Choose one of these stylish and water-resistant floor materials for the wet areas in your home
Leaks, floods, spills, splashes—they’re impossible to avoid, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. That’s why you’ll want to choose waterproof or water-resistant materials for the floors in areas that tend to get wet. Read on for seven smart surface choices.
The top choice in durability, tile—whether ceramic or natural stone—is one of the smartest choices for wet areas, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Along with practicality, it’s an attractive and versatile material. On the con side, though, ceramic and natural stone tile flooring can be pricey, difficult to install, and chip and scratch under heavy use.
When choosing tile, you might want to avoid products requiring sealing to prevent water penetration. Also, be sure to keep grout lines tight, especially in bathrooms. That’s because grout, even when sealed, will eventually let moisture through. For the most resilient grout, choose one with additives to reduce moisture intrusion. If you can, hire a professional for the installation.
Ceramic tile is 100% waterproof, easy to clean, and available in many colors, sizes, and styles. Textured tiles are ideal for wet areas since they provide more secure footing. Porcelain, an extra-durable form of ceramic tile, doesn’t allow moisture penetration and simulates natural stone’s look and feel. Since it has a lower water absorption rate than ceramic tile, it’s a superior choice for wet areas.
3. Natural Stone
Natural stone tile is a classic flooring choice, including granite, marble, travertine, sandstone, slate, and limestone. Generally durable, natural stone is also attractive and eco-friendly. For the most resilient stone, choose a material with one of the lowest absorption levels: semi-vitreous, vitreous, or—ideally—impervious. As far as finishes go, know that tumbled natural stone is more scratch- and scuff-resistant than polished natural stone. Then be sure to seal your natural stone tiles if necessary.
If you’re looking for an affordable and low-maintenance option, consider vinyl, which is 100% waterproof. Soft underfoot, the synthetic material lays over most subfloors if they’re smooth. Before you cringe at the memory of the ugly sheet vinyl in your grandmother’s dated kitchen, know that vinyl has gotten much more stylish recently.
That said, the material does need to be replaced every 10–20 years (versus 100 years for wood floors) and can get punctured by sharp objects or discolored by the sun. Plus, some vinyl isn’t earth-friendly; it’s predominantly manufactured with PVC and can emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
If you decide to go with vinyl, pick a high-quality brand to glean mold and mildew inhibitors and a waterproof guarantee. You’ll also need to choose one of three formats: sheet, plank, or tile.
Sheet vinyl has the fewest seams to let moisture through, making it ideal for wet areas. However, since it’s cut to length and comes in larger pieces, it’s more challenging than plank or tile vinyl to install.
Plank or Tile Vinyl
Luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) planks and tiles can mimic the look of wood or stone and are relatively easy to install with glue or a click-and-lock or peel-and-stick system. LVF planks are more water-resistant than vinyl tile since they involve fewer seams.
A staple for basements and garages, concrete is worth considering for a bathroom or kitchen—especially if your home sits on a concrete slab. Polished concrete floors are stain-resistant, durable, and low-maintenance.
“Concrete is a great option for bathroom floors,” says Don Adams, general manager of Regional Foundation Repair in Wilmington, DE. “It's inexpensive, water-resistant, and lasts a lifetime. It’s also easy to tile over if you want to put in ceramic tiles later.”
Just be sure to seal the surface since the material is porous and highly absorbent.
6. Marble Slabs
In addition to tiles, marble comes in large, thin slabs. Before opting for this elegant, smooth, and resilient surface, check with a professional to determine whether your structure can support its weight or will need reinforcement. Also, be aware that the material can get slippery when wet. So, it’s not the smartest choice for placement around showers and tubs. Marble slabs also tend to be among the most expensive options.
7. Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood flooring works relatively well in wet areas since its top surface is waterproof. The material consists of wood veneer bonded to plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), making it more water-resistant than solid hardwood or laminate flooring. As an added plus, it’s relatively inexpensive. When choosing engineered hardwood floors, be sure it’s well-coated with a urethane finish to prevent damage. Also, avoid planks with beveled edges since water can collect in the grooves.