Engineered hardwood floors rose in popularity during the 1980s. They were originally developed to make it possible to install hardwood on top of concrete and to solve moisture issues associated with solid wood floors. The speed of installation, cost and availability of engineered hardwood flooring materials on the mass market made hardwood floors desirable and an alternative to other flooring materials such as carpeting. Today, lock & fold and all types of engineered hardwood floors are as popular with professional installers as they are with do-it-yourself weekend warriors.
Lock & Fold
Lock & fold (also called “click” floating flooring) is engineered flooring that has a built-in locking tongue and groove system. The main advantage with lock & fold flooring is that you do not need to use glue, nails or staples to install the planks. You lay the planks on top of a moisture barrier layer and “float” the panels one by one into place by locking and connecting the next plank to the last one. In some cases, using a tapping block is also helpful to make the panels lock together securely.
Engineered hardwood flooring (also referred to as “floating” floors) is made of a composition of materials. The top layer can be “real,” solid wood, or it can have a laminated veneer finish, such as lock & fold and glue-down planks. Engineered planks typically have anywhere from three to seven composite layers, which are stacked, glued and laminated together under high heat and pressure to form the final flooring material. The inner core layer is often made of plywood or MDF. The final flooring planks come in strips (called longstrip) and as wide planks. In most cases, longstrip flooring is adhered together to form one wide plank. Some engineered flooring, such as parquet, is square in shape.
Any wood-like flooring that is not made of solid wood is engineered. Lock & fold planks do not look different or perform different from glue-on engineered flooring planks. Lock & fold and other types of engineered flooring have more in common with each other than they do with solid wood flooring. They are thinner than solid wood and have veneer, laminate finishes as opposed to real wood finishes. Engineered flooring can be installed on top of plywood and concrete subfloors and come in long strips, called “fillets,” that range from 10 inches up to 24 inches, based on the style and the manufacturer.
Lock & fold flooring comes in various thicknesses. Some types are just about as thin as laminate flooring and others have multiple ply layers that include medium density fiberboard (MDF). The locking tongues and grooves are somewhat delicate, and if they are damaged the planks will not lock and fold properly. When this happens, you have to shave off tongues and use glue to secure the damaged planks and bypass the locking technique. Glue-on engineered planks do not pose these risks. However, many find that lock & fold flooring is quicker to install than engineered floating flooring and prefer not having to work with glues and adhesives. Lock & fold flooring planks also come in wider widths than glue-on engineered planks.
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