Waterproof Hardwood Flooring: The 2022 Buying Guide
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Updated February 5, 2022
We know: waterproof hardwood flooring sounds almost too good to be true. The beauty of real hardwood, in a completely waterproof package?
Many companies claim to sell waterproof hardwood flooring. But are these products actually waterproof? Are they actually real wood? And are the companies themselves worth buying from?
The truth is, waterproof hardwood flooring does exist—but it’s rare. And most of the products that claim to be waterproof hardwood are actually waterproof wood hybrids, or waterproof laminate floors.
That’s why below, we’re going to get down to the brass tacks and answer all of your questions. Who actually makes waterproof wood flooring? How well does it work? And how does it compare to other waterproof types of flooring?
First of All: Why Are Waterproof Floors so Necessary?
Do you have dogs? Cats? Kids? A habit of spilling coffee on your brand-new hemp flooring?
Then you probably know the answer to this question already. But if not, we’ll spell it out here: unless you already have a waterproof surface in your home—WPC flooring or some other type of glue-down vinyl plank flooring for instance—you’re going to be shelling out big bucks to fix your floors if they get wet.
And that’s because…
Most Harwood is Ruined By Water
Even the best hardwood floors are incredibly vulnerable to water. Basically, liquid gets absorbed into wood planks, causing the fibers to expand—which then warps planks and breaks the floor.
If that wasn’t enough, water can also destroy a wood’s finish too. Ever lift a cold glass from a table only to find a pale ring underneath? The condensation (i.e. water) is the culprit.
Is Waterproof Hardwood Flooring a Real Thing?
So we know why you’d want waterproof hardwood flooring. But is it actually a real thing?
Waterproof hardwood flooring is absolutely real, so if you’ve been wanting that authentic wood floor bathroom to compliment the rest of your hardwood floor home, you’re in luck.
What’s the secret? Waterproof coatings are applied to otherwise normal hardwood. That’s it. It’s pretty much the exact same process that creates other types of waterproof floors.
And Yes, It’s Made of Real Wood
Before we get into any caveats of waterproof hardwood flooring, let’s set the record straight: we’re definitely talking about real, genuine wood.
But Actual Waterproof Hardwood Is New—and Super Rare
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of brands that sell waterproof flooring for a couple of reasons we’ll go into below.
And It’s Always Engineered Hardwood…
True waterproof hardwood floors are made with engineered hardwood. “What is engineered hardwood”, you ask? It’s a type of wood flooring that mixes a solid wood veneer with a high-performance plywood base.
Don’t worry, engineered hardwood is still 100% real wood, just not in the traditional sense of one-big-block-of-solid-wood—and engineered wood disadvantages are relatively few and far between.
Why are waterproof wood floors made exclusively with engineered wood? It’s way more dimensionally stable than solid wood. Translation: less risk of warping.
…Or an Engineered Hardwood Hybrid
What is an engineered hardwood hybrid? It’s a cross between engineered wood and luxury vinyl plank. When it comes to waterproof hardwood flooring, this usually means a wood veneer (like you’d find in any engineered wood) and a vinyl or plastic core layer to resist warping and water absorption.
Big Fact: Some Waterproof “Hardwood” Is Actually Waterproof Laminate Flooring
Here’s the big kicker. Yes, real waterproof hardwood flooring does exist. But some “waterproof hardwoods” are actually waterproof laminate flooring.
Think about it this way. In order to make wood waterproof, it needs a lot of protective coating. But the more protective coatings you put on hardwood, the less of a natural feel you get. So at a certain point, it’s not even worth having real wood at all—because it’s going to have a smooth, plastic-like finish anyway!
Plus, you can’t refinish waterproof floors—because to refinish them, you’d have to sand off the waterproof finish. So there’s less of a clear advantage to using wood.
And if that weren’t enough, most real waterproof hardwood is really a waterproof wood hybrid (which we explained above). And that means it contains plastic. Translation: laminate is the more eco-friendly option.
Basically, when it comes to waterproof wood flooring, laminate is just as good (and less expensive) of a choice. Plus, the best laminate floors are virtually indistinguishable from hardwood anyway—and a good deal more scratch-resistant to boot.
But here’s the kicker: when it comes to waterproof wood flooring, that makes no difference. You can’t refinish those floors anyway, because you’d be sanding off the waterproof seal! So again: there’s less of an advantage to having your waterproof hardwood being made of real wood.
Can You Make Existing Hardwood Flooring Waterproof?
The short answer: no.
Remember: to be impervious to standing water, floors have to be waterproof from all directions—above, below, and between planks. So even if you had the technology to make your floors waterproof at home (which you most likely don’t), you would only be able to seal the top—not the bottom or sides.
Translation: by definition, all waterproof hardwood flooring has to be prefinished hardwood flooring. Unless you rip up your floors and seal them on all sides, there’s no guarantee that the sealants you apply will make your floors anything more than water-resistant.
And even then, you wouldn’t be able to properly cure those sealants without factory equipment.
Ok! Now that you know just about everything there is to know about waterproof hardwood floors, let’s take a look at some of the brands that actually make them (and what the products are called).
To make things a bit easier on you, we’re going to make it clear whether the product is a true waterproof hardwood, a waterproof laminate, or a waterproof wood hybrid.
Additionally: you may recognize some of these brands from our articles on the best laminate flooring or the best vinyl plank flooring. Others, not so much. If that’s the case, we’ll try and give you as much context about the company as possible to help you make an informed choice.
Proximity Mills is a brand that’s come to prominence in the flooring industry by selling ultra-high-performance products at a not-ultra-high price.
In addition to selling a number of highly-rated “normal” types of flooring (more on that below) the company also makes 3 excellent collections of waterproof hardwood flooring.
