For most, purchasing a home is the single largest investment most individuals will make in their lives. They should be safe, comfortable, and reflect our various styles and personalities. They're also a lifetime investment for most.
One thing that can really do some damage to that investment is water. Though every home should and typically does have the capacity for running water, it can really hurt that long-term investment should it become a leak, or freeze up entirely.
Water, whether as a solid, liquid and gaseous form, is one of the leading causes of damage to homes every year. According to the Insurance Information Institute, “water damage and freezing” was the 3rd most severe (following bodily injury and fire/lightning) and the 2nd most frequent cause of homeowner’s insurance claims.
This, as well as a desire for a low maintenance, durable, resistant finish, is the reason why more and more people are looking at waterproof and water resistant flooring options. So which of those options are the best? And what other questions should I be asking before purchasing or installation?
Waterproof vs. Water resistant flooring
Read carefully! You don't want to get these terms mixed up next time you're decided what kind of flooring in install. Waterproof and water resistant are far from like terms!
In fact, water-resistant means exactly what the name implies: it can withstand, or resist, water for a period of time but it is not waterproof. Water will eventually damage the product if left standing.
Waterproof means that no matter what, or for how long it's left unattended, water will not damage this flooring product. Now, even though the product is waterproof, that doesn’t mean the subfloor beneath it is. Many people get mixed up regarding that simple fact. Seams between the planks could still allow for moisture to seep through to the subfloor.
Pluses and Minuses
No matter which you choose, waterproof and water-resistant flooring each have their pluses and minuses.
Now, water-resistant flooring is typically less money-wise than 100% waterproof flooring. A minus is that the core materials that make it less expensive often directly contribute to the swelling, warping or peeling when exposed to excessive moisture from leaks, or even flooding. Basically, water-resistant flooring acts like a big sponge when exposed to liquid for longer than recommended.Waterproof flooring, since it is impermeable, can cost more, even when made with organic or naturally-occurring materials. The stone core material helps make it more waterproof.
Water-resistant flooring is perfect for areas that don’t regularly get exposed to water, wet feet, and/or spills like kitchens, bathrooms and mudrooms. Family/living rooms, offices, dens,and bedrooms are some great places to install water-resistant flooring like various laminates as well as solid and engineered hardwood.
Previously noted bathrooms, mudrooms, kitchens, and even basements are NOT the best places to install water-resistant laminate flooring. Basements especially are notorious for having excess moisture in the air that can damage any water-resistant flooring product.Therefore, any of the previously mentioned areas are GREAT places to install waterproof flooring!
Types of Waterproof and Water Resistant Flooring
Advances in materials and technology continue to meet the needs of today’s consumer demands for waterproof and water-resistant flooring, offering the customer more options than ever.
For waterproof floors, there’s nothing stronger than a limestone-based product. Prices vary based on type of tile or stone and installation requirements.
A popular waterproof option is rigid core planks. The sheet vinyl products many of us had in houses growing up was water-resistant if the seams were sealed correctly. Newer vinyl products ain’t your mom’s vinyl however. Today’s rigid core flooring is a stouter product that takes on the look of tile or wood. It is durable, and offered in both water-resistant and waterproof varieties and can be a lower cost alternative to other flooring options, and is great for active families and high-traffic areas.
Solid hardwood floors are a water-resistant option. While the sealant (typically an aluminum oxide finish) prevents water from entering the wood, the seams offer a path of least resistance for water, and over time can lead to warping, bowing, cupping and a number of other unfortunate occurences.
Laminate and engineered wood products come in water-resistant varieties. However, be careful as not all are water-resistant! Typically the outer surface of either wood or wood-look material is water-resistant, however, the core of the product is often a composite product that is extremely susceptible to moisture damage.
Rigid core is a general term meaning the core of the plank vinyl or laminate is sturdy or rigid. These materials are reinforced in their core with SPC typically, and click-fit together.
SPC, or stone polymer core, is a great option for those looking for the durability of vinyl with the look of hardwood. The surface resists scratches and water like vinyl, but the limestone core adds strength, stability, and waterproofing. It’s becoming more and more popular and it can help you meet your waterproof flooring needs without having to sacrifice that wood look so many homeowners desire.