The earliest iterations of locking systems were mainly designed to facilitate an essential function: install the greatest amount of panels in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of mess possible. It was precisely this mode of installation that made laminate flooring such a new and exciting product category when it first began appearing in retail showrooms in the U.S. market nearly 30 years ago.
Fast forward to today—not only have glueless locking systems further enabled faster installation and more secure joint connections, but they have also been enhanced to help seal out moisture and water incursion from common household spills and accidents. It’s all about keeping pace with the attributes that end users of hard surface products demand today.
Following is an array of some of the innovative locking system technologies available today:
Classen Group’s signature Megaloc installation systems for laminate have been in use successfully in the flooring industry for the last 16 years, and now that technology is being extended to other hard surface categories.
Classen, a leading manufacturer of high-quality laminate and PVC-free polymer flooring (Ceramin), is now featuring the innovative fold-down system Megaloc-Aqua-Protect on its latest collection—Uberwood. In this collection, Classen combines the reliable locking system with a high-density, wood-based panel to deliver guaranteed waterproof protection up to one week—setting a new standard for the industry. Uberwood’s ability to offer extended waterproof protection means the product is suitable for virtually every room.
i4F has tweaked its popular Click4U technology to further improve the product’s resistance to moisture and water incursion. Now, according to John Rietveldt, CEO, water can no longer seep through the planks. “It’s one of the best flooring systems available in the market today,” he said. “Many manufacturers have changed the structure of their boards to make them more water resistant, but that makes the product very expensive. In conjunction with Classen, we have launched a technology called AquaProtect, which is sprayed during the profiling process—but only on the part that touches the locking system. It represents a huge savings for manufacturers.”
i4F also offers a drop-lock system specifically designed for the installation of herringbone floor panels—an increasingly popular visual in flooring today. How it works: the panel’s short side fits into the long side of an adjacent panel. The main advantage of this is that it enables easy installation, disassembly and replacements of panels in a herringbone pattern without compromising strength.
Other innovative i4F drop-lock technologies include 3L TripleLock, which as the name implies, secures the panels on multiple sides. It can be used with any material that can be milled or on a wide range of thicknesses from 3.5mm up to 18mm-plus and eliminates the need for any inserts. In addition, i4F offers locking installation systems for wall panels. The system enables panels to be screwed on to slats or glued against a wall. A key innovative aspect is that screws may be fastened into the locking mechanism without hindering the installation of the next panel.
Unilin Technologies puts the spotlight on its new FlinTile locking system, which won an award in the Innovation category at Surfaces. With FlinTile, Unilin offers a ceramic alternative to SPC with real grout. The floating installation is simple at fast with three easy steps: click, grout and clean.
The company also recently expanded its patent portfolio on waterproof edge-coatings for MDF and HDF-based boards. The newly granted U.S. Patent, U.S. 11,473,315, which protects the impregnation of MDF/HDF based boards with different types of coating, is Unilin’s second U.S. patent for waterproof coatings after U.S. 10,655,338.
“We have a strong patent portfolio on waterproof coatings and we see that wood and laminate manufacturers all over the world are interested in making their products more resistant to water,” said Floris Koopmans, sales director at Unilin Technologies. “With this new patent we hope to further inform the industry about the existing broad patent portfolio in this area of expertise.”
Unilin licenses out their own waterproof edge-coating solution under the name Unicoat, in partnership with machine supplier Schiele Machinebau GmbH. “Unicoat outperforms other waterproof coatings in the market today,” Koopmans added. “Unicoat not only prevents swelling but it also ensures a sealed surface that prevents water from penetrating between the joints. Unicoat has proven to prevent leaks, swelling and discoloration of the floors for over a week, even after extensive testing with standing water.”
The latest addition to Välinge’s family of 5G-branded technologies is 5G Cross, a new system designed to stabilize locking tile squares.
In the past, SPC floating floors that were created in a ceramic tile format lacked the stability of their plank counterparts, according to Lennart Thalin, general manager, North and South America. With the introduction of 5G Cross, that problem is solved. “We have developed a small cross/clip that we place directly in the section of the tile squares where the corners meet,” he explained. “This prevents up and down movement and keeps the corners from breaking off when they are walked on. With this technology, SPC producers can open up the market space and attack ceramic by mimicking how real tile is installed.”
The latest innovation from Välinge supplements its range of 5G-branded offerings. Another noteworthy, problem-solving innovation from Välinge is 5G Dry, which is based on its signature 5G click system. Aside from expediting installation, the snap locking mechanism aims to prevent moisture, water or other spills from seeping through the top of the panels—all without use of special coatings or edge treatments, the company said.
“Increasingly, in the American market, we’re seeing a higher demand for waterproof flooring,” Thalin said. “But if you have a waterproof floor without the proper locking system, you can still have water beneath the floor on the substrate. With 5G Dry, we have addressed this issue. Utilizing changes in the geometry of the locking system, we have come up with a way to keep water on the surface of the plank. It creates a water-tight seal on engineered wood flooring or resilient.”
Välinge’s locking system innovations go beyond flooring. The company is also putting the spotlight on 5G Climb, which allows SPC panels to be installed on vertical surfaces. The innovative system utilizes special clips that allow boards to be seamlessly installed without adhering the panels directly to the wall. This makes for easy installation, change-out or repair.
In addition to that, Välinge offers new advancements in the waterproof/water-resistant arena for SPC and laminate flooring alike.