Laminate flooring is not waterproof, and it is only slightly water-resistant.
This may make it a seemingly poor choice for your floors, but most spills and even most floods in a home are cleaned up pretty quickly.
Plus, even if you have a flood and your panels start to warp a little, they often re-form (mostly) back into their original shape after being dry for long enough.
Plus, the pressure being put on them by through-traffic often helps to un-warp them. Nevertheless, laminate flooring is not waterproof.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Mostly created to give the look of natural wood, laminate flooring is planks of material slotted together (by a click-in formation) to provide a floor surface in rooms in residential and non-residential settings.
The planks are easily cut to size to fit the various corners and nooks and crannies of any room.
Each plank is a composite of various layers.
The top layer bears a design to resemble a hardwood, slate or stone and is covered with a transparent protective surface layer that has been treated with scratch guards and some waterproofing/sealant.
The rest of the plank is usually made from layers of high-density fibreboard with a bottom plain laminate to strengthen the whole piece.
What Makes It Water Resistant?
Most types of laminate flooring have protecting layers including a melamine layer which protects against wear, scratches, and against water.
However, this layer is not in itself waterproof.
It is water-resistant, but not waterproof and will succumb to the solvent nature of water over time.
The edges are where water can really penetrate.
Newer pieces of laminate may have light layers of sealant that help stop water getting in, but it is not a very thick, strong, or effective layer.
The first place water enters is often the edges.
That is why when you see flood-damaged laminate flooring, it curls at the edges.
Laminate Flooring Becomes Less Water Resistant the Older it Gets
Wood flooring is typically waxed and treated on a regular basis, which often makes it more water-resistant.
However, few people lavish such affection on their laminate flooring, mostly because it wouldn’t serve any valuable purpose.
Over time, the protective layers and sealants on the laminate flooring will wear away which leaves the laminate flooring more susceptible to the damage that water and other fluids will do.
For example, scratches in the top layer of the laminate’s surface will not only allow fluid to penetrate deeper, but also creates an area for water to pool, giving it more time to soak into the laminate layers.
Varying States of Water Resistance
Laminate flooring may be susceptible to fluids, but one wouldn’t call it absorbent.
The layer on top is pretty water-resistance, and the layers that make up the laminate floor panels are also water-resistant in their own way.
This is due partially to the various types of materials being used, and due to the types of glue that hold the wood together.
Laminate Flooring is Not Vinyl Flooring
A vinyl floor isn’t strictly waterproof, but it is so water resistant that it may as well be waterproof.
For example, if you were to create a balloon from vinyl flooring and then pour water in it, the water would take a very long time to make its way through the vinyl.
With that said, vinyl flooring and laminate flooring are not the same.
Vinyl is more of a plastic, and though it may be tough, it doesn’t have the impact tolerance, pressure tolerance, heat tolerance, or damage endurance that laminate flooring has.
Plus, vinyl flooring is very difficult to repair, whereas laminate wood flooring can often be repaired, even if it has seen slight flood damage.
Flooding Causes Problems for Laminate Flooring
Contrary to popular belief, laminate flooring can be repaired, but it is more difficult than repairing a wood floor.
A wood floor can be sanded and refinished.
A damaged laminate flooring panel needs drying out fully, a new glue solution, and lots of pressure during the curing process to re-stick the floor.
In most cases, it simply isn’t worth the time and effort when you can go out and replace a piece of laminate flooring and slot it into the old spot.
Flooding also causes problems for laminate flooring since the water from underneath the boards can often cause problems.
Besides the fact that the moisture from below will cause mould, which is damaging enough in itself, there is also the fact that the water soaks into the laminate flooring, making it expand slowly over time and become less durable.
Water is a problem for laminate flooring to the point where cheaper laminate flooring will struggle to fend off the damaging properties of a high-humidity environment.
Correct Installation Goes a Long Way
If you want a laminate floor that is as water-resistant as possible, then you should buy higher-quality laminate, and you may even find some suitable sealants that perhaps also bring out the color of the wood finish.
However, one of the biggest factors in how water resistant the floors are, is how well and how correctly they are laid and installed. A poor quality installation is going to leave lots of places where standing water may penetrate.
A poor quality installation will also make the floor less durable and more prone to damage, and it is this sort of damage that makes the laminate flooring less water-resistant.
The properties of brand-new laminate flooring is what makes them “Splash proof.” The better maintained your floors are, then the more “Splash proof” your floors remain.
Poor installation makes it easier to damage the flooring.
Poor installation means the flooring is unable to handle movement, traversal, weight and pressure, due to simple things like leaving gaps between panels or cutting corners so that there are holes for water to escape into.
The problem with laminate in this respect is that things can only get worse.
As the water penetrates, it warps the floor panels, which opens up bigger holes to let more water in next time.
If you want a water-resistant laminate floor, then make sure it is installed by a professional, and take care of it (hopefully doing your best not to soak your floors with standing water).