Are You Glueless about Click-Together Floors?
By Steve Simonson –
When laminate flooring, also known as Pergo, first appeared on the scene it was clearly a winner. Homeowners were captivated with the idea of a rich, beautiful floor that had all the attributes of hardwood flooring, without the limitations. As terrific as the product seemed, though, there was confusion about what laminate could and couldn’t do. Lively discussions around water coolers and in dimly lit corridors of corporate America, ensued.
My first attempt to quell consumer concerns was my 1996 article entitled “Pergo Vs. the World.” It offered ways for readers to discern the differences between laminate and traditional hardwood flooring. My follow-up article, “Brand Wars” (1999-2000), attempted to de-mystify the process of choosing from hundreds of floor coverings. It had an immediate and positive impact on readers, which I found very gratifying.
In the years since “Brand Wars” appeared, I’ve received tens of thousands of e-mails from people around the country, expressing their gratitude for the information. Some reported that they saved hundreds of dollars by making better choices for their projects.
In addition to reader responses, I regularly hear from manufacturers hoping to “adjust” the ratings they’ve received. I explain that my determinations are based on the real-life experiences of real people – consumers, contractors and installers. I can’t take credit for highly rated floors just as I assume no blame for those that don’t measure up.
But just when we thought we’d mastered all the subtle nuances of laminate flooring, along came a new category of flooring that’s generating as many questions and confusion as its predecessor. This hot new product is often referred to as the “glueless installation system.” You may have heard terms like snap together, click together, or interlocking – they all refer to glueless installation flooring.
I love coining new phrases, and they let me do it because I’m the boss. So for future reference, let’s call glueless installation floors “click together floors.”
The idea of click together flooring is brilliant – you simply cut the flooring to fit, join the pieces together and voila! No glue. No mess. You can walk on it right away! It’s easy to maintain and it looks great. And installing it is as much fun as playing with Legos when you were a kid, but with more interesting results.
So, you’re sold on the product, but what do you know about it? While there are numerous click together floors on the market, there are really only two types you need to know about. Ultimately, you’ll use this information along with your choice of color, design and product durability to make the best decision.
SNAP TOGETHER – A snap together is designed so that the tongue and groove line up horizontally and then tapped into place. This floor can be assembled only once. It can NEVER be taken apart without dire consequences. Scary, huh?
Most snap together floors are poor imitations of click together floors. Problems found with inferior snap together floor systems include awkward, hard-to-handle locking mechanisms; poor design; irreversibility and irreparable core damage which renders the component useless. Some manufacturers even seek to circumvent the legal patent holder’s rights – which is a big no-no. While snap together floors tend to be less expensive than click together, you’ll sacrifice quality. Plus, you may go nuts trying to install the bugger.
CLICK TOGETHER – This is a locking floor that can be assembled and taken apart a number of times. Only minimal tapping is required at the end joints. The long joint clicks together by inserting the tongue at a slant into the channel of the groove. It’s designed to perform. Reversibility allows you to take the floor apart during installation without damaging it, and make adjustments and minor repairs if needed. Speed of installation is another bonus. The advantages of a click together floor system are obvious – superior quality, ease of installation and product longevity.
For those readers interested in the technical stuff, I’ll add the following. The core itself is the single most important part of a click together floor; but alone, it does not make the floor. The locking system is also vital, but it can’t function without a solid core. Without a solid core the locking system can fail, break or be compromised. In addition, some of the softer cores are more prone to water damage than the denser cores. Often, when wax is applied to help prevent water damage in the joints of the boards, it becomes ineffective when applied to a softer core.
Does It Click?
As of March 2001, the two best click together floor systems on the market that meet and exceed expectations are the Locking System from Unilin (licensed in the U.S. as Uniclic) and the Berry Group products, which includes Alloc (one of my top five picks). They’re the most respected and well known in the industry, with reputations for excellence. They hold product patents and license their names for use by other companies.
Loc-Tec by Witex uses the Uniclic system. Loc-Tec is superior to others by virtue of its ability to click together easily and tightly. I know I’ll get tons of e-mail asking me about Armstrong Swiftlock and Pergo Presto. These are home center brands that are not available through other outlets. Neither company makes the product themselves. They rely only on other companies to manufacture the product for them. These two brands are not on my top 5 list.
Steve’s Top Five Click Together Floors (in random order):
Kahrs Linnea (A Hardwood Veneer that clicks together)
What does the future hold for click together flooring? In the words of the immortal Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live, “Hear me now and believe me later,” click together floors are here to stay.
In the next 12 to 24 months, most floating floors, including laminate floors and even prefinished hardwood floors, will migrate to a click together installation. Along the way there will be exciting innovations. And as usual, there will be a whole heap of wannabes churning out cheap imitations that complicate the process.
I will continue to review the merits of click together floors as they evolve into one of the greatest inventions of our time. Look for my 10-point rating summary early this summer.
Be sure to read “Steve’s Stages of Floor Shopping” for basic information and valuable tips critical to the success of your next purchase – no matter what type of floor covering you’re looking for. Taking a few minutes to read it can save you time, money, and effort.
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