Waterproof Laminate Flooring Buying Guide
Good news! The affordable laminate floors you love now feature waterproof capabilities! Waterproof and water-resistant laminate products are hitting the market, making this traditional wood-look floor even more irresistible.
Now you can install this affordable flooring in more rooms of the home – like the kitchen or bathroom – with confidence that it will withstand the mess of everyday chaos.
Read on to learn how waterproof and water-resistant laminate flooring works, what you can expect, and how to find the best product for your application.
What is Waterproof Laminate Flooring?
Waterproof laminate is an upgraded version of the popular wood-look synthetic floor that can now resist water damage. Laminate offers realistic looks that could easily pass for real hardwood. People love how affordable laminate is, but it has never been known for its ability to withstand water.
Until now! New waterproof features are proving to be a game-changer in laminate flooring.
Traditionally, laminate has been known to absorb water and swell easily. But innovative technology has changed all that.
- Waterproof seal: First, the surface features a water-repellent seal that keeps spills and moisture from the core.
- Watertight joints: Each plank locks together tightly to prevent water from seeping through. Some waterproof laminate flooring features bevels that wrap over the plank’s edges for even better moisture protection at the joints.
- Water-resistant core: Then, waterproof laminate’s core layer is made of compressed high-density fiberboard (HDF) with resins. This makes it less susceptible to swelling and ensures better water resistance.
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Waterproof Laminate Flooring Construction
Waterproof and water-resistant laminate flooring is comprised of multiple layers, including:
- Wear Layer: The top layer protects the floor from scratches, wear, and staining while providing a realistic look and feel to the floor. This is the protective shield to your floor, which keeps the dog from leaving marks with his clattering claws. A waterproof seal keeps water from seeping through and damaging the floor.
- Image Layer: Just below the wear layer, the image layer holds the pattern or print of your floor. This gives your floor an incredibly realistic and beautiful wood or stone look.
- Core Layer: Just below the print layer, the core layer gives the floor durability and stability. Typically made of compressed high-density fiberboard (aka HDF), this layer is where the water-resistant or waterproof qualities come into play. Fiberboard in water-resistant laminate floors may feature more resins, making it less susceptible to swelling in water.
Backing: This layer also helps provide stability for the floor and can help to keep water from penetrating the flooring from underneath. Backing layers are often made to help seal off the core from subfloor moisture that you might experience from concrete flooring or in basements, making each plank resistant to moisture from above and below.
Water Resistant Laminate vs. Waterproof Laminate Flooring
Some brands will use the term “waterproof” to describe their products while others will say “water-resistant,” so what’s the difference?
Waterproof and water-resistant are not the same thing when it comes to flooring.
- Water resistance: means that a certain element of the flooring is designed to withstand water better than normal. This typically means that you can have some water on the surface for a while before it soaks through. If you can’t get to a spill right away, water-resistant laminate floors will buy you some time.
- Waterproof: means that the water will never be able to penetrate the flooring, no matter how much time has passed.
These definitions may also vary among manufacturers. To be certain of the water-resistance level in a product, be sure to thoroughly read the descriptions of the laminate floors you’re considering. Waterproof laminate sometimes depends on proper installation to ensure that water does not penetrate into the core and cause swelling.
It’s also possible to increase your laminate floor’s water resistance during installation. Some manufacturers include instructions to finish the laminate floor installation with silicone sealant around the perimeter and under the baseboard for more water resistance.
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Waterproof Laminate vs. Waterproof Vinyl
But waterproof and water-resistant laminate still comes with caution, because these floors are not constructed the same as other waterproof floors. Unlike vinyl, waterproof laminate cannot be fully submerged in water because it is still wood at its core.
Laminate flooring is water-resistant from top to bottom, but not always from the bottom to top. This means that if you get water or a spill on your floor, waterproof or water-resistant floor systems will not allow liquids to seep through the interlocks, stopping the potential for mold or mildew to grow beneath your flooring. However, if you have moisture issues with your subfloor, you will still need a vapor barrier for waterproof laminate floors.
