Is laminate flooring waterproof?

An image showing puddles of water on laminate floor planks.If you’ve visited a flooring showroom, you most likely came across the awe-inspiring intricate patterns of the laminate samples on display. Laminate floors flaunt their realistic wood grain finishes that are too enticing to resist, and technological advancement has made them even better.

Laminate flooring today features more authentic designs with the utmost convenience and durability in the bargain. But what’s the catch? Is laminate flooring waterproof? Let’s get to the bottom of it.

Also read:

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  3. Can you sand caulk

Is Laminate Flooring Waterproof?

No, laminate flooring is NOT waterproof. If anything, laminate’s inability to withstand persistent water puddles is the flooring’s major drawback. The bulk of laminate flooring is primarily wood, and while this has its perks, it makes the flooring vulnerable to moisture damage. Even worse is its click-and-lock mechanism that allows moisture to seep through the seams. Therefore, exposing your laminate floors to long-term moisture will result in swelling, warping and mould growth, just like wood.

Laminate flooring material comprises multiple layers, each serving a different purpose. For instance, the decorative layer is why you can barely resist the laminate’s charming rustic vibe. Similarly, the core layer that underlies the decorative layer gives your flooring its structural strength and stability. This layer makes up most of the flooring and comprises high or medium-density fibreboard (HDF or MDF), which can expand following prolonged exposure to moisture.

However, that is not to say you shouldn’t opt for laminate flooring. Although not inherently waterproof, laminate flooring features a backing layer that offers ultimate water resistance by preventing interaction between the core and moisture from the subfloor. Additionally, occasional surface spills shouldn’t be cause for alarm if you clean them as they occur because laminate flooring is water-resistant.

So, what’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant laminate, and when should you be worried? Let’s find out.

Waterproof Vs Water Resistant laminate Flooring

Some manufacturers term laminate flooring as ‘water resistant’ while others claim the material is ‘waterproof’. While both terms refer to flooring material that repels moisture, they are not interchangeable. That said, here goes a clear distinction between the two to enable you to make an informed choice:

Waterproof Flooring

Waterproof floors are designed to be utterly immune to moisture damage. They guarantee your peace of mind regardless of the severity of the damage. A waterproof floor should brave them all, whether it’s a mere wine spill or flooding due to faulty plumbing.

Although laminate flooring graces you with several perks, this isn’t its strongest suit. For starters, it features a click-and-lock installation mechanism, meaning you could end up with loose seams easily penetrable by water. When this happens, its fiberboard core is prone to damage, causing the planks to buckle or cup upwards, altering your floor’s structural integrity.

Some manufacturers attempt to counter this drawback by ensuring the seams are tighter to prevent the water from reaching the core. You may also want to opt for pricier, quality laminate options that feature a high-density fiberboard (HDF). Either way, laminate cannot be completely impervious to water thanks to its wood component.

Therefore, it’s safe to avoid installing laminate in the basement, bathrooms, laundry rooms or areas with high humidity. Consider opting for waterproof options such as tiles, vinyl or hybrid floors, which comprise impervious materials.

While at it, ensure you don’t mistake laminate for vinyl flooring, as they are almost inseparable. If you’re torn between the two, find out more in our article on how to tell the difference between vinyl and laminate flooring.

Water-resistant flooring

Unlike waterproof floors, water-resistant flooring repels water for a limited time. Laminate floors are, therefore, water-resistant rather than waterproof. If anything, they are among the most water-resistant flooring materials in the market today, offering a 24 to 72-hour moisture warranty depending on the quality.

If you accidentally spill some water on your laminate floors and clean it a few hours later, you have nothing to worry about. However, your laminate floor will degrade if you experience routine liquid messes or flooding.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a flooring material immune to moisture damage, laminate isn’t for you. Laminate floors are more suited for your home office, bedroom, living room or dining room primarily because of their no-compromise approach to visual appeal.

How to know if the floor is waterproof

Knowing whether your floor is waterproof is one way to help keep moisture damage at bay. You understand the material better and know how to maintain or clean it to safeguard its structural integrity. More importantly, you’ll have peace of mind. If you’re curious to know whether your flooring material is waterproof, here are some ways to find out:

  • Review the manufacturer’s specifications

The best way to know if your floor is waterproof is to check the manufacturer’s specifications. You’ll find that most manufacturers specify the floor’s potential by stating its intended purpose and potential limitations.

In some cases where laminate flooring manufacturers state that the material is waterproof, you’ll notice a disclaimer or cautionary note. It could be about warranty limitations, subfloor prepping or installation limitations that advise against installing the flooring in moisture-prone areas. This means the material isn’t completely waterproof despite having some water resistance.

  • Check the flooring material.

