Water Resistant vs. Waterproof Laminate Flooring: What’s The Difference?

Many things we use in our lives are listed as waterproof or water-resistant. From smartwatches you can use while swimming to damp-rated ceiling fans, manufacturers have found many ways to keep H2O from damaging various products. That includes hard flooring surfaces like laminate, although there is a big difference between those two ratings.

A brief history of laminate flooring

If you follow our site, you may have read a few of our guides on laminate flooring. If you’re unfamiliar with this classic type of floor covering, you may want to learn a bit more about the material before deciding between waterproof or water-resistant laminate.

While Pergo was the first company to bring laminate flooring to the masses in the late 70s, dozens of companies produce the product today. As the name implies, laminate flooring is “fused” together through lamination. The process is significantly different from the one used by crafters, however, resulting in thick flooring that’s composed of multiple layers.  

Traditional laminate typically has between 4-6 layers on average, while each layer is the wear layer and core are critical in the construction of high-quality laminate flooring. It’s also important to be aware of the different technologies companies use to make their flooring suitable for damp areas, once you understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof.

Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof

Depending on the product, you are likely to encounter a variety of terms when dealing with items designed to be resistant to water. Sweatproof or shower-resistant is commonly heard with tech like headphones or fitness trackers, which carry a label to identify their ratings.

This is known as the IP Code and lets consumers know the type of protection they can expect from enclosures against water or dust. Well, there are no codes in the flooring industry, and only two standards to go by with flooring that had been rated waterproof by the manufacturer and flooring that is water-resistant.

The term waterproof usually refers to something that can be submerged in water for a certain amount of time without damage. Does that mean you can pour a bucket of waterproof laminate flooring? No, and it certainly won’t be able to handle standing water from a flood.

Laminate flooring that is listed as water-resistant is generally designed so that it can withstand a thorough mopping or could be suitable for damp locations. Just how well either of these styles can handle water comes down to the manufacturer and technologies used, however.

Waterproof Laminate Flooring

Truly waterproof laminate flooring doesn’t exist as there is nothing on the market that could be used on a dock or submerged underwater without damage. With that in mind, a handful of manufactures have been able to use different techniques and technologies to provide a waterproof seal that protects your subfloor.

Flooring in this category can “usually” be steam mopped, but you’ll need to read the fine print from each company. Pergo has the largest selection of waterproof laminate flooring at this time. There are two lines with Pergo Outlast+ and Pergo Defense+. While both are listed as being waterproof, Pergo Defense+ adds an extra layer of protection against bacteria, mold, and mildew.

RevWood Plus laminate flooring is another waterproof flooring line, but this one is produced by Mohawk. Hartwick waterproof laminate is a good example of what the company brings to the table, and features enhanced bevels for an extra layer of realism. They can be wet mopped, are easy to install, and are made in the USA.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Mohawk and Pergo is AquaGuard, the in-store brand sold exclusively through Floor & Décor. It’s easy to acquire if you have one of their stores in your area, and it’s one of the more affordable waterproof options as well. There are a handful of other brands with a few styles listed as waterproof, but Pergo, Mohawk and AquaGuard are the most prevalent.

Water-resistant Laminate Flooring

While the selection of fully waterproof laminate flooring is fairly thin, that’s not the case with water-resistant laminate. There are hundreds of options to choose from and more than a dozen brands that manufacture flooring in this class.

RevWood Select is Mohawk’s alternative to their waterproof line. While not as resistant to water, it’s more affordable and comes in a variety of styles. Armstrong Audacity water-resistant flooring is another option from a well-known brand. These floors are easy to maintain and wet-mop, while the Audacity Rigid Core line is designed for high-traffic areas.

Shaw Repel is a small, but stunning line of light-toned laminate flooring that is water-resistant, and you can find similar lines from companies like Allen + Roth or Tarkett. Their popular AquaFlor Plus line is a Menards exclusive just like you can only purchase Home Decorators water-resistant laminate flooring from Home Depot.

Two other store lines come from Floor & Décor with AquaGuard and HydroShield. There are close to 100 options between these two collections, most of which are 12mm thick. Homeowners looking for something a little unusual will want to consider Forbo Marmoleum Click Clinch LOC. These wide planks feature colorful patterns that mimic the look of marble.

Waterproof and Water-Resistant Laminate Flooring Cost

As you might suspect, laminate flooring rated as waterproof or water-resistant is more expensive than traditional laminate. Does that mean it’s not worth the additional cost? Well, that all depends on your budget and why you’re interested in flooring that can withstand water.

We found that store-branded water-resistant laminate is the most affordable, although some aren’t necessarily easy to obtain. AquaGuard and HydroShield have similar price points that range between $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot. Tarkett’s AquaFlor Plus line is cheaper, but not as easy to pick up locally unless you live near a Menards.

Home Decorators from Home Depot is another affordable option that’s in line with RevWood Select when it comes to pricing. RevWood Plus is more expensive at $2.70 to $3.50, while the waterproof Pergo lines are around $2.80 per square foot. By comparison, you can expect to pay $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot for traditional laminate with no water resistance.

Waterproof Laminate Flooring Warranties

You may have been wondering where the best place to use waterproof or water-resistant laminate flooring is. While most companies design this flooring so that it can be used in almost any room, this is where the warranty comes into play. Just because laminate is listed as water-resistant, does not make it the best choice for the bathroom.

We found that most companies selling laminate that is water-resistant or waterproof provide a limited lifetime warranty with their product.  With Pergo’s lines, you’ll get a limited lifetime guarantee as the original purchaser that the flooring will “resist damage from moisture due to wet mopping and everyday household spills.”

When you dig a little deeper under conditions, you find that to take advantage of the warranty, the flooring must have been properly installed to “Pergo” specifications and that it essentially only covers regular household spills.  You’ll find the same general policy from other manufacturers as well including Shaw, AquaGuard, and Tarkett.

If you are purchasing this style of flooring with the intention of steam mopping, you will need to check the fine print on water-resistant laminate to ensure it’s safe. Overall, we found that moisture damage from hydrostatic pressure or leaks from refrigerators and other appliances are not covered regardless of the level of protection or quality of the product.

Final Thoughts

As great as it is to see laminate that can withstand water on the market, location is still critical with this type of flooring. Remember that water-resistant laminate is great for kitchens and other areas of your home while waterproof laminate is the best choice for bathrooms. If you truly want something waterproof, however, consider looking into luxury vinyl flooring with a waterproof core. 

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