation solutions, has more than doubled its number of licensees over the last 12 months. This growth is driven largely by acceptance of the company’s flagship technologies, including 3L TripleLock and Click4U. 3L TripleLock provides a one-piece drop-lock installation innovation, and Click4U delivers an angle system for the long side, combined with drop-lock on the short side.

3L TripleLock is being acclaimed as the new market standard with more retailers in the U.S. asking their suppliers to switch over to the system. Results, so far, are proving extremely positive with those implementing the solution witnessing a sharp sell-out growth rate that is outperforming the overall market.

According to retailers and installers, the solution is extremely easy to use, enabling the placement of floors to be much quicker while maintaining the highest quality levels. The system’s appeal is now also extending to consumers as it is suitable for all types of flooring and, in particular, products made from new, high-demand materials.

In the U.S., installers are voicing their support of 3L TripleLock, expressing how easy and fast it is to install floors using the solution. They especially like the fact that it delivers tight seams without the inconvenience of any moving parts, according to I4F. 3L TripleLock is up to 30% faster to install than basic clicks and doesn’t need any special tools, including tapping blocks or tool bars. In addition, replacing or swapping out planks is straightforward with its simple slide and lift system.

All this enables installers to meet and exceed their customers’ demands.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the global flooring industry by bringing meaningful innovations into the market and, at the end of the day, the customer is king,” said John Rietveldt, chief executive officer of Innovations4Flooring. “People will always choose the easiest and fastest solution, and when they can also use the same technique on the newest materials, their decision becomes very clear cut.”

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Laminate: I4F system benefits consumers and installers alike

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.08.11 PMInnovations4Flooring (I4F), a technology company focused on the development of patents and flooring installation solutions, has more than doubled its number of licensees over the last 12 months. This growth is driven largely by acceptance of the company’s flagship technologies, including 3L TripleLock and Click4U. 3L TripleLock provides a one-piece drop-lock installation innovation, and Click4U delivers an angle system for the long side, combined with drop-lock on the short side.

3L TripleLock is being acclaimed as the new market standard with more retailers in the U.S. asking their suppliers to switch over to the system. Results, so far, are proving extremely positive with those implementing the solution witnessing a sharp sell-out growth rate that is outperforming the overall market.

According to retailers and installers, the solution is extremely easy to use, enabling the placement of floors to be much quicker while maintaining the highest quality levels. The system’s appeal is now also extending to consumers as it is suitable for all types of flooring and, in particular, products made from new, high-demand materials.

In the U.S., installers are voicing their support of 3L TripleLock, expressing how easy and fast it is to install floors using the solution. They especially like the fact that it delivers tight seams without the inconvenience of any moving parts, according to I4F. 3L TripleLock is up to 30% faster to install than basic clicks and doesn’t need any special tools, including tapping blocks or tool bars. In addition, replacing or swapping out planks is straightforward with its simple slide and lift system.

All this enables installers to meet and exceed their customers’ demands.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the global flooring industry by bringing meaningful innovations into the market and, at the end of the day, the customer is king,” said John Rietveldt, chief executive officer of Innovations4Flooring. “People will always choose the easiest and fastest solution, and when they can also use the same technique on the newest materials, their decision becomes very clear cut.”

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Laminate: The latest innovations in ‘click’ technologies

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.25 PMWith all the attention being paid to WPC-type floors—and rightfully so—one might think there’s not much happening in the way of innovations with other competing hard surface categories.

That notion could not be further from the truth as evidenced by what’s taking place in the mature-but-still-evolving laminate flooring sector. As several manufacturers continue to fortify their coreboards with materials and proprietary processes designed to better resist water or repel moisture altogether, several companies responsible for developing glueless locking systems are ramping up their own innovations.

Following is an overview of the latest glueless locking system developments along with a summary of how several click system licencees are incorporating those technologies in their respective products.

Innovations4Flooring (I4F)
One company at the forefront of glueless locking systems is Innovations4Flooring (I4F). Its latest innovation—3L TripleLock—provides a unique one-piece, drop-lock installation system for flooring panels that eliminates the need for an additional insert on the short side. The system works with all types of flooring materials, including laminate coreboard panels. According to I4F, the elimination of the additional insert on the short side provides manufacturers with the possibility to improve productivity levels while at the same time reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Furthermore, the 3L TripleLock click system (see illustration) is suitable for existing high-speed production. The good news for installers is shorter laying time. According to I4F, boards featuring 3L TripleLock technology can be installed up to 30% faster than basic click systems. Plus, there are no special tools required for installation.