Waterproof floors often comprise synthetic materials. They include hybrid floors, ceramic tiles, and luxury vinyl tiles or planks, usually plastic. If you have any of these, it’s safe to say your floor is waterproof.

On the other hand, natural materials such as wood do not guarantee complete immunity from moisture damage. Unfortunately, laminate flooring falls under this category and can crumble if exposed to moisture for a long time.

  • Check the installation method.

Does your flooring material feature a click-and-lock or a glue-down system? Glue-down floors, including sheet vinyl and tile floors, offer more water resistance, unlike floating floors, which feature a click-and-lock system. Unfortunately, laminate floors often entail the latter, and as a result, moisture may penetrate the seams and edges if left to stand on the floor for prolonged periods.

  • Perform the water test.

The water test involves testing the floor’s ability to repel water or moisture. Start by identifying an inconspicuous section, preferably a corner of the floor. Pour a few drops of water onto the surface and wait about thirty minutes or more to observe how the floor reacts.

If you notice that the water seeps through the floor, causing water stains, discolouration or swelling of the planks, it means the material isn’t waterproof. A water-resistant floor will repel the water for some time before finally absorbing it. A floor that takes a long time to absorb the water offers higher water resistance and can withstand moisture exposure with proper maintenance.

Should you waterproof laminate?

Laminate flooring’s fiberboard core makes it ideal for the living room, dining room or bedroom. These rooms have minimal exposure to moisture, so you don’t have to waterproof the floor. Even if you experience accidental spills, laminate flooring is sufficiently water-resistant and can repel moisture for a considerable time.

If you clean spills as they occur, waterproofing the floor isn’t necessary. On the other hand, if you have laminate flooring installed in the bathroom, kitchen or laundry room, you should waterproof it. Constant exposure to moisture will cause the floor to absorb moisture and expand. Fortunately, you can enhance the floor’s water resistance if you anticipate frequent moisture exposure. Let’s find out how.

How to Waterproof Laminate

Waterproofing your laminate floor is the ultimate way to go if you want to prolong its durability. Water is a weak spot for laminate flooring, and waterproofing could go a long way in ensuring you enjoy all the benefits of the material.

Even though the flooring won’t be 100% impervious to moisture, waterproofing will significantly reduce your floor’s susceptibility to moisture damage. Here are some practical ways to do so:

  1. Apply a waterproof flooring sealant

Using a waterproof sealant is one of the best ways to enhance the laminate’s immunity to moisture damage. An ideal sealant for your floors can be polyurethane, silicone, or any sealant compatible with laminate floors. Different sealants have different ways of application, but here’s a breakdown of the process to help get you started:

  • Clean the floor and wait for it to dry. Ssweep or vacuum the floor to eliminate loose dirt. Then, go in with a damp (not wet) mop, considering that using excessive water to mop the floor could cause damage.
  • Allow the flooring material to acclimatize to the environment. If you’re freshly installing the laminate floor, it’s essential to allow it to adjust to the surrounding temperature to avoid sudden expansion and contraction. Check out the manufacturer’s instructions to know the required duration of acclimatization for best results.
  • Inspect the flooring and repair any damages. If your laminate flooring has served you for some time, be sure to look out for scratches or loose planks that could interfere with the adherence of the sealant.
  • Prep the sealant. It’s advisable to shake or stir the sealant adequately before use. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for additional specifications on preparing your sealant.
  • Test the sealant. Consider applying the sealant on a small inconspicuous area on the floor and observe how it reacts with your floor. That way, you won’t damage the entire floor with an incompatible sealant.
  • Apply the sealant as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Section the floor, then use an applicator, preferably a foam brush, to apply thin coats of the sealant. Work the sealant through each section until it covers the entire floor, and allow it to dry for as long as the manufacturer recommends.
  • Apply additional coats. The number of coats you apply depends on your preference. Some manufacturers recommend applying multiple coats for the ultimate results. However, allow each coat to dry before introducing another layer.

More importantly, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines before applying any sealant to your floor. That way, you’ll know what to avoid when it comes to your specific floor and how best to use your sealant of choice to get the most out of it.

  1. Use waterproof floor covers.

Waterproof floor covers include mats and area rugs that prevent water from accessing your floors. They are often made of waterproof materials such as vinyl and rubber to enhance their effectiveness.

You can use them to cover high-risk areas on the floor, such as entryways. In addition to protecting your floor from moisture, floor covers also guarantee protection from exposure to UV light, which can cause the floor to fade over time. Be sure to go for covers large enough to cover vulnerable sections of the floor.

Even better is that mats and rugs today come in a wide range of styles and designs that easily blend in with contemporary décor. Thanks to the materials that make them up, they are easy to clean and maintain.

