Laminate flooring is over 50 years old, and it still stands as one of the most popular solutions in many homes. The main problem with the original laminate was the install and (let’s face it) the sheet laminate look.
Now we have laminate planks that are simple to install yourself and look great in any room. Along with the durable finish, scratch resistance and thicker floors, there is still one major weak spot: water.
Laminate has never done well with water and even the first laminate planks couldn’t do anything about it.
Now we do have waterproof options, and this article will showcase the best.
Best Brands for Waterproof Laminate
- 1 Best Brands for Waterproof Laminate
- 2 A Brief History of Laminate
- 3 Is Laminate Truly Waterproof?
- 4 What to Look for When Shopping for Waterproof Laminate
- 4.1 Construction
- 4.2 Installation
- 4.3 Style and Color Options
- 4.4 Waterproof Measures
- 4.5 Cost and Warranty
- 4.6 The Best Waterproof Laminate Options
- 4.7 1. Shaw – Repel Laminate Flooring
- 4.8 2. AquaGuard – Commercial Grade Laminate
- 4.9 3. Armstrong – Audacity Laminate Flooring
- 4.10 4. Mohawk – RevWood Select and RevWood Plus
- 4.11 5. Tarkett AquaFlor
- 5 Top Vs. Bottom Protection
- 6 Care and Maintenance for Waterproof Laminate Floors
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 Conclusion
- Shaw. The Repel line is suitable for most wet area installations.
- AquaGuard. The company that sets the bar in waterproofing flooring.
- Armstrong. The Audacity line proves you can be water resistant and waterproof.
- Mohawk. The brand’s RevWood laminate line is sold as 100% waterproof.
- Tarkett AquaFlor. A brand you may not have heard of, but still offers you wet area protection.
A Brief History of Laminate
By the time the 1970’s rolled around home ownership was on the rise and so was updating homes for a more personal feel. Laminate was introduced as the new standard for low maintenance flooring.
Laminate sheets were more durable and easier to clean than most carpeting at the time and those in charge of chores preferred the easy to sweep and vacuum flooring. By the 1990’s laminate had fallen out of fashion where wall to wall carpeting and hardwood floors became prevalent.
Due to easy tearing, bubbling and the lack of any type of waterproofing, laminate gave way to vinyl, hardwood and even bamboo. However, it never went away completely.
Those looking for more natural flooring shied away from the synthetic vinyl options and laminate planks replaced laminate sheeting.
The planks were more durable, easier to install and cheaper than ever, spawning a comeback for the ages. The only problem was that laminate was still susceptible to water damage.
Now you have brands marketing their laminate as waterproof and alongside Luxury Vinyl Planks (LVP), laminate planks are more popular than ever.
Is Laminate Truly Waterproof?
The short answer is no, laminate never has been and never will be 100% waterproof. Knowing that, you may wonder how these brands can market as waterproof, which I am happy to explain.
Laminate planks are made with a wood composite core. This fiberboard and wood composite adds strength and durability to the planks, but because it is natural, it absorbs water and bows, swells or cracks.
Individual planks will never be waterproof and if water is left to stand it will soak in and cause damage. What is waterproof, though, is the wear layer and occasionally the base or stabilizer layer.
Once the flooring is completely installed, the wear layer and other treatments seal to prevent water from the top soaking into the planks. As long as you install correctly, and allow the planks to expand and set properly, the top layer is 100% waterproof.
Moisture blocks, underlayments and other sealant technologies are used on the bottom to prevent moisture from underneath to be absorbed from the bottom up.
What to Look for When Shopping for Waterproof Laminate
As we have learned, not everything is as it seems. Before you head out and pick up any type of laminate, consider these following factors to aid in your final decision.
Some brands will use specialized treatments on the top layer, include a waterproofing on the base layer or even have additional materials built into the core such as aluminum.
The more waterproofing built into the individual planks, the better the finished floor will repel water.
