September 15/22, 2014; Volume 28/Number 7
By Ken Ryan
Specialty retailers often cite ease of installation as one of the major benefits of laminate floors, particularly in comparison to other types of products. Indeed, the innovation of locking systems over the past decade has greatly simplified the installation process, allowing these floors to be used immediately, without the need for cleanup.
“Locking systems are a critical item,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus, the North American arm of global conglomerate Classen. “If you don’t have a very good locking system, people aren’t going to use your product. At the very least you need a good locking system today, and the fact is most everyone has one, which has leveled the playing field.”
Following is an update on the latest advancements in laminate locking systems.
Unilin’s patented Uniclic glueless installation locking system helped transform the laminate flooring industry in 1997. Prior to Uniclic, all laminate flooring required planks to be glued down during installation.
Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing for Unilin, said flooring dealers are building their laminate programs around products that use the Uniclic system. “Retailers are able to emphasize Uniclic as an advantageous selling point when talking with customers. The Uniclic joint consistently performs better on standing water and pre-tension strength tests than other laminate, which results in Mohawk, Quick-Step and Columbia having one of the lowest claims rates in the industry.”
With Uniclic, planks click into each other to form a solid, lasting connection that also provides superior water resistance between planks.
Farabee said another advantage is Uniclic allows Quick-Step planks to click together using one of two methods: an angle-in or flat installation. “The dual-installation options of Uniclic are important because real-life installations will almost always involve installing flooring in some type of trapped situation (i.e., under a door jamb, toe kick or recession/undercut such as a fireplace), and Uniclic provides that flexibility.”
Bill Renner, installation manager for Unilin, said Quick-Step floors with the Uniclic locking profile are also easy to repair using UniFix, a tool that makes removal of a single plank or replacement of a damaged section easier and more time efficient.
Laetitia Kimblad, business unit director of surface technology for Välinge, said since 2000, locking systems that utilize angling/angling as well as angling/snap installation have progressively been replaced by the fast and easy single-action installation method, such as that offered by Välinge’s 5G locking systems.
Kimblad called 5G “the easiest, fastest and most robust way to install laminate flooring.” The panels are installed in a single movement by angling the long side and folding the panel down. A flexible and displaceable glass-fiber reinforced polymer tongue secures the installation, locking the product vertically and providing a visible and audible feedback when folding down the panel. As of today, Välinge counts over 80 5G licensees worldwide, and more than 700 million square meters of flooring with 5G/fold down systems have been installed since the product was first launched in 2005.
“The simplicity of the 5G laminate locking system presents great advantages for installers as well as for DIY consumers,” Kimblad said. “5G reduces the risk of accidentally damaging products during installation as this could happen earlier on panel edges when snapping boards together. It also decreases the risk of gap openings and height differences that may occur on panels equipped with other locking systems.”
Välinge has also developed an optimized 5G tongue, which offers high locking strength and easy installation for thin laminate flooring down to 6mm.
Megaloc is Inhaus’ fold-down locking system for laminate flooring installation. The system features an interlock clip (a PET plastic insert) that, once locked into position, prevents the short ends of the planks from lifting after installation.
The advantage of Megaloc, which is used on all Inhaus laminate products, is its ability to be manufactured efficiently in a highly automated process in products as thick as 7mm. “We work on this all the time,” Welbourn said. “We have all the equipment in our factory that tests joint strengths, and we are tweaking the locking system all the time. Sometimes it leads to a breakthrough.”
Although new to the industry, the Megaloc system is now being used by some of the industry-leading LVT companies. “It makes sense as it improves the joint holding strength and improves ease of installation,” Welbourn said.
Innovations4Flooring, a new technology company that markets two types of locking systems—called TripleLock and Click4U—said it has received 11 license agreements since entering the market in June.
TripleLock and Click4U use a drop-lock installation technique for flooring panels, eliminating the need for an additional insert on the short side. This omission gives manufacturers the ability to improve productivity levels as well as reduce their costs and carbon footprint, according to John Rietveldt, CEO of Innovations4Flooring.
Several international patent applications have been filed for both products. “With some important patents soon to expire, our drop lock, one piece offers the industry a faster, more cost-effective way to manufacture environmentally friendly solutions in a sustainable way,” Rietveldt said. “And in a highly competitive market, the introduction of a drop-lock solution on the short side means that installation for end users is significantly facilitated.”