While mechanical locking systems have been all the rage in the laminate segment for over a decade, it is only within the last few years they have made their way into the hardwood category in earnest. And for those wood flooring manufacturers wanting to reach an audience interested in glueless installations, the timing and technology inherit in locking systems couldn’t be better.
“I personally see a growing trend in the use of mechanical locking systems for non-laminate products in North America,” said Bart Van der Stockt, managing director of Flooring Industries, the licensee of Unilin’s locking technologies. “More and more installers and end users see the installation advantages (time, cost, quality) of ‘clic engineered.’ In Europe, clic engineered [has been] the standard for several years.”
He added that the push-lock systems, such as Unilin’s Multifit, Välinge’s 5G or Classen’s Megalock, “definitely have some installation advantages for wide engineered boards.”
Technology from Unilin is featured on several Mohawk and Columbia lines. “Adding the Uniclic locking system enables a hardwood floor to be installed more quickly,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing.
He added whether the consumer chooses to go the route of do-it-yourself or professional installation, the overall installed cost in both time and resources of a hardwood floor is reduced with flooring featuring a click mechanical locking system.
According to Milton Goodwin, vice president, hardwood and laminate for Armstrong, which uses technology from Välinge, mechanical locking systems in the wood category are definitely on the rise. “We do see it as a growing trend and have seen a great deal of growth in the use of our Lock&Fold products. Most of our major lines are available in both profiles [tongue and groove and locking].
Goodwin believes the ease of installation of Lock&Fold coupled with “outstanding visuals,” including specialty looks like hand scraped in a variety of species, contribute to this segment’s popularity. “Glueless locking systems have changed the installation world,” he said. “The Lock&Fold product is easy for retail sales associates to sell to consumers because questions about how and where the floor is to be installed, are virtually all eliminated with Lock&Fold.”
In 1999, Kährs launched Woodloc, the first mechanical glueless joint system for wood floors. Now the company is introducing the next generation: Woodloc 5S. This new system is designed to make installation even faster and easier, while producing an even stronger floor.
According to the company’s Shane Smart, installation is faster because the short ends of the boards are connected vertically, instead of at an angle, which makes installation up to 25% faster. The installation is stronger, he noted, because “Woodloc is already the strongest mechanical joint system on the market. Today, floors can be installed on surface areas of up to 7,750 square feet. With the even stronger Woodloc 5S system, the surface area can be extended to up to 13,455 square feet without an expansion break—a 75% increase.”
Kährs wood floors with Woodloc 5S are even easier to install by using the float-in method or glued down, he noted. “The installation becomes more flexible as the joint remains unlocked until the next line of boards is installed. This enables an adjustment of the last line, as well as facilitating installation next to doorways, radiators and other obstacles.
“A strong joint is vital for many reasons,” he explained. “Wood is a natural material and is therefore affected by environmental changes throughout the year. This puts the joints under great pressure. The Woodloc joint system has proved superior to traditional joints when it comes to withstanding these changes.”
Välinge has developed four different 5G systems: 5G-Original, 5G-C, 5G-S and 5G-W. They are Välinge’s fifth generation of locking systems, and all are based on a single action method for installing all types of floor products. “The systems have been well received by the market,” said Per Nygren, the company’s business unit director. “Our fold down technology is now used by 42 producers around the world and is on the way to be set as a new installation standard in the flooring industry.”
At Mannington, Dan Natkin, director of wood business, said the company currently has one product line with a mechanical locking system. The Caspian Collection, featuring Loc-N-Go, utilizes a fold-down locking system with the Valinge 5G end lock. The product has been in the market since 2007.
While Caspian is the only Mannington product with a mechanical locking system and representing a small percentage of company sales, Natkin, like Van der Stockt and Goodwin, sees a bright future for the locking hardwood systems. “There was a tremendous amount of interest in locking systems in 2007, which faded in 2008 and 2009. With a difficult economy, we have seen a resurgence of interest in the past 12 months and expect this to continue to grow.”