Is this laminate defective or is this typical?
October 13, 2008 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Should I keep the $800 worth of as-yet uninstalled Shaw VersaLock laminate flooring, or is this just a shoddy product that I need to return to "Larry" at the floor store?

Just started installing the Shaw VersaLock laminate flooring that I bought, following the instructions on the website, and so far the locking ridge at the end of almost every board has broken.

We've watched the video, read the PDF, read the box (mind you, all 3 versions of instructions are slightly different), but no matter what, the fiberboard ridges simply snap off/crumble with any movement whatsoever of the joined boards.

It's VersaLock AG 8mm laminate over deluxe underlayment.

Has anyone had an experience like this with this or similar products? Is it fatal to the installation to have this happening - as in, will these locking ridges continue to break under stress once the floor is installed?
posted by tristeza to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've only once installed laminate flooring, and it wasn't that brand. But the locking ridges did not break, except one that got kicked by accident. So either you are doing it wrong, or the flooring you bought wasn't made right.

Can you either bring a few pieces back to the shop, or have one of their people come out to your house? It might be that there is something really basic you are doing wrong; conversely, it makes your case a lot stronger if their installation expert breaks the ridges in front of you.
posted by Forktine at 7:12 PM on October 13, 2008

I've installed laminate with tongue and groove joints (no glue). I'd say no more than a handful of the grooves (or tongues) broke during the installation of 1100 sq. ft. of laminate.

Assuming that the "locking ridges" are a kind of groove joint. and assuming that you aren't making a weird mistake, than you either got a bad batch (of a normally good product) or a bad product.

Quick question did you let it acclimate to your home?
posted by oddman at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2008

I have installed a few, 6 rooms in two different houses using 2 different manufacturers of laminate flooring. I cannot remember the brand names, though. It should not be breaking with that frequency or ease. It is made to be somewhat rugged, you are going to be standing, running, stomping on it for Pete's sake.

I would take it all back to the store and show them what is going on. If it is a big box store, HD or Lowes then you will usually not have much of a problem returning it. A flooring or outlet store might give you more of a hard time, so you might have to be more persuasive. If 'Larry' is not seeing things your way then ask to speak to the manager.

If you paid with a credit card, then you could always threaten to contest the charges. I think that they would definitely be working with you rather than against your cc company.

As far as showing the store what happens when you put them together, they will have a few open boxes of returns from other customers and/or defective product. Snap a couple of the one's at the store and then do the same with the product that you bought from them. This demonstration will show whether there is a problem with the product or installation.

You also might want to go to another store with a few pieces of the flooring you bought, a big box or flooring store and have the guys in the flooring dept. try to put them together and see if they have the same problems you did.

To me the damaged locking ridges are fatal to the installation. The locking of the edges is what hold them together. They are not going to stay clicked together if the locking edges are not there. Especially when there is pressure from everyday use.

Good luck.
posted by MiggySawdust at 7:42 PM on October 13, 2008

Thanks for the answers so far, dudes! Great suggestions.

AFAIK, we are joining them correctly.

oddman: the did acclimate, for about a month of me putting off this project. :)

(does anyone have a brand they love and is awesome?)
posted by tristeza at 7:53 PM on October 13, 2008

I can't say I've installed it or that it's awesome and I love it, but I've been shocked at how well the Kronotex Merbau D1329 that's laid down in the rental house that I live in. You can get it at Lowes afaik. It's held up to a guy that is forgetful about dripping things and who paces and regularly fumbles/drops/spills things, two large dogs, and any number of substances from alcohol to blood. I figured it'd implode inside of a year given that dogs drool, drip snot, paw sweat, and mud etc. all over the place.

Two things that will help your installation when you do it -- don't fit things up against the wall too tightly. The flooring surface will "bubble" a bit at the edges as the underlying particle(?) board shifts a bit, and it needs some spaces at the edges to do this. Where the installers cut it too close and didn't leave that space it has bubbled a bit. One area where this really shows is right around the back door, which has the most moisture hitting it regularly... see above about dogs and human. If you can plan a few square feet of some alternate and more durable surface (vinyl, tile, etc.) near the doors and any kitchen sinks, do so.

