Home owners who don’t have the budgets to install hardwood at home often turn to waterproof plastic laminate flooring.
Since the new type of laminate flooring (with click and lock mechanism) was introduced in the 1990s, many homeowners have been attracted to use the floor.
Sure, most home owners want to have hardwood at home, but the limited budgets are often the main reasons why they can’t have the floor.
As an alternative, they turn to laminate floor. And today, the popularity of plastic laminate floor is increasing.
Hardwood can’t be installed in wet areas because of their natural porous state. Water, liquid, and humidity are their biggest enemies. Because of this, home owners turn to plastic laminate floor.
However, the waterproof quality of laminate floor isn’t always true. Even when the manufacturers have claimed their floors to be waterproof, it’s not 100% correct.
Those who have installed laminate floor at their bathrooms, for instance, have finally regretted their options.
Don’t be easily fooled by the claims of water resistant either. There are several reasons why plastic laminate floor isn’t actually waterproof and those reasons are pretty logical.
They have nothing to do with poor quality or bad manufacturing process. Not at all! They mostly are related to the nature of the floor itself.
Reasons of Laminate Floor Not Waterproof
Laminate floor may have plastic material on the top surface, but its core is completely made of fiberboard, which is made from wood fibers.
Just like regular wood, it is porous. It means that the surface will soak and absorb water, allowing it to penetrate into its inner part.
Okay, so the core is made from wood fiber, but how does the water get into it?
If the floor is made from plastic surface (on the top), water shouldn’t be able to get inside, right?
You see, today’s plastic laminate floor comes with click and lock mechanism. It’s similar to the puzzle you need to fit each piece to one another and then make sure that they click.
The click and lock mechanism is handy to promote DIY efforts, but it isn’t actually good to create tight seams perfectly.
With the seam gaps, water would easily get into the core. Once it gets into the core, it will create a major destruction and damage to the fiberboard core. In most cases, the floor will swell and then delaminate.
Having a perfect 100% waterproof plastic laminate flooring is impossible. It turns out that moisture issue starts from the factory. So, your house isn’t fully responsible for the issue.
Many of the flooring producers find out that fiberboard particles (at the factory) have high level of moisture content, resulting in the poor adhesion of the floor especially on the top melamine part of the wear layer.
Many flooring manufacturers have released warnings considering their waterproof plastic laminate flooring.
Most of them have advised usage against moist and humid locations, like bathrooms, laundry rooms, or the basements.
Even with the premium products with thick (surface) layers and close-fitting seams have their own warnings concerning water.
Armstrong, for instance, will note that the floor should be able to resist topical water issue if the moisture is immediately wiped out. It means that whenever there is splash or spill, you need to remove it right away.
If you fail to do so, the damage (such as swell or delaminating) is on your hand because the company has warned you about it.
Your action can also void the warranty, especially if you fail to follow their directions. All flooring manufacturers have stated that their laminate floor requires immediate wipe out.
They won’t be held responsible if you fail to follow this instruction.
Topical surface spill isn’t the only issue happening to waterproof plastic laminate flooring.
Water spill, water dripping off when you are out from the shower, or snow from the outside isn’t the most common problems for the floor.
A leak within the refrigerator (water) line, condensation drip from the toilet tank, or overflowing washing machine can seriously damage the laminate floor no matter whether they are waterproof or not.
To overcome this issue, floor manufacturers have developed their own versions of waterproof products.
It’s about factory application for thicker (waterproof) coating on the top side of the floor as well as the edges of the board or plank.
But then again, the warranty would clearly state that the products aren’t waterproof they are basically water resistant.
And the warranty would also include prohibition and restrictions, such as not to install the floor in humid areas, not to leave water flood or puddle, and not to put heavy items on top of the floor.
Some manufacturers have introduced another approach. They changed the fiberboard core formulation, by mixing more resin to the fiberboard.
It is done to make it less sensitive to delaminating and swelling. But again, all of them are available with clear warranty and limitations.
They aren’t waterproof. They may be water resistant, but not waterproof. As long as the floor is still made from fiberboard as the core, the floor can’t be 100% waterproof.
However, some companies have changed the construction and the manufacturing process. As a result, they remove the fiberboard core completely.
Some of them make waterproof plastic laminate flooring completely from PVC plastic. The floor would be suitable for bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, and other areas sensitive to humidity and moisture.
But when it comes to styles and options, this type of floor is limited. The options for patterns, designs, and styles aren’t as many as those for the regular laminate floor.
The Pros and Cons
The new and modern waterproof plastic laminate flooring may be better than the regular laminate flooring. But such a floor does still have its own flaws and strength.
