Waterproof vs. Water Resistant Flooring
It's an important distinction. Waterproof is a big word. There is no wiggle room with that word. For the floor that says this word, it means "Water won't affect me - at all. Full stop." To illustrate this we did an Aquarium Test, putting a few different pieces of flooring in an aquarium full of water for three days to show the impact - or lack of one, in the case of our waterproof vinyl. Take a look.
Waterproof flooring can handle a flood. It does not mean that water won't get around or past a waterproof plank. They don't shrinkwrap your subfloor. Having a waterproof floor doesn't mean your entire house will handle the flooding, but once all is cleaned up, your flooring can just be dried off and put right back in place, rather than thrown away and expensively replaced.
What is water "resistant" flooring then?
Well first, what isn't even at that level? Carpet. Carpet is not water resistant. If you spill something on carpet, the carpet will get wet. Even if it is stain resistant, such that spilled red wine doesn't color the flooring red, it's still going to get wet. If you lifted up that section, the subfloor underneath would be wet as well, and even after some wiping and dabbing, it will take time to progress from fully wet to damp and then to dry.
Water. Being resisted. Heh.
Water resistance in flooring means that the particular element of flooring has been designed to withstand water better than it normally would. Usually this means 'longer'. With hard surfaces, most flooring is designed to be able to have some water on top for a while before it will soak through, giving you time to take care of the spill before it can affect the floor. Just about all laminates claim this. The aluminum oxide coating most of them have is pretty much waterproof, but the seams, those tiny gaps between planks? They aren't, so the floor isn't. In those gaps, you usually have exposed core, and as a general rule, exposed wood-stuff will eventually soak in water and expand.
Are there better seams?
The seams in your laminate floors may have a chemical seal, like Click Guard, they may be waxed (another method of preventing water penetration) or they may just be exposed core. When a laminate floor claims to have a water resistant core, it means that core material has been designed to hold off soaking up water that has gotten through the gaps. It won't hold it off forever. With water resistant floors, you have some time to get to a spill, but you definitely need to get to it.
And water resistant flooring cannot handle flooding, say from a broken water pipe. Even with a protected seam, if your whole floor is under an inch of water, the resistance element is no longer a factor you can count on, which is why we soaked our pieces for 3 days in the aquarium. You saw the swelling that came about as a result.
How water resistant can these floors get?
Frankly, they can be pretty good, almost annoyingly good. For instance, in a video we made for the Click Guard product we used to sell, we wanted to show how the water seeping into the gaps that didn't use Click Guard would soak into the cores of the planks and, after they dried, cause enough swelling to keep the planks from clicking together properly. Well, we left the water in place for about 6 hours, it did get through the gaps, and it did get to the cores, but frankly, in our case it just didn't do anything to the planks. We had nothing to show you. A "water resistant core" indeed!
Still, when we say water resistant, you really should plan on it not being waterproof, and if waterproof is what you need, then just go with that. We didn't test every product we have in the video, and for some laminates, a spill left unattended for 6 hours really will make your planks swell. We're always going to be conservative in our recommendations, because our goal is for the product you receive to be better than you expected it to be, not worse.
So what do you look for? For 100% waterproof flooring, we have Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank and Loose Lay Vinyl Plank. Those fully fit the bill. For water resistance, look at most of our laminate flooring. Water resistance is becoming a standard feature with laminates, so look for it there, and in some of our other vinyl options.
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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with W. David Lichty
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