Why Read The Instructions - Lumber Liquidators

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Why Read The Instructions - Lumber Liquidators

It’s ‘Only’ Laminate Flooring,

So Why Read the Instructions?

by Bob Middleton

The evolution of hard surface

flooring today has truly given

the consumer an amazing

selection of color, texture and application

options. As more products with unique

applications enter the marketplace it

becomes even more imperative that

professional installers take the time to

read, ask questions and understand the

manufacturer’s written instructions.

To illustrate the need for installers and

flooring inspectors to keep up-to-date

with the varied application methods,

it’s important to know everything you

can about the product going in. For the

purposes of this article, let’s take a look

at laminate flooring. First, let’s focus on

the construction and application of the

product, then we’ll talk more specifically

about the instructions.

Laminate construction and ratings.

Laminate offerings in today’s market

have proliferated. Many feature ceramic

or hand-scraped textures while others

Students work with laminate flooring during

a CFI training event in Kansas City earlier

this year. Photo courtesy of CFI.

12 www.fcimag.com May/June 2013


can have embossed patterns mimicking nature so well you can’t

stop admiring the installed floor. Boiling it down to the basics,

An AC3 rating is just about

perfect for light commercial

and residential use, whereas

laminates having higher

commercial AC5 ratings are sure

to quickly wear holes through

socks!

the top surface of laminate flooring usually consists of a firstquality

photographic décor paper, a core constructed with a

high-density fiber board (HDF) and a melamine backing added

for extra stability. The total construction is then heated and

pressed under thousands of lbs. per sq. inch, producing a very

strong plank.

However, care must be taken as laminate edges are susceptible to

chipping from shipping/handling or during assembly when using

tapping blocks and other related tools. Due to its construction,

laminates are very scratch- and moisture-resistant, though not

entirely impervious to either. Many quality laminates are equipped

with a built-on pre-attached pad on the back that will satisfy most

condominium and apartment association requirements for sound

isolation; those that do not will require an underlayment.

Many styles are available in a variety of finishes: from

traditional matte to UV-cured and high-gloss. Quality

laminates will feature an aluminum oxide protective wear layer

and feature a numerical Abrasion Criteria (AC) rating of 1 to 5,

indicating the overlay film resistance to abrasion, impact, stains

and cigarette burns. Having a rating verifies that the product

has been tested for the effects of furniture legs, casters, swelling

along its edges and so on.

CFI instructor Bob Gillespie (standing) explains the finer points of

laminate flooring installation. Photo courtesy of CFI.

14 www.fcimag.com May/June 2013


Educated laminate costumers will shop AC ratings. An AC3

rating is just about perfect for light commercial and residential

use, whereas laminates having higher commercial AC5 ratings

are sure to quickly wear holes through socks! In general,

laminate warranty coverage is stated in years and is related to

the product’s wear layer and thickness. Depending on the

manufacturer, warranties are only applicable to adherence to

the instructions, foot traffic and board construction. Issues with

moisture, scratches and denting are viewed as site-related for

which the manufacturer has no direct control over, and are often

disclaimed.

Laminate applications. Laminates also have a variety of

fitment or assembly methods, each directly related to the design

of a manufacturer’s locking system. Terms such as glueless, lockand-fold,

angle-angle, tap-and-lock or Uniclic are used not only

to describe the way a particular laminate is to be assembled, but

can also reflect licensing agreements between brands. Because

laminates are not being permanently attached to the subfloor, the

product can also be a smart choice for radiant heat and cement

applications. Laminates have found their way to wall and ceiling

applications as well, due to their lighter weight as compared to

heavier solid wood. Laminates can be installed in one room then

later disassembled and installed in another. Some laminates even

feature a metal locking system that can be ruined if not installed

correctly the first time.

Why read the instructions? As a professional installer you

may have heard some in the business say, “I’ve been installing

(whatever product) this way for 10 years and don’t need to read

the instructions.” However, how do you know the installer

hasn’t been installing the materials wrong for 10 years? This

type of thinking is tantamount to “rolling the dice” for potential

claims, and ignores the fact that flooring products and trends

do change, as well as advancements in technologies. Installation

methodologies do get revised to address the needs of jobsite

conditions or limitations.

Discerning installers will take the time needed to read and

better understand the instructions in an effort to identify

and avoid potential failures. When an installation fails,

flooring inspectors will use the installation instructions as a

guide to determine whether the flooring was installed as per

manufacturer’s specifications. This is all the more reason to read

and follow the instructions.

General requirements. Reading the directions can be an

enlightening discovery of tips and procedures! Following

are just some examples of what manufacturers will generally

require: Acclimate products according to the instructions.

The work area must be climate-controlled to the recommended

temperature and humidity values (this means that the electrical

and HVAC needs to be fully operational). For applications on

cement, obtain a moisture reading using a Calcium Chloride or

RH test. Installations should not proceed until the source of high

moisture has been identifi ed and corrected.

Do not install laminates in an area with a sump-pump or fl oor

drain. When installing over cement use 6-8 mil polyethylene

fi lm plastic or equivalent as a moisture barrier; however, do

not use polyethylene fi lm plastic over wood subfl oors as wood

structures and components need to breathe. Note directions for

board assembly, left-to-right or right-to-left. To ensure best

overall appearance in shade and color, install fl ooring from

several boxes.

Do not install fl ooring in a “stair-stepped” pattern as this can

weaken the total fl oor and may cause fl ooring to separate. Ensure

the subfl oor is fl at to within 3/16” in 10’ or 1/8” in 6’ (3/16” is the

thickness of three stacked quarters; 1/8” is the equivalent of a grain

of rice). Room areas exceeding the recommended distance in length

or width will need T-moldings as expansion breaks.

The recommended expansion spacing must be placed around the

perimeter of the installed area and all fi xed objects. Do not install

laminates under fi xed or permanent cabinetry. When laminates are

used to overlay stair treads and risers, omit the use of underlayment.

When an installation fails,

flooring inspectors will use the

installation instructions as a

guide to determine whether the

flooring was installed as per

manufacturer’s specifications.

This is all the more reason to

read and follow the instructions.

Attach all stair components using fl exible urethane adhesives; For

safety, laminate stair nosing must be both glued and nailed.

Putting it all together. Now, keep in mind that a variety

of laminate application methods exist, and each can have their

own unique joint assembly and limitations of use. Therefore,

before starting installation, floor installers are wise to read the

manufacturer’s written instructions and when in doubt ask

questions – especially when a particular application seems out of

the ordinary.

Adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions can promote a

more positive experience between all parties concerned, from the

manufacturer, to the installer and customer, as well as keeping

you and your crew out of the “tall grass” of costly claims! FCI

Bob Middleton has been in the flooring

business for over 30 years as an installer

and consultant. He is an ICFI, NWFA and

LEES Certified Professional and a NALFA

Installer/Inspector. As Lumber Liquidators

Technical & Installation Manager, he

conducts installer training sessions and

participates in product warranty reviews.

He also contributes to Lumber Liquidators

blog and Twitter, BobVila.com’s “Fix It

Forum,” and other industry sites.

May/June 2013 www.fcimag.com 15

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