The second thing is to clean up any moisture that does get on the floor. We haven't been able to keep the floor shiny (tried furniture polish) without also making it "OHSHIT!" slick, but we have used swifter wet tissues to clean it every few weeks and otherwise wiped up any spills or moisture that hit the floor as soon as it hit. Families in my neighborhood who haven't done this have reported that if water seeps through the surface and can attack the base material, you will have no end of nightmares trying to fix it.
posted by SpecialK at 8:29 PM on October 13, 2008

I have installed and sold flooring for a combination of 10 years
now so I know a little. Laminate flooring has an amazingly high
recall rate for bad product. If you were doing something wrong
it would be just fitting poorly more than breaking off. You really
do have to try and break them for good product (especially one
of the better brands).

One of the big issues is that a lot of laminate is made by company
A and labeled for company B. I don't think your shaw is that way

One thing you will never know is how long this floor has sat around
and where. It could have sat outside, been dropped, anything.

Bottom line take it back before it is to late. If they give you
crap just fight it. They can get credit back from the vendor.

As for good lines of laminate, my preference is for Pergo and

Also remember nearly every big box now sells flooting engineered
for basically the same price.
posted by rbeaver at 9:06 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even if ALL the tongue/groove connectors break, you can always just old-fashioned-nail those ones down, no? I mean, the tongue/groove part is invisible on the finished floor anyway, and before this nifty invention, floorboards were nailed down.

(And if you must, you can add additional clear-laminate finish over the entire floor later, as if you're "re" finishing it.)

I've looked at this kind of flooring (it's always on sale) but I have not tried it yet -- I'm thinking about it for a coming-up project, though, so I am noting rbeaver's brand suggestions there.

He can correct me (please), but the whole "snap together" gimmick always struck me as something you could just ignore/augment with regular methods at-will; as a convenience, not a necessity.
posted by rokusan at 9:55 PM on October 13, 2008

rokusan - i am no expert,, the "click" is the point of that stuff, it's not a gimmick or convenience. it's the way it's engineered. you are told, for example, specifically NOT to glue this laminate. if you do, you're fucked.

my subfloor is concrete, hence, the "click" stuff is really my best choice (if i can find one that's good!)

rbeaver - so, so many thanks for the info.
posted by tristeza at 10:03 PM on October 13, 2008


As nice as I can all of that was wrong.

You can't really nail it as it is not designed to
do that. The wood is made to "move". As for
refinishining it nothing will stick. If you put a
a new finish on it it would eventually flake and
peel off.

There are some engineered wood floors that
Can be glued, nailed, or floated using a PVA
adhesive on the tongue and groove.
posted by rbeaver at 10:05 PM on October 13, 2008

I installed this exact product in August. I found that it had a "way" of going together. After I broke a couple of t/g, i got it right. I found that with this product I had to assemble the ends of a row together: -----. Once I did that I placed it over the previous row and then slid it back until the tongue was sitting over the groove. Then, working from one end, I got it all into the groove on a 45* and clicked to lock. Sometimes there was a gap and I had to either start the t/g part again or use a scrap piece to persuade the malcontent board into place.

I installed this myself and I am pretty clumsy but once I got how to work it, it went well.

posted by Country Dick Montana at 9:21 PM on October 14, 2008

That's okay, rbeaver, thanks for the education. I thought the OP was dealing with something that was just regular wood planking with tongues and grooves, and he was obsessing too much over the 'right' way to use it.

I didn't realize it was a synthetic all-or-nothing solution. I will definitely avoid this stuff and use real wood flooring for my own project!
posted by rokusan at 2:48 PM on October 15, 2008

Gang - thanks so much for all the good advice! (and i'm a "she", BTW ;)

You gave me the necessary cojones to go back to Larry and return all the defective crap...sadly I had to go buy all new stuff in one day which was a nightmare, and ended up with stuff I'm not wild about, but it DOES fit and isn't breaking, so, could be worse.

Many thanks!

(PS rokusan - start saving your pennies for real wood my friend - ouch!)
posted by tristeza at 3:30 PM on October 15, 2008

> As for refinishining it nothing will stick.

I just want to add in that I've considered this to be a giant asset with the laminate flooring vs. past experiences with real wood...!
posted by SpecialK at 7:52 PM on October 15, 2008

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