While mats and rugs prevent moisture from seeping through the floor’s surface, they cannot prevent moisture from entering through the subfloor. Therefore, consider installing waterproof underlayment below your laminate floor. Underlayment usually comprises waterproof materials that repel moisture from the subfloor.

  1. Caulk the joints

Laminate floors feature a click-and-lock installation mechanism that could leave you with loose seams in between the planks. These gaps are the culprit for letting moisture seep into the planks, and if you do away with them, you’re good to go.

If you intend to eliminate the gaps between your laminate planks, caulking is an ideal yet straightforward way to go about it. All you need to do is follow the steps below:

  • Select the ideal caulk. It’s advisable to read the label to ensure the caulk you choose is compatible with your flooring material. Opt for good quality caulk with waterproofing qualities for the best results.
  • Clean the floor. Sweep or vacuum the floor thoroughly to eliminate dust and debris lodged in between the planks. You could follow up with a damp mop to ensure you remove all the stubborn dirt.
  • Apply the caulk. For this step, check out the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to apply the caulk in question. Once you open the caulk tube, apply it steadily onto the joints using a caulk gun until you sufficiently fill all the gaps. Smooth it out using your finger to eliminate the excess caulk.
  • Allow it to cure. Wait for the caulk to set in and dry completely before using the floor, and once it cures, you have the green light.

Additionally, note that these remedies prevent moisture from penetrating the floor’s surface but not the bottom. Therefore, ensure you install waterproof underlayment as a barrier between the flooring and the subfloor.

Note that these remedies do not guarantee complete immunity to moisture damage. You must maintain the floor and clean spills whenever they occur to achieve the utmost durability for your laminate flooring.

If you need to waterproof your laminate floors, below is a video illustrating how to do so using a polyurethane sealer.

How to maintain laminate floors

The aesthetic appeal of laminate flooring is to die for, not to mention its outstanding durability. However, you can easily end up with dull or damaged floors without proper cleaning and maintenance.

Fortunately, laminate floors are famous for their low maintenance characteristic. They even have a protective layer that prevents scratches and spills from damaging the floor. There’s, therefore, no reason to neglect the flooring and risk losing the graceful elegance that laminate floors bring to your space.

That said, here are some tips on how best to maintain your laminate flooring and harness its full potential:

  1. Clean spills as they occur

This is rule number 101 of laminate flooring. Leaving spills on the floor for too long can cause them to seep through the joints and compromise the floor’s integrity. They can also end up leaving permanent stains on your floor.

  1. Clean the floor regularly.

Consider cleaning laminate floors at least once every week to keep stubborn stains and debris buildup at bay. If your household includes pets or kids, you may want to clean the floor more often to eliminate messes soon enough. While at it, use a microfiber mop to avoid scratching the floor.

  1. Avoid using too much water while cleaning.

Moisture damage is laminate’s primary weakness, so you want to minimize moisture exposure as much as possible. This entails cleaning the floor by sweeping or vacuuming and mopping once in a while to remove persistent stains. Even when you do, ensure you use a damp rather than a wet mop.

  1. Use gentle cleaning agents.

Be sure to use gentle, non-abrasive pH-neutral cleaners for the best results. Desist from using harsh chemicals likely to discolour the floor and increase its vulnerability to scratches.

  1. Utilize floor covers

Waterproof floor covers such as carpets, mats and area rugs can significantly enhance your floor’s resistance to moisture damage. Therefore, consider placing floor covers on entryways, near the sink and other floor sections susceptible to moisture exposure.

  1. Protect the floor from too much exposure to the sun.

Excessive sunlight can cause your laminate floors to fade over time. You can prevent this by putting blinds or curtains on your windows—alternatively, place area rugs on areas that are likely to be exposed to sunlight. You can even re-arrange your furniture occasionally to prevent uneven discolouration. That way, you’ll avoid exposing the floor to too much sunlight and maintain its aesthetic appeal.

  1. Use furniture pads

Dragging around heavy furniture on your laminate floor can easily cause scratches. Consider placing rubber pads underneath your furniture to avoid denting or scratching the floor when re-arranging furniture.

  1. Leave expansion gaps between the planks.

Laminate flooring is mainly wood and can easily expand or contract depending on the prevailing temperature. Leaving expansion gaps during installation guarantees flexibility, allowing the material to expand freely without stressing the planks. You could use spacers during installation to achieve consistent expansion gaps and prevent the planks from buckling.

Waterproof alternatives to laminate flooring

Most laminate floors guarantee water resistance for 24 to 48 hours, which gives you enough time to clean up spills or messes to prevent warping. Some laminate brands even pride themselves on superior water resistance, offering you a grace period of up to seven days before moisture penetrates the core.

