I set out to find the number one thing that modern-day customers look for when choosing a new floor.
After asking as many sales professionals as I could - the number one question remained the same:
“Is this flooring waterproof?”
Sometimes, the answer is yes! Sometimes the answer is a very hard no. It truly depends on the type of material.
It is possible for a material to be water resistant. Some laminate, vinyl and even carpet claim to be water resistant. But you are putting a lot of time and money into this decision, and if I were you, I could read encyclopedias worth of information and still be wary about something like water resistant carpet.
So let’s flesh out what water resistance actually means and see if waterproof material is really as good as it sounds.
Table of Contents
- The Debate: Water Resistant vs. Waterproof
- The Situation: What do You Need It For?
- The Materials: What Are Your Options?
- The Solution: Where to Go From Here
The Debate: Water Resistant vs. Waterproof
Let’s start with some definitions, what exactly does it mean if something is water resistant?
Think of the term water resistance as a shield to something that can possibly be damaged by water.
When a product claims to be water resistant there is typically a component of that product that can be damaged by moisture.
Take cork-backed vinyl for example - the vinyl resists water very well! But the cork attached to the back of the board absorbs moisture which can lead to mold under your floorboards. So if you installed corked-backed vinyl and spilled some water on the floor, you’re fine. Wipe it up because the vinyl top of the board can resist water. However, if you spilled a cup of water of the floor and left it there to spread, the moisture could seep under the board and meet with the cork, which would absorb it over time leading to damage.
The core determines whether the material is truly waterproof. Rigid Core material, also known as SPC, as well as porcelain and ceramic, are the best waterproof options. Vinyl planks (no cork backing) that are vinyl through the core, are 100% waterproof. This means that there will be no damage whatsoever due to moisture.
Upon reading these two definitions, I thought to myself:
“Why wouldn’t you just get waterproof and be 100% covered?”
Because the decision to get water-resistant flooring or waterproof flooring is determined by what you need out of your floor. Waterproof material does add to the cost of the product, so if you are replacing the floor in a part of the home that doesn’t see a lot of moisture, perhaps water-resistance is the best choice for you.
The Situation: What Do You Need It For?
Do you have kids? Pets? A waterfall in your foyer? Are you installing your floor in your bathroom or your bedroom? The location and external factors have a massive influence on what type of floor you will decide to buy.
- As you may know, kids and pets can make mistakes and make spills across your home.
- There are also parts of your home that are more humid than others.
- There are parts of your home that are exposed to more moisture than others - like basements.
All of these have a say in what type of floor you buy and whether that floor is water resistant or waterproof.
Installing a new floor in your bedroom? Perhaps water-resistance would be a good choice for when you spill the glass of water that’s on your nightstand.
Installing a new floor in your kitchen? Perhaps waterproof flooring would be a good choice for when you spill the whole pot of soup across the floor and have to mop everything up.
The more likely moisture is to be on the floor, the more you should consider waterproof flooring. If the likelihood of moisture getting on the floor exists but is low, perhaps water resistant would be the best choice.
It seems like a no-brainer to get the more waterproof materials for the areas susceptible to more moisture. However, it is crucial to make sure every factor is accounted for in the area you are replacing and that the best decision is made when choosing your product.
The Materials: What Are Your Options?
Let’s make it easy and break it into a water resistant category and a waterproof category.
Vinyl plank and tile (LVP/LVT) are the true heroes in the water-resistance world. As mentioned before, if it is vinyl from top to bottom it makes a great waterproof product! Just be cautious of moisture getting into any grout or adhesive around the tile, and in any cracks between the planks.
It typically goes for $5 per square foot on average.
The hero of the waterproof products is SPC - or Rigid Core material. This product usually goes for $6 per square foot and up. Because of the synthetic backing and strong core material, water can’t be absorbed into any part of the product making it totally waterproof.
When it comes to water resistant carpet, you have to be really careful. We recently did a demo for this article as a demonstration of its water resistance.
We poured water on the carpet and it stayed above the fabric and beaded together without actually going into the carpet - amazing!
However, as soon as we touched the water that was beaded at the top, it soaked into the carpet.
There is waterproof carpet that simply acts as a barrier for the pad underneath the carpet. At the same time, there are water resistant carpet pads that resist water as well. These products are usually recommended for families who have pets and want to ensure their carpet can be well maintained with any little or big mistakes the pet might make.
Beyond that, the price tag of these waterproof and water resistant products usually reflects their quality.
As for stone products, much of the natural stone products on the market are not good waterproof products. Much of the stone is porous and absorbs water and stains. The alternatives, porcelain and ceramic tile, are very waterproof! However, the grout that the tile is installed with can be damaged with moisture. So yes, the product is waterproof but the material it’s installed with may be vulnerable to moisture damage.
The Solution: Where To Go From Here
Now that we’re more familiar with the difference between waterproof v. water resistant and we know what type of materials are out there, where do we go from here?
The next step is to continue your research! Find out what the best choice is for you! There are more resources linked all over this article for more stuff to read and stuff to watch. And don’t be afraid to ask your local retailer all of your questions:
“Is this really 100% waterproof?”
“This says waterproof but it has a cork backing, does that mean it is water resistant from the top down?”
“I have 5 small children, a pack of dogs and a fleet of cats - can this floor handle the mess?”
Throughout this process, it’s important to keep in mind that the terms “waterproof” and “water resistant” have transcended from a trend and have become a staple in people’s home.
Because they are so popular, companies could be quick to slap the terms on their product to attract attention to themselves. It is important as a buyer to really do research into what you need and the product you’re interested in!
Here are some helpful resources for buyers in the beginning stages as well as the final stages of their remodeling process. Use this article and the information linked below to familiarize yourself with the options and use that background to consult the pros.