Luxury vinyl flooring is made with synthetic materials and is resistant to large amounts of moisture, meaning it can be submerged and still won’t absorb any water. If you do have moisture issues with your subfloor, installing your laminate with a vapor barrier will probably be required by the manufacturer to guarantee your warranty.
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Pros and Cons of Waterproof Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is already the go-to wood-look flooring option, and the up-and-coming waterproof products are sure to make a splash in the flooring market. Here’s why homeowners and business owners can benefit from choosing waterproof laminate flooring:
Laminate flooring is already the go-to wood-look flooring option, and waterproof laminate flooring is making a splash in the flooring market. Here’s why homeowners and business owners can benefit from choosing waterproof laminate flooring
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Pros of Waterproof Laminate Flooring
- Better with moisture than traditional laminate: Waterproof floors feature a moisture-resistant core so they hold up better to water than traditional laminate or hardwood floors. This means they can be installed in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and any room throughout the home.
- Realistic wood looks: Waterproof laminate planks often have some surface detail to further mimic a natural hardwood look and can have the look and feel of a hand-scraped hardwood, embossed wood, distressed hardwood, or come in textured or smooth.
- Easy to install, clean, and maintain: Waterproof laminate flooring is designed to be installed as a floating floor, meaning that it is not secured to the ground underneath, but rather “floats” by the means of an interlocking design. This process is easy and typically done by our customers of all DIY levels.
- More scratch resistant than vinyl: Waterproof laminate flooring has a strong wear layer that protects the floor from scratches, wear, and staining, all the things pets love to test out on our floors.
- Cost-effective: Waterproof and water-resistant laminate floors are an inexpensive alternative to hardwood floors. Lower price and lower maintenance? Yes, please!
Cons of Waterproof Laminate Flooring
I know you’re rooting for this floor now, but what good would this guide be if it didn’t give you the potential downsides? Every floor has its concerns. Here are the less appealing factors of laminate flooring:
- Not as water-resistant as waterproof vinyl flooring: While laminate flooring has come a long way in its water-resistant capabilities, it still cannot tolerate standing pools of water. Unlike vinyl, laminate’s water resistance works from top to bottom rather than bottom to top. If you have moisture issues with your subfloor, you’ll still need a vapor barrier.
- Sound: if installed on an uneven surface without an underlayment, laminate floors can create a hollow, empty sound. Every product comes with thorough installation instructions that include how to prepare your flooring area, and if you’re really worried, you can always hire an expert.
Waterproof Laminate Flooring FAQs
From pricing and cleaning to protecting your floor, here are our answers to our most frequently asked waterproof laminate flooring questions.
Do I need to buy an underlayment for waterproof laminate flooring?
Some waterproof laminate floors have an underlay already attached, so you don’t need to buy an underlayment for those. However, if it doesn’t come pre-attached, you should purchase an underlayment to improve the durability, sound quality, and insulation. You may also want to consider a moisture barrier for extra protection from the subfloor.
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Where can waterproof laminate flooring be installed?
Waterproof laminate flooring can be installed anywhere inside the home, and at all grade levels from the basements to the attic. If you are installing laminate in water-prone areas, like kitchens, bathrooms, or basements, just be certain not to leave standing pools of water on your floor.
How do I clean waterproof laminate flooring?
To clean your waterproof laminate floors, simply sweep or vacuum up any dust, dirt, or debris. Use a damp cloth to blot up spills. In the past, it was recommended to avoid wet-mopping or using liquid cleaning materials on your laminate floor, but waterproof laminate flooring can handle wet-mopping. Be sure to clean up any spills immediately to prevent damage to your flooring.
Is waterproof laminate flooring easy to install?
Yes, waterproof laminate floors are DIY-friendly, so you can install them on your own. Most laminate is installed as a “floating floor” which means you don’t need any glue, tape, or other hassles. Simply lay it right on top of your existing floor, interlock the planks together, and go on with your day.
Check out this video for our DIY laminate flooring installation guide:
That budget-friendly, wood-look floor you’ve been dreaming about is now achievable in any room of the house with waterproof laminate flooring. Scratch-resistant, durable, and now waterproof, laminate is an ideal choice for homes with messy pets or humans. You can rest assured knowing you’re investing in a long-lasting floor that will retain its beauty for years to come.