Mohawk's Ceramica Stone with Snap-Tech in a diagonal layout
Glueless installation systems, also known as mechanical locking systems, have been a part of the laminate industry for almost as long as laminates have been in the U.S. marketplace, but have traditionally taken a back seat to the conventional, adhesive-installation method.

There was a decided lack of adhesive in the laminate product rollouts at Surfaces 2001 in Las Vegas, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. While not every laminate manufacturer has bought into the new approach, it was obvious that glueless installation systems were generating a great deal of attention at this year’s event.

The glueless installation concept is not restricted to just the laminate product segment. Mannington’s iCORE Laminate Advanced Composite Flooring and Kahrs’ Linnea hardwood flooring both utilize this installation approach.

This installation evolution can be traced back to five factors, all of which directly impact the installer. Most of the attributes listed can be found in the product’s list of features and benefits, and each should find a permanent home in the mind of the laminate installation professional.

A look at the finished product
Easieris how “Steve,” a New Jersey homeowner, describes the glueless installation process. Steve always considered himself handy around the house, but he became a bit nervous when deciding to install his new floor on the diagonal. So he recruited a professional installer to help with the critical aspects of the installation.

To Steve’s surprise, he only needed the installer’s assistance for some subfloor modifications and the diagonal layout. The final product was the result of Steve’s hard work and rapt attention to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Most of the systems that I have seen require a specific technique for positioning each plank, then mechanically draws it into place as the joint locks together. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Linnea hardwood flooring from Kahrs also features a glueless installation system
Cost savingsare important to everyone. The glueless installation systems not only eliminate the cost of adhesive, but can help reduce labor costs as well by freeing up the time usually spent on adhesive application and cleanup.

The aggravation of preparing and executing a project can be overwhelming if every flooring product to be installed requires different adhesives, different application techniques, different adhesive-removal procedures, and different cleaning solutions. By removing such obstacles, glueless installation systems have the potential to add to the project’s bottom line.

The cleaner, the better. The glueless systems allow installers to rid themselves of the buckets, rags, sponges, and specially formulated cleaners necessary for adhesive cleanup. I have yet to meet the installer who enjoys that part of the job. Cleanup and removal of adhesive from laminate flooring is a redundant, boring job that can easily turn into a callback if the effort and attention paid to it are not consistent.

Witex's LocTec system is self-aligning
Reducing claimsis something that everyone strives for. Claims can be generated from something as simple as adhesive left on the flooring surface, to a failing floor that is breaking down due to an incorrectly applied adhesive. Improvements to the milled edges and cores of most of the glueless installation systems offer water resistance that, in some cases, may be equal to that of a properly installed conventional laminate floor. One manufacturer uses a metal extrusion for enhanced joint integrity in its laminate flooring.

Faster. Common sense would suggest that an installation system void of adhesive application, removal, and cleanup translates into a tremendous savings in time spent on the installation process. In an effort to speed things up even further, self-aligning systems are becoming more popular.

The manufacturers I spoke with all agreed that the majority of negatives involved in dealing with laminate flooring can be bypassed with glueless installation systems. The systems remove the most frustrating aspect of the installation, taking from the installer the anguish of clamps, the time lost waiting for the adhesive to set up, and the end-of-the-day tool cleanup. Banana boards are virtually eliminated, as the self-aligning mechanisms milled into the joints often correct them as the planks are locked together.

It appears that the glueless installation systems are here to stay. Will they replace the conventional laminate flooring systems, those that require adhesive? Probably not. It was nearly 30 years ago that the first perimeter-fastened vinyl flooring was introduced in the United States, and fully adhered vinyl flooring is as strong as ever.

The bottom line? Every installer who deals with laminate installations should make a conscious effort to stay current in the latest product developments and installation techniques these products require. It is your business; training and product updates are the cost of doing it right. Invest now, and reap the benefits later.