The benefits of such a floor are:
- It still promotes easy and simple DIY installation
- It has better scratch resistance better than the vinyl
- It has better moisture resistance than the regular laminate floor
On the downside, the floor is:
- It can’t be 100% waterproof
- The floor has limited color and style options
- The floor may have higher price range than the regular one
The Cost and Price
Waterproof plastic laminate flooring costs between $3 and $5 a square foot. In the average, it costs around $4.5 a square foot.
The standard laminate floor, in average, is around $2.50 a square foot. On the other hand, Luxury Vinyl Planks has the average price of around $3 a square foot.
Repair and Maintenance
There is no difference in maintaining waterproof plastic laminate flooring and the standard one.
You only need to sweep and dust mop the floor regularly. Don’t do any wet mops. Damp mops can be done for deeper cleaning. Don’t use any steam cleaner either as it may damage the floor.
Laminate floor isn’t exactly easy to repair. When it is damaged, the best thing that you can do is to replace the broken piece with a new one. But it is a good thing that you can replace a piece not the entire floor.
Both waterproof plastic laminate flooring and the regular ones have the similar click and lock mechanism.
This way is liked by DIYers, especially home owners who are low on the budgets and they want to do the installation on their own.
You can start from one wall. Lay the planks across the floor (within a time). Make sure that the edges are joined together by the interlocking mechanism.
Remember that laminate floor is known as a floating floor, which means that you don’t need to use any nail or glue or adhesive.
You may need to lay the underlayment first after the subfloor and before the laminate floor.
However, some laminate floor already has the pre-attached foam underlayment back. If you choose this type, then you don’t need any underlayment anymore.
The Top Brands
There are some brands that are considered reliable and trusted when it comes to quality waterproof plastic laminate flooring.
Although they are the best in the industry, you still need to read the instruction and guidance.
Some of them may allow floor installation in wet areas, while some may advise the opposite.
- Quick-Step. The company has some products with special coating, called HydroSeal. The coat is applied on the side grooves as well as the top surface. However, they only offer 10 years of warranty. Their warranty for moisture-proof also comes with its own restrictions.
- Dumaplast. This is a European-based flooring manufacturer that claims to make 100% of PVC floor. They have an extra handy feature with the underlayment has been built to the planks. But then again, their variants are pretty limited.
- Percolys. This is a Belgium-based flooring manufacturer offering waterproof laminate floor because it is made from PVC core. It is also stain resistant, 100% recyclable, UV ray resistant, and it comes with 20 years of residential warranty. However, it won’t be easy to find it in America.
- Mannington’s Restoration Collection. This line from Mannington comes with the so-called SpillShieldPlus Waterproof technology, which is claimed to improve the waterproof ability and feature. However, if you read the instructions closely, you will see a lot of restrictions (many of them are quite detailed) concerning moisture exposure. This floor can be considered water resistant instead of waterproof.
- Aquastep. The product was originally in line with the Parcolys, but Aquastep is now standing on its own. The brand offers waterproof floor with very strong construction. It’s so strong that you can use the floor for the garage. It uses PVC honeycomb core. Their selections are coming in stone-look, wood-look, and even ship-deck variants. In America, you can only find it in one distributor and it is located in Massachusetts.
Waterproof vs Luxury Vinyl Floor
Waterproof plastic laminate flooring and luxury vinyl flooring are two completely different types of floor. LVP (or Luxury Vinyl Planks) and LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tiles) are the true winners when it comes to waterproof flooring.
This is another reason why laminate floor manufacturers don’t try too hard to produce waterproof product. With synthetic materials (through and through), LVP is considered the best waterproof kind.
Moreover, it doesn’t have any fiberboard (with its wood-based) core that will swell or develop mold.
LVP itself is costlier than the standard laminate floor, but LVP is more affordable than the premium waterproof laminate flooring.
Waterproof laminate floor has harder and more solid surface than the LVP making it more resistant to dent or scratches. Laminate floor has better ability in imitating wood grains too.
But then again, LVP is getting better and better. It is possible that LVP may have superb quality with the fractions of the cost in the future.
Was Waterproof Laminate for You?
Are you okay with waterproof laminate floor or do you actually prefer Luxury Vinyl types?
Both have better qualities and features, but the LVP has better and more improved waterproof quality. Not to mention that LVP today has more styles, designs, and options.
Of course, each floor has its own strength and flaws. That’s why you need to understand your housing condition completely.
So, only you can decide whether waterproof plastic laminate flooring would be the right option or not especially for you.