waterproof vinyl flooring buying guide

August 10, 2021

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Like you, many homeowners are eager to add beautiful wood or stone-look vinyl flooring to their abodes. That’s because vinyl has become one of the most popular flooring choices, and for lots of stellar reasons. 

We’ve come up with an in-depth guide full of helpful and informative details on vinyl flooring so that you can make the best decision for your space. But, before you start tearing up your carpet or old tile, you’ll want to learn about the characteristics, style choices, and installation methods of waterproof vinyl flooring. 

Get ready to increase your knowledge and excitement for your new waterproof floors!

What Is Waterproof Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl flooring is partly comprised of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. This durable plastic makes up one of the several layers that comprise the planks or tiles. 

There are multiple options for waterproof vinyl, but not all options are going to give you the moisture-resistance you need. Before we get into the different types of flooring, let’s discuss some key commonalities among all vinyl planks and tiles. 

Waterproof Vinyl Flooring Thickness

The thickness of vinyl flooring is measured in millimeters. Previously, vinyl planks with a hefty thickness indicated that your flooring would be sturdier and stronger. Yet, a newer technology has changed the need for super thick floors with the creation of stone-plastic composite (SPC) vinyl flooring. Since the core is created from a stone-plastic composite, it’s an extremely durable option that comes in thin planks, so you get the strength without the bulk.

Since thickness doesn’t always indicate sturdiness, you shouldn’t always go with the thickest flooring. One of the most important factors regarding the density of vinyl is to choose flooring that matches with your existing floors to keep everything as level as possible without a noticeable transition.

Waterproof Vinyl Flooring Wear Layer

One of the most important features of your new waterproof vinyl flooring is the wear layer. This durable coating is the outermost layer and helps protect your vinyl floors from things like scratches, scuffs, dents, and even stains. 

There are different ratings for how thick the wear layer is, and it’s measured in mil, not millimeters. A rating of 6 mil, 12 mil, or even 20+ mil for high traffic areas is suitable for residential use. A rating of 12 mil is suitable for light commercial use, while 20+ mil is commercially rated and best for businesses with high traffic areas. 

Whether you have rough and tough kids or pets to constant foot traffic, the thicker the wear layer the longer your vinyl flooring will last. Choose the thickest one that your budget allows no matter if it’s for a residential or commercial project. 

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Underlayment for Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Some luxury vinyl products come with an attached underlayment. If your flooring doesn’t, then adding one will help with sound dampening, protect the subfloor, and make it softer underfoot. Both foam and cork underlayment options are common picks. However, they do come in various thicknesses, and adding underlayment or even one that is too thick could void your warranty. Please make sure to check with your manufacturer first before adding an underlayment. 

Types of Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Initially, you may think all vinyl is the same, but there are some critical differences in terms of its construction. Vinyl flooring is, for the most part, water resistant, with new and improved technologies creating floors that are more resistant to water and moisture than they have been in the past. 

With three main categories available, you’ll learn about luxury vinyl planks (LVP), stone-plastic composite vinyl planks (SPC), and wood-plastic composite vinyl planks (WPC). 

Luxury Vinyl Planks

Luxury vinyl planks have a rigid core construction that’s very durable. Luxury vinyl is available in the easy locking system or glue-down installation methods. Interestingly, there are even some luxury vinyl peel-and-stick types, but it should be noted that there isn’t an industry standard for what defines “luxury” in luxury vinyl. Typically, LVP includes a durable wear layer, a realistic design, a thick vinyl layer, and attached backings that are not included on all LVP products. 

Most luxury vinyl planks are 100% waterproof, but it may vary per brand or installation method. LVP is a strong material that can handle the everyday wear and tear from kids, pets, and high traffic. They come in a wide range of design styles, including realistic wood or stone looks as well as decorative designs. DIYers of any level should be able to install the easy interlocking planks, yet professionals are recommended for glue-down planks because of the more intensive subfloor prep and longer installation time. 

Wood-Plastic Composite Vinyl Flooring

Wood-plastic composite vinyl flooring is 100% waterproof luxury vinyl flooring. What sets this product apart is its waterproof core that combines wood with plastic. The four-layer WPC vinyl construction is extremely tough yet flexible enough to offer a little give below your feet. 

It can be installed in any room or level of the home, including wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms as well as basements. Because of its thick construction, it can be installed on top of imperfect subfloors. It’s one of the most popular choices for commercial installs because of its sturdiness. 

Stone-Plastic Composite Vinyl Flooring

Stone-plastic composite vinyl flooring is another 100% waterproof option. The difference between SPC and WPC vinyl flooring is the core. This rigid core features a super dense stone-plastic core, so it’s very tough. But, because of its strength, it won’t provide as much softness as WPC.

SPC vinyl planks can also be installed anywhere because of its waterproof properties, so it can easily be installed in wet areas or basements. Its durability and rigid core make it ideal for commercial spaces or other high-traffic areas, and heavy furniture isn’t likely to dent or damage the flooring, which makes it an even more ideal option. 

