Most flooring is water resistant, not 100% waterproof. Most people know the difference between these commonly used terms on a subconscious level; however, they can be confusing when used interchangeably. Water Resistant Flooring vs. Waterproof Flooring: What They Don’t Tell You, this article will try and help clear things up!
Flooring marketers understand this very well, which is why they make this small "honest" mistake when marketing products that are yet to meet waterproof status. Let’s take a step back and define these two flooring terms;
What is waterproof flooring?
Waterproof flooring is flooring that doesn’t allow water to go through.
What is water resistant flooring?
Water resistant flooring is flooring that can resist water penetration to some degree, but not entirely.
From the above definition, the term waterproof and water resistant are different and can't be used interchangeably.
If you think about other products like watches for a second, the term waterproof and water-resistant is also used. You can do anything with a waterproof watch from running in the rain to swimming, snorkeling, and deep-sea diving without worrying about water damage. Water will not sip into a waterproof watch.
However, water resistant watches can resist water to a certain extent. This is precisely why watch manufacturers given the depth at which a watch is water resistant. Any depth beyond that can cause water damage. The same applies to flooring. Let’s take common scenarios;
Spilling water on waterproof flooring vs. on water resistant flooring
If you spill water accidentally on the floor, which is bound to happen, it's important to know how your flooring will react. If you have a waterproof floor that doesn't allow water to penetrate, the water will sit until it is wiped or until it evaporates. If the flooring is water resistant and you take some time before you wipe it, the water will seep into the floor and cause molding, among other problems. If the spilling is frequent, waterproof flooring tends to swell and get permanently damaged. The flooring will warp and look ugly and uneven.
Continuous leaks on waterproof flooring vs. on water resistant flooring
If you have real water damage problems like a leak under your sink on your laundry areas or flooding from a dishwasher, it will count whether you have a waterproof or water resistant floor. When water sits all day, it is bound to seep in. Laminate flooring can resist water spills. However, when water sits for too long, it will be absorbed. Laminate flooring gets permanently damaged when exposed to water for a prolonged time. It changes form, bubbles, and is never the same.
What does this mean? If there is a likelihood of water damage, there are other flooring options to consider. Engineered flooring is high-tech with many features. However, if it contains some wood in its layers, it's probably not 100% waterproof. Pure vinyl flooring is better given it doesn’t contain any wood. It has higher water resistant characteristics. Some pure vinyl floors are even waterproof. If you love wood flooring, SPC vinyl is as close to waterproof as you'll get for a wood-looking floor.
Like laminate flooring, engineered flooring shouldn’t be in laundry rooms, bathrooms among other areas prone to water damage. However, it’s important to be conscious of ever-changing flooring technology. It is possible to see 100% waterproof laminate flooring or engineered flooring in the future. Most options available today are water resistant and not 100% waterproof.
Extreme Example - A Hurricane!!
Mohawk flooring has a product called solidtech, it is a vinyl floor and is waterproof. Some floorings can last such an extreme event, but the actual issue is the subfloor, which rarely survives huge floors. So waterproof flooring is great, but the rest of the home isn't waterproof. Small floods and puddles of water mean the flooring survives, huge events like a tradgic large scale flood, means the subfloor gets damaged and full floor needs to be pulled up.
The cost factor
If water damage is a serious concern, it's important to consider investing in waterproofing flooring, which tends to be more expensive than water resistant flooring. Given water damage is a problem in specific areas of any home i.e., bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens, you may be forced to install waterproof flooring in such areas or incur huge costs replacing water-resistant flooring after a few months or years.
Let’s not even mention the effort required to keep bathroom flooring dry 24/7 just because you have installed the wrong flooring. In hindsight, the additional cost you incur with waterproof flooring in certain areas of the home is justified and may be less than the cost of replacing water resistant flooring multiple times. Furthermore, installing the wrong flooring in the wrong area can render your flooring warranty void resulting in additional costs.
Always remember, your flooring can be waterproof but your subfloor may not be. Consult a professional installer is you are sure what to do in your situation.
Where is the water coming from? Above or below
Many flooring marketers overlook one very important fact when describing waterproof or water resistant flooring properties – the origin of the water. Most of these properties assume water damage originates from the top i.e., when water spills on the floor. What if the water is coming from the subfloor? If that's the case, most waterproof/water resistant flooring isn’t waterproof/water resistant at all. For instance, laminate flooring will be vulnerable to moisture from below. SPC vinyl doesn't have wood fiber, as is the case with laminate. The importance of understanding what makes up the core of your flooring can’t be overlooked.
The installation factor
Installation is also crucial. Water resistant or waterproof floors can lose their properties because of poor installation. If you are a DIY floor installer, you must follow installation instructions to the letter, including preparing the subfloor. In a nutshell, you can’t avoid water damage if you don’t install your flooring properly.
Clearly, the waterproofing vs. water resistant flooring subject has countless variables to consider. Your choice should be inspired after careful consideration of the kind of water damage you expect/want to avoid, how much you want to spend, where you are installing your floor, how you install the floor, among other factors, including where you live. If you live in Vancouver, for instance, which is prone to rain, waterproof, or water resistant flooring is crucial in most areas of the home.
While flooring such as natural stone (slate, marble and granite flooring) is great against moisture, such flooring may be slippery. The waterproof / water resistant flooring subject can't, therefore, be looked at in isolation. You must do your homework and talk to a professional to avoid having a narrow view.
It also matters where you buy your flooring. Original water resistant flooring is better than floors pretending to be waterproof flooring. Reputable flooring suppliers have other notable advantages like pricing and variety. Do your homework and don't get confused on statements that aren't true in marketing.
Here is the best of all worlds... real hardwood veneer that is waterproof, from Shaw, a large bran name in our industry. Product is called Floorte, and you can get it at Word of Mouth Floors, along with numerous options for waterproof and water resistant floors:
I don't know this person, but his thoughts on basement flooring options. He sells Shaw products (as do we):
Other articles on waterproof vs water resistant floors in Vancouver, BC Canada are on our blog.
Here is a video on vinyl flooring installation:
post written by a guest blog writer