Most laminate planks are a simple DIY installation. However, because of the waterproofing properties, it may be recommended that you have a professional install the flooring.
If you do make the install a DIY project, make sure you understand each step and have all the tools ready. Making one mistake or not doing a proper install can void the warranty, or worse compromise the waterproofing abilities.
Style and Color Options
Just because you choose waterproof laminate over standard planks, doesn’t mean you have to settle when it comes to color, style or design.
Many manufacturers will have limited options as it is, while others seemingly have hundreds of choices.
Along with core composition, you need to pay attention to how the manufacturers make the flooring waterproof. The more options there are, the better your floors will be against spills and water damage.
Of course, no true laminate plank will ever be completely waterproof, but we can get really close. The use of aluminum under the laminate veneer, a core made up of more synthetic materials (similar to vinyl planks) or even moisture barriers for the underlayment all make it better.
Find out what makes the flooring waterproof and decide if you are willing to chance it or if you need to pay even more for more water blocking methods.
Cost and Warranty
Keeping the cost down is important in any flooring project. When you are doing a single room, you may be able to splurge and spend a little more for high-quality planks or more waterproofing materials.
However, once you start adding rooms to the project, your costs will rise significantly. Make sure you understand the true cost of the flooring options.
For waterproof laminate planks the average for mid- to high-tier options will fall above $2.50 per square foot.
Make sure you measure your space a few times and plan to buy more material than needed for the project. Don’t forget to check the warranty terms, too.
Installation method, time of purchase and duration of coverage all play a part. The duration will also change.
However, almost all warranties will only cover defects for about 90 days. The rest of the 5-, 10-, 25-year or lifetime warranties will only cover the peeling of the top layers.
The Best Waterproof Laminate Options
Shaw Repel is a newer line that offers your laminate flooring a top protection from water, wear and stains. With Shaw, you know you are getting a high quality flooring solution. The name alone is synonymous with quality, durability and longevity.
The Repel line, though, is among the leaders in water resistant and waterproof design. While this line is marketed as only water resistant, the top down waterproof protection means you can use a wet mop without voiding the warranty.
You can also vacuum, sweep and use wet spray to clean the floors. Not only that, but the wear layer is treated to resist stains, scuffs and scratches. With a 15- to 30-year warranty (depending on style, core, etc.) to back your investment, Shaw really is among the best.
The company prides itself on selection and believes you shouldn’t have to compromise looks for performance. They offer designer series aesthetics, and you can choose anything from a more natural look to designer and unique designs.
The Repel line is also scratch and fade resistant. It is made to withstand pets, children and everyday messes. With the waterproofing wear layer, once installed you can have spills and messes cleaned up without worry.
While installation is a DIY project, it is still recommended you have the flooring professionally installed. Neither option will void your warranty, but you should ensure that the pro or yourself installs a moisture barrier to protect the laminate from the bottom.
|Most durable and protected laminate available||Bottom protection is not included|
|Simple DIY install||More expensive than most other options|
|Wet mop will not void warranty|
|Dozens of color and style options|
|Extra protection against pets and children|
AquaGuard is another specialty laminate that offers water protection for a long time. You can actually have a pool of liquid on the floor for up to 56 hours without much worry. Of course, you don’t really want to leave a spill on your floor that long, but you can.
The AC5 rated floor is more designed for commercial use, that comes with a 15-year commercial warranty. When installed in a residential home, the warranty is lifetime. However, because AC-5 ratings are more commercial, the planks aren’t as soft underfoot or great for bare feet.
That being said, you have a lot of choices (over 100) in both style, grain and design. The colors run the gamut and when it comes to water resistant laminate, there aren’t many that offer more choices.
However, if you are looking for an AC-4 rating that is more residential friendly, there is only one current option. This rating is still durable, and commercial rated, but is easier on bare feet
The AquaGuard series, though, has plenty to offer in terms of waterproofing. Starting with an aluminum based clear-coat wear layer, once installed, the lock-tight fit provides a seamless waterproofing for the top layers.
