* No disclaimer or full disclosure needed here - I did not receive anything from Shaw at a reduced price or for free in exchange for this review. It was purchased it at full price from a local home improvement retailer.
First and foremost, Pergo is just awful. I was not into flooring when Pergo became the latest rage but OMG, I would have hated it then, I'll bet. My boyfriend's kitchen flooded after a pipe burst and that Pergo soaked it up and expanded like those little pills that end up as large spongy dinosaurs. He'd only installed it three years prior and it was already chipped up from three kids and normal life. When I started pulling at it post-flood, I realized it was super compressed cardboard-like material with a wood grain sticker on top. A STICKER. Maybe modern Pergo's come a long way in three years? I typically hold a grudge, especially against products, so when he had to choose a replacement flooring option, the 'P' word was not mentioned.
With the Pergo gone, the floors revealed another layer - half linoleum and half checkerboard tile. Although hideous, both sections were securely fastened to the subfloor and level. Because of this, we didn't have to do any additional prep work and were able to begin laying the new flooring directly on top.
Since this is a high traffic room and a kitchen (which lots of opportunity for messes and spills), he needed a product that was quick to install, could be walked on immediately/almost immediately, and water resistant. We ultimately decided to try the Shaw Matrix Collection Luxury Locking Vinyl Plank Flooring. The Asheville Pine color is just gorgeous.
Since we didn't need to do any prep work or level the floor first, we were able to jump right into installation. No glue or adhesive needed, which was a pleasant surprise. The bottom of each plank is a little rubbery so it helped keep it in place during the process without sliding around too much. The Shaw literally lays right over the existing ugliness.
The locking feature requires a little playing with at first but once you get it down, it's pretty easy. There is either a tongue or groove on all sides of the planks and a 'lift-push in at an angle-check the length of the plank-push as you lower' process as you add each piece. You'll know, if it's right or not. If there's a tiny gap between the pieces, they aren't in all the way. When the grain patterns of each piece are smack up against each other, they are connected properly. While leaving the tiny gap might seem fine at first, the pieces will not match up on the next row so it's imperative to get them lined up exactly each time. It's a little more work when there are two sides being matched up, like and end AND a side, but it's doable with a little fiddling. In addition to keeping the pieces lined up correctly, the tongue and groove feature keeps spills from seeping between the planks and getting down under the flooring.
The planks are easily cut to size with a box cutter. Simply score the piece and snap along the line.
We did find damaged planks in almost every package. The ratio was normally one or two damaged pieces in the 14 piece box. This was irritating - for the cost, these should have been PERFECT. The damage was always to the tongue/groove part of the plank. More specifically, there were more grooves damaged than tongues as they are small and prone to snap or break with unsupported pressure. We were able to use these imperfect pieces on the ends of the room, where we'd have to cut the planks to size anyway. If that hadn't been the case, we would have exchanged them at the store or contacted Shaw for replacement pieces. I think the packaging is to blame. The box is thin cardboard with no reinforced padding or length support and those tongue/grooves run all the way around the outside of the plank. As you pick up the box, the box bows if you are only supporting it in the middle. No wonder they were getting damaged. If the packaging could be reinforced to minimize bowing or redesigned, I'm sure the damage ratio would be much less.
All in all, it was an exceptionally positive experience - we installed the flooring quickly, were able to use it immediately after installing, and it looks amazing. Further, there was no messy glue to apply or clean up and we could start and stop as needed. We didn't need to schedule one long period of time to do all the work and were actually able to take a little time each day over the course of three days to complete everything. The floor has now passed the 2 month mark of full, every day usage and despite three kids, lots of cooking (and subsequent messes), my 70 pound crazy dog, and constant traffic through the room, the floors still look flawless.