Laminate manufacturers often market their locking mechanisms as unique, but in reality they're all variations on a similar theme. Tongue and groove locking systems have come a long way since the origin of the floating laminate floor back in the 1970's.
Initially, all laminate floors required the use of glue to stabilize the tongue and groove connection. Eventually some laminates arrived pre-glued, needing the application of a bit of moisture to hold the joints together. Glue laminates are quickly becoming a thing of the past as they require more work on the part of the installer, and more and more homeowners are doing their own installations.
You may find a flooring retailer with some “glue" laminate in stock at a bargain price-and it may be well worth it, so long as you're aware that installation can take up to 50% longer. Purchasing an older pre-glued laminate is not recommended.
Even with glueless laminates there are times when glue is required. If you're installing in a bathroom, the instructions may tell you to use glue at the joints to prevent excess moisture in the seams. And if you're installing laminate on stairs, you'll likely use glue to hold it in place. Detail work in tight-fitting spaces can require glue as well.
Glueless Laminates or “Click" Flooring
The advent of click flooring has literally transformed the laminate marketplace and inspired a new generation of do-it-yourselfers. In general, glueless laminates are held together when the tongue of one plank is “clicked" into the groove of another. This is also referred to as angle-fitting. Most laminates you purchase today will require angle-fitting along the length of the plank and end-to-end. This means that for proper installation it's easiest to assemble the row end-to-end, then angle-fit it into the previous row-a job best accomplished with two people.
Some brands use tongue-and-groove locking along the length of the plank, while the ends of the planks fit or drop into place. This type of laminate may be easier for one person to install, since the row doesn't first need to be assembled, then fit into place.
You'll see the term “isometric locking system" too. This simply means that the pressure on the tongue and groove joint is evenly distributed for increased durability.
The quality of the locking mechanism is critical to the durability and look of your floating laminate floor, so pay attention to the following points and make your final choice accordingly.
- locking mechanism thickness: the thicker the mechanism, the greater the durability and strength of your floor at the joints-if you can snap off the tongue of a sample piece of laminate with your fingers, look for a brand with a thicker locking mechanism.
- warranty: does the laminate manufacturer include the locking mechanism in the warranty-a very big clue to quality.
- sample testing: assemble a few sample planks together and run you finger over the joints-they should be flush, with no detectable ledges. Do the pieces click together easily or are they difficult to assemble?
- sealant: if the manufacturer has applied sealant to all edges, this helps prevents moisture at the joints.
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