Underneath you also get the moisture blocking melamine backing with no other underlayment needed (though you can add cork if you prefer). Even with all this protection, though, the flooring should not be installed in wet areas like bathrooms or basements.
For one of the most durable laminates that comes with both top and bottom protection, AquaGuard is among the best for home or office.
|Water resistant to puddles for up to 56 hours||Only available through Floor & Decor|
|Ac4 and AC5 rated laminate||Shouldn’t be installed in wet areas|
|Lifetime residential warranty|
|No transitions needed|
Armstrong is another brand that is always found in the top 10 and best of lists. They are there for a reason. Along with a superior product line, they have a lot of options to choose from.
The Audacity line is world wide but still new to the market. While not all styles are available everywhere, there is probably a color and style that will fit your needs. Armstrong also offers assistance in finding the right match for your home.
Using your smartphone, you can import images of the various options to see them on your floor in real time. While the ARG images give you an idea, the exact colors may not match. However, it will give you an idea of how the room would look and is a great aid in your decision making.
With over 30 styles to choose from, you can get a great waterproof design. With a 72 hour standing water protection, you can easily make the time to clean up any spills or messes.
You also get scratch and dent protection due to the composite core. The added strength and durability of the Audacity line is modeled from Armstrong’s LVP lines. The semi-synthetic cores are more water resistant, hardy and comfortable underfoot.
|More choices than other brands||Not a true laminate wood composite core|
|Rigid core laminates for added durability||Not all options available in all areas|
|Water, scratch and dent resistant|
|72 hour water protection|
Mohawk flooring is yet another name you are most likely familiar with. Their attention to detail, innovation and durable planks are always pleasing to the eye, feet and wallet. With the RevWood line, you get two options for waterproofing and there is a difference.
The RevWood Select line is the cheaper version, which is nice for those with tighter or smaller budgets. It is a water resistant brand with Hydroseal technology and Uni-Click installation. The two combined form a water-tight seal on the top of the planks when completely installed.
When spills and messes do happen, you have plenty of time to clean them up. You can wet mop and even scrub (lightly) any stuck on messes. Clean up is simple and with a spray mop or damp mop you won’t ever need much else.
With the RevWood Plus series, you get even more water protection. Along with the Hydroseal and Uni-Click, you also get Genuedge, a revolutionary new beveled edge to the planks that adds to the authentic look of hardwood and superior water protection.
With the Plus line, you can even use a steam mop on the laminate floors. However, while this won’t void your warranty, it still isn’t recommended. Overtime, the heat and moisture from the steam mop can (and most likely will) break down the Hydroseal treatment.
The biggest downside is the selection. With RevWood Select you have only 6 options. The RevWood Plus line gives you 8 choices, but combined they don’t offer a lot of variations in colors and styles.
|Water resistance better than most||Limited style options|
|Hydroseal and Uni-Click repel moisture||1-year warranty is low|
Tarkett is a brand you may not have heard of. An exclusive to the mid-western US home improvement store Menard’s, locations and selection are at a premium. However, for waterproofing laminate, it is hard to beat.
Unfortunately, you can’t be picky when it comes to styles and colors. There are currently only 3 options. Your choices aren’t that bad, though. You can choose from Cornerstone Oak, Praline Maple or Sterling Ash.
You also get a lot of promises with these floors. First, there is a 24 hour guarantee for pooled or collected water. You can wet mop and even have spills on the floor for an entire day without damage, or the planks will be replaced.
There is also a limited lifetime warranty against defects, wear and tear, or peeling. Wet mopping won’t void the warranty, as long as the water dried or is cleaned up within 24 hours. It is still best to use a damp mop or spray mop to prevent a lot of water being laid on the floors.
You also need to avoid installing the floors in wet areas like basements, bathrooms or laundry areas. However, in the kitchen bedrooms or high traffic areas, it will stand up, is slip resistant and durable.
|Lifetime warranty||Limited locations|
|Slip resistant wear layer||3 choices for selection is very low|
|Repels moisture for up to 24 hours|
Top Vs. Bottom Protection
When waterproofing laminate planks, there are two basic options; top protection to prevent water damage from the top, and bottom protection to prevent moisture from underneath.