While the 3L TripleLock system addresses installation issues on the short side of the plank, I4F’s Click4U technology, an angle-system, takes care of the long side. Combined with the drop-lock on the short side, the locking strength is very high. And just like 3L TripleLock, Click4U is suitable for existing high-speed production machinery.

I4F’s technology is already being used on millions of square feet of flooring around the world. “We believe the global flooring market is ready for change, and our innovations will play a significant role in this huge industry transformation,” said John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F.

Unilin Division Technologies
Unilin Division Technologies is the intellectual property unit within the Unilin Group that grants licenses with regard to Unilin’s patent rights.

Unilin provides several different glueless locking system platforms, including Uniclic, UnitFit (Plus and X) and Unipush. Uniclic is the industry’s traditional glueless locking technology for installation of flooring and wall panels, while Unifit Plus and Unifit X are designed for fold-down installation of flooring panels, which includes laminates.

Lastly, Unipush aims to make push-down installations even more intuitive and simple. How it works: By angling the long side of the panel in, the panel can be connected on the short side simply by pushing the panel down on the short side. No additional materials, i.e., inserts, or equipment, are necessary using this system.

To date, Unilin Division Technologies manages more than 2,000 patents in over 300 patent families. Several licensee partners include: Alsapan, AGT, Berry, BHK, Classen, Clarion Industries, Egger Group, Faus, Kronotex, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw, Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others.

Classen, a Unilin licensee, utilizes state-of-the-art locking technology in its Megaloc system. Manufactured in Germany, the Megaloc locking system Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.48 PMis DIY friendly and makes installation simple and seamless. In illustration: A laminate floor with a Megaloc system has a locking mechanism on the short side. The panels are simply dropped down into the joint of the previously laid row. As planks are lowered, a special patented insert/lock, located on the short end of the laminate, will lock the plank in place. (A locking-clip in the short grooves allows the next plank to be locked directly from above.) Once the panel is installed into place, the locking element also locks and a stable connection is created. All the installer has to do is press along the short side when he hears the click.

Other well-known lines featuring Unilin click technology is the Majestic collection from Quick-Step and Mohawk-branded laminates. Equipped with the patented Uniclic system, the products allow a quick and easy installation for floor layers. The products also score points in the aesthetics department. Majestic, for example, comes in a variety of decors from vintage/reclaimed to rustic and smooth and features surface texturing designed to mimic real wood floors. The line also touts resistance to water and scratching.

“Based on original wooden planks, the R&D team uses innovative techniques to develop a product that combines natural beauty with the practicality of high-end laminate,” said Ruben Desmet, general manager laminate, Unilin.

Uniboard is another Unilin licensee. The company’s lamiante flooring product range includes both 12mm and 14mm offerings, each featuring the “Bestlock” glueless locking technology. The end result, according to the company, is a streamlined installation anchored by strong locking joints.

Välinge
Välinge continues to demonstrate its knack for innovation with the latest iteration of its signature 5G locking system. Known as 5G-i, the new system is designed, in part, to expand the installation options for a variety of new floating plank flooring products hitting the market.

How it works: Slits underneath the groove side of the panel provide flexibility so the tongue side—when pressed downward in a single-action motion—clicks into place.

While the system is new, it doesn’t represent a difficult learning curve for installers. In fact, floor layers don’t have to learn a whole new procedure when installing the panels at all. Installers can take it apart the same way they would with the traditional 5G, the company said. Another advantage of the system is it reduces costs (no need for plastic tongues or insertion machines).

Välinge Innovation’s patent portfolio comprises more than 1,600 granted patents and a global license base of over 200 licensees. The company’s range of locking systems provides an industry standard for installing floating floors. Valinge licensee holders include: Armstrong, Abel Laminati, Alloc, Berry Floor, BHK, CFL, Classen, Faus, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others. For instance, all of Mannington’s current laminate collections (Restoration, Revolutions, Coordinations and Value Lock) can be laid down via a click-lock mechanism for fast, secure installations. While the company strongly recommends using trained, professional installers to achieve the best long-term performance of its various flooring products, it advises DIYers to follow all directions contained in the Installation Guidelines brochure.

Shaw’s VersaLock and LocNPlace patented locking technology securely installs laminate flooring panels on all four sides. This single-action locking system enables installation in a snap, literally, without messy, slow-to-dry glue.

Swiss Krono, which markets the American Concepts brand, is a licensee of locking systems developed by both Unilin and Valinge. The vast majority of these systems are designed for private-label applications.