Date: 2/24/2008 6:31 pm EDT
We are very familiar with the product previously sold at Lowes. Even though the company has declared bankruptcy, I will refer to it as Product X. It is true that the launch of Product X at Lowes was a disaster, but as with most situations, there are some details that probably aren't apparent at the surface.
My comments here are intended to answer your specific questions about the differences between Product X and Avaire.
But first, a bit of background:
Product X launched at Lowes in 2004 with much hype and excitement in the industry. The concept was universally appealing: an easy and fast way of installing a real tile floor! Unfortunately, there were a number of early issues (“bugs” in software vernacular) that lead to a high initial field failure rate. Even after these “bugs” were addressed, the system had what we would consider fundamental design weaknesses. By the middle of 2005, Product X was being phased out of Lowes. Product X had some limited success in specialized industries like manufactured housing. In November, 2007, Product X declared bankruptcy.
To address your specific question, here are differences between Product X and Avaire.
• We were very much aware of Product X's failures. We knew the entire industry would be "on edge" for any new floating tile systems, so Avaire went through extensive lab testing before even going into field trials. We collaborated with a structural engineering professor at the Peter Kiewit Engineering Institute at the University of Nebraska who built an industry standard Robinson Test Device (ASTM test C-627). Avaire passes through Cycle 6 in the Robinson Test which qualifies it for “light commercial” duty. We ran a Robinson Test on Product X – it failed at Cycle 2 (passing through Cycle 3 is the minimum required for residential certification).
• Avaire was thoroughly field tested in early 2006 before launch. We gave away more than 5,000 sf to "average" homeowners, and observed everything about the process. Based on comments from a very senior executive in one of the world’s largest flooring manufacturers, Product X was not properly tested before launch. Disclaimer: I was not part of Product X when it launched, so I cannot tell you for a fact what testing was or was not performed. The initial results tend to speak for themselves.
• Avaire is designed with moisture impervious components. Product X used a High Density Fiberboard (HDF) backing. While moisture resistant, HDF is not moisture impervious.
• Avaire’s raw tile is at least 50% thicker and significantly stronger. As you may know, the structural strength of a tile product increases more than linearly with thickness. Avaire uses a 9 mm thick porcelain, whereas Product X used a 5.5 mm tile. And, if you measure the thickness of the raw Product X tile with a caliper inside the “grid lines” you would find it was less than 5 mm.
• Avaire’s system interlocks on all four sides – Product X interlocks on only 2 sides – there is no “horizontal coupling mechanism” on those two edges which results in much stress on the grout.
• Avaire can be oriented in any direction. Product X is directional.
• The Avaire tray design allows adhesive to flow right to the edge of the tile. With Product X, the edges were often unsupported by the adhesive. Coupled with inherently weaker tile due to thickness, the corners and edges of Product X often cracked.
• Avaire is available in modular sizes. Product X was not.
• Avaire uses a superior Urethane based grout.
• Avaire can be cut with a traditional wetsaw. Product X required a special blade and a dry cut process which reportedly generated much dust.
• Avaire does not require an underlayment. Product X did.
• Avaire did not try to launch a massive program like a national Lowes launch on Day One. Early on, we told one large player “no” to a launch in mid-2006 because it would have required us to grow too fast – we weren’t ready then. Our company philosophy is predicated on the assumption that our product is good (because we’ve engineered it to be “good”). Which means it is a good product in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years. If that is the case, then there is no need to rush into the market in a manner that risks the business.
• From what I understand, if Product X had taken the time to work out early bugs in their adhesives and manufacturing processes before the massive Lowes launch, they might not have failed so badly there. Even after the bugs were worked out, the above noted fundamental product differences are all still true and Avaire is, by all accounts, a vastly superior product. Product X remained in business for several years after exiting Lowes and was getting decent traction in the manufactured housing industry. From what we hear, Product X was performing reasonably well in the manufactured housing industry.
• We’ve been contacted by multiple ex-Product X employees seeking employment with us. Each and every one of them acknowledged that Avaire was a superior product (of course, we can’t ignore the “suck-up” factor that might have present from some of them since they were looking for a job).
We have delivered more than 700,000 sf of Avaire to the market since June, 2006. If the average flooring job is 100 sf, that is more than 7,000 floors. Since then, we do not have a single warranty claim. Not to say we never will – that would be foolish. We also ask our customers a series of questions as part of their warranty registrations. The percent of customers who “would recommend Avaire to friends and family” and “would install another Avaire floor” is in the high 90’s. Again, we’d love to see 100% of registrants answer positive to these questions, but that’s not realistic.
Back to your question about moving the refrigerator over the tile: pull the frig out, grout that area, and then carefully move the frig back into place. Then grout the rest of the floor. You don’t want to leave plywood under the frig because it will slow down the grout curing process. As a general reminder, don’t cover the Avaire Flexible grout with anything solid of not breathable or it will inhibit the grout curing process.
You'll want to stay off the floor for 24 hours after you grout it, and keep the traffic light for a few more days.
Good luck with your Avaire floor! Please send us a picture at firstname.lastname@example.org
when you are done.