How Does Water Affect Different Types of Flooring?

May 16 2019

Different types of floors are affected by water in different ways. While you may think that more water-resistant materials like ceramic or vinyl may be unaffected by water, but that’s simply not true. Water can often get underneath the flooring material, and if that water isn’t dried, you could be faced with a bigger mold problem. Here’s a general overview on the effect of water on different types of flooring.

Can Water Damage Tiles?

While water may not damage the tile directly, it can damage and wash out the grout keeping the tiles in place. When this happens, the tiles can be lifted up, letting water get underneath, creating the right environment for mold to grow.

There are a few other things to consider when investing in tile. Tile comes in a variety of different materials, including porcelain, ceramic, linoleum, and vinyl. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. For example, porcelain is stronger and more water-resistant than ceramic tile, but it’s also much more expensive.

Tiles have a rating system to help determine how much water they absorb, and in turn determine how water resistant they are. These four categories are:

  • Non-vitreous. Absorbs more than 7% of water. The least waterproof.
  • Semi-vitreous. Absorbs more than 3% but less than 7% of water.
  • Vitreous. Absorbs more than .5% but less than 3% of water.
  • Impervious. Absorbs less than .5% of water. Extremely waterproof.

When investing in tile for your bathroom or kitchen, opt for vitreous or impervious tiles for the best defense against water damage.

Can Water Damage Hardwood Flooring?

While hardwood flooring looks stunning when installed correctly, it shouldn’t be used in areas that are likely to get wet. Water and wood don’t mix, so we don’t recommend using hardwood in bathrooms or kitchens. When hardwood floor gets wet, you may see:

  • Bulging
  • Soft spots
  • Warping
  • Cracking
  • Splitting

Hardwood also has a tendency to get dark water stains. These can be removed, but it may take a lot of work.
A beautiful home with light hardwood floors.

Can Water Damage Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring, while relatively inexpensive and great in appearance, is not a waterproof material. Unlike vinyl, which is made of plastic, the core of laminate is wood-based, meaning that if water soaks through the outer seal, the flooring material is at risk of warping. This type of material should not be used in areas that are prone to getting wet, like the bathroom.

Can Water Damage Carpet?

Carpet should never be installed in areas high in moisture, as the water can seep in, creating a growing ground for mold underneath. If your carpet does get wet, immediately start applying pressure with an absorbent towel. Carpet is only sometimes able to be saved after it’s been damaged by water. In some cases, the carpet may not need to be replaced, but the carpet padding should.
The interior of a living room with carpeted floors.

Can Water Damage Vinyl and Linoleum?

Vinyl and linoleum are best-suited for areas prone to water, including the kitchen and bathroom. Vinyl is made from inorganic materials that don’t absorb water, so it’s less likely to warp or bend unless soaked in water for an extended period of time.

Linoleum is made from a variety of resin and organic materials that is also relatively water resistant.

Water Damage Prevention Tips

The goal of flooring is to prevent water from seeping into the sub-floor. If water damage isn’t dried as soon as possible, water can seep underneath the flooring, creating a breeding ground for mold. The best things you can do to prevent water damage on your floor is:

  • Dry any spills immediately. Even in the bathroom, you still should dry any water that gets on the floor, whether it’s after you shower or wash the dishes.
  • Periodically check for leaks. Look under sinks or near water appliances for pools of water. The sooner you find an issue, the less damage you’ll have to deal with.
  • Seal the grout on your tile floor. While your tile may be labeled as impervious, your grout may not be. Sealing the grout between tiles can keep water from seeping between the cracks.

If you do have a water disaster happen in your home, you can learn more about what to do after it happens to keep the damage under control.

Why Is Water Damage Such a Big Deal?

Water damage on floors means more than just unsightly stains and warping. Improperly dried water can lead to bigger problems later on, such as mold. In fact, mold can start growing in your home in as little as 24 hours after a water emergency. Don’t wait. Call a restoration company immediately to dry your home and take care of any water damage.

If you suspect that water damage may be causing a problem in your home, it often leads to mold, which can in turn lead to sick building syndrome. You can take our quiz to see if your home could be making you sick!

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