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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 Vinyl PLank Flooring

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. 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.

Flooring Seller Reviews

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 a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty’s Google+

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David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in 'play with Beatles multi-tracks') and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty's Google+

Posted in Laminate Flooring, Vinyl Flooring, waterproof
14 comments on “Waterproof vs. Water Resistant Flooring
  1. Merrilee McLain says:

    I have salon , put vynl planking on top of concrete floor.i am on second floor so no problem with moisture. My washing machine broke and dumped about 10 gallons of water and flooded a section of floor. We caught it after about 30 minutes but the water had traveled. We cleaned it all up but what about the water trapped under flooring?help. I don’t want mold

    • David says:

      Merrilee, if water gets under your floor covering (the vinyl planks), it’s possible that the only way to get to water under the floor is to pull the vinyl up. If you have a glue down vinyl, this can be difficult and messy, and you may want to call a professional to do it. If the planks are click-together or loose lay, then the process is do-able enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to get them out of the way so the trapped moisture can evaporate away. Most vinyl planking is waterproof (all of ours is, but I don’t know what you have), so those planks should be able to go right back down once your subfloor is taken care of.

  2. ANDREW says:

    i watched your video on waterproof vs water resistant floors and you used a product click guard; i have searched your website but dont see that it is listed, do you sell click guard?

    • David says:

      Hi, Andrew, we sure do! But you’re right, it’s hard to get to. Here’s a direct link: Click Guard

      Since it’s a laminate accessory, and one we only recommend for certain specific floors, we’ve put it in the Installation & Maintenance section of the Laminate Accessories page, just a little above the middle as you scroll down, on the right side, just under a picture of a blue bucket. Sorry that was so hard to find!

      – David

  3. Daniel says:


    I have a question regarding water resistant vinyl plank flooring. How much protection would I have against water? For instance, the cat knocks over my son’s glass of water onto the floor and I didn’t find out till I got home from work (8hrs later), would there be any damage?


    • Meredith says:

      Hi, Daniel! As a cat owner, I feel your pain! To answer your question, all of our vinyl plank is waterproof, not water resistant, so if your cat decides to do what cats do and knock the glass over, your flooring would not suffer any damage. However, if the water seeps through the seams between planks and gets down to your subfloor, you could have some issues with the subfloor, particularly if it’s a wood subfloor. Hope that helps!

  4. eva says:

    I live in a townhouse in Livermore and the HOA does not maintain the storm drain outside my bedroom wall, so when we get heavy rain my carpet gets wet along the edges and it smells,I have to get rid of it.I would like to get some kind of flood proof flooring if it exists…

    • David says:

      Hi, Eva,

      There isn’t a floor that will flood proof your home, so to speak, preventing water from getting in, nor can we use a floor covering to flood proof your subfloor (the floor structure under your carpeting). There is waterproof flooring though, material that will not smell when it gets wet, and will not be destroyed by the water – Vinyl Plank. If the water is going to get in anyway, this could be a good option for you. The planks simply will not be affected by water.

      Now, in your case, Loose Lay may be best because you do have this recurrent issue, and it is localized to the edges. It seems like you would occasionally need to dry up those areas – I’m just guessing, of course. Loose Lay lifts out of place so the subfloor can be dried, and the planks themselves wiped off and put back in place. With a click together floor, to accomplish this you would have to ‘uninstall’ sections.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Andrea says:

    I am so pleased that you posted this!! My husband and I are going to replace our kitchen/dining and hallway floors. He believes “water resistant” includes “no seepage” between each plank….thereby, leaving the subfloor dry. I disagree, because we are now facing a urine smell in our hallways where our dogs are gated at night and one of the girls was naughty earlier this week. It has permeated the original wood flooring and I want it gone and replaced with sheet vinyl. No seams. No seepage. No smell. When I say I want “clean”…. I mean…CLEAN!! The kitchen….I can let him have his new laminate because what we have now is textured and I can never….ever….get it really clean. I’ll be shopping for a wood-look sheet vinyl that will mesh with his kitchen choice. Fingers crossed.

  6. Susan says:

    We flooded during Harvey and now looking for new floors. Thank you for the video. This will help us decided

  7. Linda says:

    I would like to know if a vinyl waterproof flooring is better than laminate waterproof flooring. Thank you for any information that will help me to decide which one to choose. It will be used for a den first floor with carpet right now.

    • Meredith says:

      Hi Linda, laminate is NOT waterproof, so if you want a 100% waterproof floor you’ll want vinyl. There’s a hybrid-type option called WPC, which is the closest thing on the market to a waterproof laminate. It’s 100% waterproof engineered vinyl and is very tough!

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