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Styles of Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

No, vinyl flooring doesn’t all mimic wood! It actually comes in a wide spread of colors, styles, and designs. It’s a very versatile flooring option; you’ll be able to choose from wood looks, stone styles, or decorative patterns. That means there’s something for every design aesthetic!

Wood-Look Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Yes, wood-look vinyl planks are definitely a popular style when it comes to vinyl flooring. One of the biggest benefits of luxury vinyl tile is the look of real hardwood without the worry of warping or maintenance required by actual wood. 

Wood-look waterproof vinyl comes in various shades and wood-inspired types that mimic maple, oak, teak, hickory, and many more. You can also choose from light blondes to gray tones to rich hues, and in addition to the coloring and patterns making you do a double take, the textures will have you completely convinced. From more simplistic styles to beachy vibes to super rustic, there’s something for your modern and contemporary to coastal to farmhouse designs. 

Stone-Look Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Luxury vinyl stone looks are available in both floor tile and plank form. Natural stones, such as travertine to slate, are becoming more popular in plank form, and it gives a twist on these mimicked natural materials that are considered more traditional. You’ll even see concrete styles in vinyl flooring, which is perfect for those wanting something super industrial or majorly modern. Soon, you can expect to see more stone planks taking over some of the wood-look market.

Decorative Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

When a space needs something more distinctive or bolder than hardwood or natural stone styles, look to decorative vinyl planks. These waterproof flooring options come in such a wide variety, from geometric patterns to metallic looks to stained glass styles. It’s an excellent choice for someone who doesn’t want to stick with neutrals, as it will definitely set your residential or commercial space apart from the rest with the unique designs, colors, and patterns. 

How to Install Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

There are a few different installation options, which is great since each home or business may require a different type of flooring and install. The main installation methods to choose from are interlocking, glue-down, and loose lay. 

Interlocking Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

An easy interlocking system is similar to the types of installations with a tongue and groove in that the planks lock together. The waterproof vinyl flooring isn’t attached to the subfloor, and instead, it’s floating with the floor’s weight holding it down in place. 

It’s actually one of the most common installs because most vinyl comes equipped with the locking system. It’s so simple that novice to expert DIYers are able to tackle the job themselves. Plus, you only need a few extra tools, such as a utility knife to score and snap the planks and a rubber mallet to help get a tight fit. For more detailed information, check out this video on installing interlocking waterproof vinyl flooring. 

Glue-Down Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

With glue-down installations, the planks are glued down to the wood or concrete subfloor so that they’re fully bonded. This is particularly important for high traffic areas that need a more secure, permanent solution, so this installation method may be seen in more apartments or businesses like retail, hospitality, or food service industries.  

Since there’s more involved with the glue-down installation, you’ll want to hire a professional to do the job right. That’s because the subfloor preparation is key in having a super smooth and level floor before getting started. You’ll also be using a pressure-sensitive adhesive and gluing the planks as you move across the floor, and it’s a lot easier to make costly mistakes if you’re not an experienced installer. 

Loose Lay Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Not quite as common is the loose lay installation method. Each waterproof vinyl plank comes equipped with a backing that grips the wood or concrete subfloor, and the planks are just laid down onto the floor. This type of installation is best suited for rooms that do not receive a lot of traffic because there isn’t any glue or locking system to keep them in place. If you need this type of install in a space with decent foot traffic, then it’s recommended to add double-sided carpet tape underneath the planks and also around the perimeter. 

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How to Clean Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

One of the best attributes of waterproof flooring is the simple vinyl flooring care and maintenance. For daily cleaning, it’s best to use a broom or vacuum without the beater bar to pick up any dirt, debris, or dust. For maintenance or messier spills, you can also damp mop your floors. And, even though your floors are waterproof, it’s still best to clean up any spills or splashes right away. That’s it! Unlike with real hardwood or natural stone, there’s no need to ever refinish or reseal your vinyl flooring. 

Waterproof Vinyl Flooring vs. Laminate

A common question asked by consumers is whether or not vinyl flooring protects better against water than laminate. The answer is yes! Laminate flooring is not waterproof since its core is made from recycled hardwood. While it can be water-resistant from top to bottom but not bottom to top, it still doesn’t offer the same protection as luxury vinyl with a WPC or SPC core, which offers 100% waterproof protection. While they’re both durable options, waterproof vinyl flooring definitely comes out on top. 

Choosing Your Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Now that we’ve covered a lot about waterproof vinyl flooring, we hope that you have a better understanding of the differences and similarities so that you can choose the best product for your project. From the features to the installation methods to the styles, there’s luxury vinyl for different budgets and design aesthetics. Because the vinyl market has grown so much, there are tons to choose from, which can make it difficult to select just one. 

At MSI, we offer a wide range of LVP that’s 100% waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about where you install your new floors. They’re also perfect for both residential and commercial applications thanks to the strong wear layers and durable, waterproof cores. To learn more about LVP and LVT, check out this guide to luxury vinyl tile