Top protection is the most expensive and will add to the overall cost of the planks. This protection usually comes in the form of adding a sealant to the wear layer of the individual planks.
Only when the flooring is completely installed will the sealant bond together between planks to provide a waterproof seal. Other options include adding materials such as aluminum or plastic under the image layer to aid in protecting the core.
Bottom protection can be on the individual planks in the form of a rubber underlayment. However, most of the protection is reliant on a waterproof moisture barrier.
These rolls are laid over the subfloor (a requirement for concrete) that keeps moisture from the ground, foundation and condensation from reaching the planks.
Moisture barriers are generally cheaper than underlayments (which also may be required) and add to the overall cost of the project, not the individual planks.
Choosing an option with both bottom and top protection is difficult but not impossible. However, the more specific you get when making a selection, the less choices you will have for styles, colors or designs.
Care and Maintenance for Waterproof Laminate Floors
Laminate floors are fairly simple to care for. They don’t require anything more than most other flooring options and can keep their appearance for many years.
The best option is to use a broom or dry sweeper to collect the larger debris and dirt that builds up. You can also use a vacuum on the floor to get in groves or along edges and seams.
There won’t be need for much else, unless there is a mess, spill or stain.
You also want to avoid traditional wet mops, sprayer mops and steam mops when it can be helped.
Even those that are marketed for wet clean up will eventually break down. A spot mop or a damp mop once in a great while will be okay.
Just ensure you don’t allow mop water or sprays to puddle, pool or stay on the surfaces for any time at all. Following that, and the care instructions from the manufacturer will offer you the best looking and longest lasting floors your money can buy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, I will answer some of the more common questions about waterproof laminate, laminate in general and plank installation. If you have other questions, please feel free to use the comment section following the article.
Q. How long can laminate planks last before being installed?
- The length of time you can go without having to install your laminate depends on how it is stored. If the packing and boxes have been opened, you don’t want to wait too long. However, if they are still properly sealed, preventing dirt, dust and moisture from getting to the planks, they can last several years in the factory packaging.
Q. Can I lay laminate planks over other flooring?
- Depending on the installation method and the type of flooring underneath, yes, you can lay laminate planks over other flooring. If you are lying directly on a subfloor, which is the optimal installation method, you need a moisture barrier or underlayment. However, laying on other planks, tiles or sheet flooring, you can float the laminate on top without any problems.
Q. How can I get a stain out of my laminate planks?
- If you have a set in stain, there won’t be a lot you can do. Prevention is the best option. However, depending on the stain, you may be able to scrub it out with a cotton cloth and vinegar cleaning solution. You want to avoid abrasive materials like brushes or scouring pads, or harsh cleaning chemicals such as bleach. If the stain doesn’t come out, you may need to replace the stained plank with a new one.
Q. Is laminate better than luxury vinyl planks?
- The differences between laminate and vinyl are slight, but important. Vinyl, for example, is all synthetic. It is generally more durable, 100% waterproof, and can last longer. However, laminate is easy to install, is more natural and will hold up in ways other options can’t. It is a judgment call, though, and if you find your ideal design or color in one or the other, there isn’t enough difference to truly sway your decision.
Q. How long will laminate flooring last?
- With proper care, maintenance and installation, laminate plank flooring can last 25 or more years. It is easy to say that you will grow tired of the floor and want a change for aesthetic reasons long before the floor decides to wear out.
Finding laminate flooring isn’t that difficult. Any flooring company or vendor will have plenty of options to choose from. Finding the best waterproof laminate flooring, though, can be a bit more challenging.
Hopefully you have a better idea of what to expect and look for when searching for your next flooring solution. The brands in this article offer the best waterproof laminate options and you will be well suited going with any of them.