However, you can always opt for an alternative if you still find this insufficient. If you anticipate constant moisture exposure, opting for completely waterproof flooring options is safer. Here are some ideal waterproof alternatives at your disposal:

Luxury Vinyl Planks

Vinyl flooring is the ultimate alternative to laminate floors. It’s a quality yet relatively affordable waterproof flooring option. Unlike laminate, vinyl floors are purely synthetic as they are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This makes them more immune to moisture damage compared to laminate.

Besides their superior waterproof qualities, vinyl floors offer more cushioning against impact. They are versatile, and you can install them in almost any room, including high-traffic areas. They even come in various styles and designs to complement your modern home, which is a bonus.

Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

Tile floors have been a cornerstone in moisture-prone rooms, including kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, for the longest time. Their superior waterproof qualities make them ideal for these spaces.

The tiles are held together using grout filling up the tile joints, which could be a weak spot since grout is porous. However, cleaning the grout regularly and resealing it when necessary could prevent stains and mould growth resulting from moisture exposure. Overall, tiles are sufficiently waterproof and low maintenance.

Moreover, ceramic and porcelain tiles offer outstanding durability and could serve you for over twenty years. Even so, you must still practice proper maintenance for the utmost durability.

Hybrid Flooring

As the name implies, hybrid flooring combines different components to offer outstanding characteristics. They are known as a combination of vinyl’s waterproof nature, laminate’s durability and the natural beauty of hardwood. Therefore, if you’re looking for all these compelling qualities in one, hybrid flooring is for you.

Hybrid flooring can be stone plastic composite (SPC) or wood plastic composite (WPC). Despite comprising different materials, both offer similar waterproof and durable qualities. In addition to being completely waterproof, hybrid floors are an affordable flooring alternative.


  • Are there waterproof laminate flooring types?

Although you may come across laminate flooring brands that claim to be waterproof, note that laminate floors cannot be entirely impervious to moisture. Often, such brands can withstand moisture for long hours or even days, but the floor will eventually crumble with too much exposure. If you’re looking for a waterproof flooring material, hybrid, tile, or vinyl floors are your best bet.

  • Is laminate flooring water-resistant?

Yes, if anything, laminate floors are among the most water-resistant flooring options in the market. They have an impeccable ability to withstand moisture for a long time. However, note that this doesn’t mean that the material is waterproof. While they can repel moisture for a long time, laminate floors aren’t entirely waterproof.

Being waterproof would mean the floors aren’t susceptible to moisture damage. However, the laminate’s core is primarily wood and is therefore vulnerable to moisture damage. Therefore, if you constantly expose the floor to moisture, it will likely compromise its structural integrity.

  • Can water leak through laminate flooring?

Yes, laminate planks are usually installed in a click-and-lock fashion. Therefore, you’ll notice loose seams or gaps at the edges of the planks, through which water can leak. When this happens, the water comes into contact with the core and causes warping. Fortunately, you can minimize this leakage by using floor covers or sealing the floor to protect the core layer from damage.

  • Can I mop laminate floors?

Yes, it would be best to mop laminate floors at least once a week. The main precaution to consider is that laminate floors don’t do well with too much water. Therefore, even though you should mop the floor, avoid using a wet mop to minimize water exposure. Consider using a damp, microfiber mop to eliminate stains while maintaining the floor’s structural integrity.

  • How can I make my laminate floor waterproof?

While it’s almost impossible to waterproof your laminate floor completely, you can enhance its resistance to moisture damage. One way is to seal the entire floor using a sealant such as polyurethane. Alternatively, you could seal the joints using caulk since moisture usually seeps into the floor through these gaps. Also, consider covering the vulnerable sections of the floor using carpets or mats to minimize exposure to moisture.

  • Why is laminate flooring better?

Despite its vulnerability to moisture damage, laminate has many perks, which explains why it’s a go-to flooring option for many homeowners. For starters, laminate prides itself on its realistic aesthetic appeal that mimics natural hardwood, only that it’s more pocket-friendly.

Laminate is also durable enough to withstand high-traffic areas and occasional scratches, thanks to its protective layer. It’s a low-maintenance flooring option and offers a straightforward DIY installation process. Moreover, since it includes natural components, it’s more eco-friendly than synthetic flooring options like vinyl.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, laminate flooring isn’t waterproof. You may come across some laminate types with a waterproof label, but this doesn’t mean you should risk installing the material in your bathroom or mudroom. It is indisputably water resistant and can withstand some exposure to moisture, but not too much. On the other hand, its impeccable rustic design makes it an ultimate flooring choice for a den or lounge area. Otherwise, installing laminate flooring in moisture-prone rooms is a one-way ticket to destruction.

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