By Reginald Tucker Any experienced floor layer who has installed stair treads or nose caps is acutely aware of the pitfalls of some conventional accessory systems. With some stair nosings, for example, homeowners climbing the steps can catch their toes on the protruding edge of the nosing, thereby causing them to stumble. Then there’s the inherent challenge of matching a newly installed hard surface flooring to an off-the-shelf stair tread or nose cap— accessories that may or may not coordinate well visually with the source flooring material.
One company, Snaptech Solutions, said it has found the answer to these challenges with the development of SnapCaps—an innovative stair tread and nose system whereby the cap/tread is derived from the same LVP planks utilized in a particular flooring installation. Not only does this solve the matching issue, the company said, but thanks to a proprietary technology the plank is specially treated and reshaped to ensure a more seamless fit, thereby reducing tripping hazards.
David Requa and Cory Bodette, co-owners of Snaptech Solutions and operators of a flooring retail store in Raleigh, N.C., recalled how the idea behind SnapCaps was born. The duo had purchased and renovated an elevated waterfront property on the beach (read: a lot of steps between floor levels) that they then rented out to vacationers. At the time, they utilized an off-the-shelf stair nosing system with less-than-desirable results. “I couldn’t stand the product,” Requa stated. “The nosing we were using at the time had a lip at the end of it. So, every time I went up and down the steps, the end of my foot hit the bump that juts out.”
The situation got worse. When they rented out the home for beach goers last summer, they received more than a few complaints from the rental management company that the original stair nosings were not only flimsy but were also tripping tenants as they climbed the stairs. When Requa visited the property to get a firsthand look at the problem, he found the tenants had taken matters into their own hands by deploying that go-to, all-purpose, household repair essential—duct tape.
“I just thought that was ridiculous,” Requa recalled. “You have people showing up to this beautifully renovated house, and then they see this blue sticky tape on the steps. Needless to say, I was not happy about that.”
That got Requa and Bodette thinking about a solution for the problem. Last summer, they began brainstorming some prototypes for what would eventually become SnapCaps. However, it was not exactly an overnight success. “It definitely took some time,” Requa recalled. “We were kind of just throwing around some ideas in the beginning. Remember, we were just starting to run our flooring store, so we weren’t really focused on SnapCaps exclusively. But we came up with a couple of versions where we thought, ‘OK, this could be cool.’ We weren’t really thinking about this as a full-fledged business at that point. We were just thinking about a solution that we might be able to offer our clients.”
As the early prototypes evolved over the course of the summer of 2020 and into the fall, Requa and Bodette buckled down and got more serious. It was at that time that they reached out to a product developer who helped them across the finish line. They came up with a way to carefully bend and manipulate the LVP planks to match the natural curve of the steps. (Note: SnapCaps are designed only for WPC, SPC and rigid core floors that can be floated, not glued. Rigid cork/wood veneer hybrids are not suitable for this process. Also, all attached padding, including cork or other materials, must be removed from the panels prior to the reshaping process.)
Easy as 1, 2, 3
The system Snaptech developed was designed to ease inventory issues for distributors or retailers interested in stocking select SKUs of SnapCaps. Bodette explained how the process works: “Usually the distributor or retailer will send us a box of their flooring, then we’ll make up a box for them and send them back. Once we send them back, they’ll get together with their product management team and decide what SKUs they want to go with based on their most popular colors. Once that’s all settled, they can order samples for all their salespeople.”
To further streamline the ordering process, Snaptech has set up a portal through which it can track arriving orders—along with any special instructions to split the shipping order. In addition, Snaptech has the capability to hold planks in storage so they are ready to process for future orders. “If they have a product they sell consistently, they can send enough boxes for multiple orders,” Bodette explained. “When they place an order through our web portal, we’ll already have the materials in stock and can expedite the process.”
Although the SnapCaps program is in the early phase of its initial launch, some customers are already reporting success with the program. Case in point is Ryan Vaughn, president of Georgia Carpet Industries, a retailer/distributor based in Dalton. He has placed about five or six orders in just a month’s time. “So far, it has been a good experience,” he told FCNews. “With some stair nosing products it’s very tricky; you can break the tongue very easily. Not with SnapCaps. It’s so easy for the homeowner to use, even if they want to install it themselves. You don’t have to do anything different than if you were installing traditional LVP.”
Summer Crook, owner of Floor Covering International of Greater Wichita—who has had the product since November of 2020—said she is also a believer. “With SnapCaps, it’s not like I’m having to match it up to anything—it’s exactly what the customer ordered,” she said. “It’s different than some of the stair nosings we’ve seen in the past, where you have a plank on a step as a stair tread and then a stair nose slapped on the top of it that looks like a piece of plastic.”
Crook said she also appreciates the easy ordering process. “You basically put your order in, send Snaptech the product, they make as many steps as you want them to make and then they send it back—no hiccups,” she explained. “SnapCaps are the only stair treads I use.”
Even clients like Fishman Flooring Solutions—which is just getting rolling with its SnapCaps program—is anticipating good things. “Fishman always strives to be on the forefront of innovative products to delight our customers,” said Greg Vale, who serves as vice president of sales for the distributorship. “Many of our customers want their stairs to match their LVT/P, whether it be in a renovation or new construction. After seeing a demonstration of Snaptech’s process, we were excited to enter into a strategic partnership with the company.”