However, whereas most companies make either waterproof hardwoods or waterproof hardwood hybrids, Proximity Mills makes both. What does that mean exactly?
Well, all Proximity Mills waterproof wood products use a real wood veneer, just like any other type of engineered wood.
But instead of a plywood or HDF core, 2 of this company’s 3 waterproof hardwood lines feature a stone-plastic composite core—the same type used in SPC flooring, which is a type of vinyl plank. And the 3rd waterproof hardwood line (the non-hybrid one) features a waterproof HDF core.
Of course, the wood veneers are waterproof as well, as they’re infused with a high-durability polyurethane + aluminum oxide finish.
So why are these floors first on our list? A few reasons.
First of all, they’re guaranteed to resist water damage for up to 36 hours from any side, and offer top-down protection (where the vast majority of spills occur) for up to 72 hours. That’s as good or better than any other brand on this list.
Warranty-wise, Proximity Mills waterproof hardwood flooring excels again. Most of their hardwood products come with a limited lifetime residential warranty; the rest come with a 20-year residential warranty. One collection even boasts a 15-year commercial warranty.
But perhaps best of all, Proximity Mills hardwoods are low-VOC certified, sustainably sourced, and largely recyclable.
The only downside here is price—at roughly $8.50–$10/square foot, these floors aren’t quite as inexpensive as some other ones on this list.
Anyway. Carpet One makes a product called Hydrotek, which is a waterproof hardwood hybrid. It uses a real wood veneer, just like engineered wood. But like some Proximity Mills products, it has a stone-plastic composite (SPC) core.
The wood veneer is sealed with waterproof coating and the core is completely waterproof by design—but as one Carpet One site says, “…we recommend not letting standing water hang around for too long.”
That doesn’t sound like a big vote of confidence for a supposedly waterproof hardwood floor, especially coming from its manufacturer.
Additionally, if you look for reviews on this product, good luck—you’ll find almost zero anywhere on the internet. That may be due to the product being relatively new, but you would think someone would have had a good experience with it.
However: the floor is backed by a very impressive 50-year residential warranty that doesn’t seem to have any major exceptions (beyond installing it properly), and that’s a big vote of confidence in its favor.
The wood floor patterns it comes in are pretty standard—medium-width horizontal planks in oak, hickory, and the like. Pricing hovers around $9 per square foot, depending on the species.
Hydropel by Bruce (Waterproof Hardwood)
Hydropel by Bruce is true waterproof hardwood flooring. Its wood veneer is completely sealed against moisture—but unlike regular engineered wood, its core is made of something Bruce calls “ultra-high-density fiberboard” (rather than plywood).
But since fiberboard is made out of wood by-products, we’d say this counts as real engineered wood (rather than a hybrid).
More importantly, unlike Hydrotek, this product does seem to be able to stand up to, you know, actual water (rather than just spills). According to AHF Products, the company that owns Bruce, Hydropel can resist water for up to 36 hours.
Hydropel comes with a 50-year warranty for residential use, but that warranty drops to 15 years for commercial applications. This isn’t a red flag, but it does suggest that the flooring might not do well in high-traffic areas.
One big perk: it comes in tons of different sizes and finishes. So if you wanted something super specific like waterproof, hand-scraped, wide-plank wood flooring, look no further.
Price-wise, Hydropel costs $4 per square foot and the reviews seem to be fairly mixed. The most common complaint: it’s not as durable as some buyers would like.
H2OME by LIFECORE (Waterproof Hardwood Hybrid)
Haven’t heard of LIFECORE? You’re not alone—it’s not a particularly widespread brand. And no, the capitalization isn’t a mistake—that’s how they stylize their name.
But we’re not here to judge. We’re here to help! So: H2OME. Like Carpet One’s Hydrotek, this product is a waterproof hardwood hybrid. It features a real wood veneer and a vinyl core. What kind of vinyl, exactly? It’s unclear.
One retailer website mentions that it’s wood-polymer composite (the same thing you’d find in WPC flooring) but we couldn’t independently verify that.
One of the biggest draws for H2OME is LIFECORE’s commitment to greener production practices. The floors are confirmed low-VOC and their ZERO-ADD technology “has among the lowest levels of formaldehyde on the market.”
Again, what “among the lowest levels” means is unclear, but we’ll take it at face value.
Otherwise, the product seems to be comparable to Hydrotek in terms of looks, warranty, and performance, with one exception: H2OME has better reviews to back it up.
As for pricing, H2OME ranges between $4 and $7 per square foot on average, and comes in a range of wood looks and finish options.
AquaGuard by Floor & Decor (Waterproof Hardwood Hybrid and Waterproof Laminate)
AquaGuard is Floor & Decor’s in-house collection of waterproof engineered hardwood, laminate, and bamboo flooring.
First and foremost: Floor & Decor is a box store, and their in-house luxury vinyl plank brand, NuCore flooring, isn’t fantastic (though it isn’t terrible, either). So how do their waterproof hardwood and laminate options stack up?
Well, as we mentioned, AquaGuard comes in 3 variants: a waterproof hardwood hybrid, a waterproof laminate, and a waterproof bamboo hybrid.
Like Hydrotek, AquaGuard’s waterproof hardwood offering is an engineered hybrid—i.e. a real wood veneer with an SPC core. And according to Floor & Decor, it can resist water for up to 24 hours (in other words, better than Hydrotek but not as good as Hydropel).
Interestingly, AquaGuard doesn’t claim to offer waterproof hardwood flooring—they call it water-resistant wood flooring (a very important distinction).
Reviews are disabled on Floor & Decor’s website (never a great sign) but both products are backed by a limited lifetime residential warranty and a 15-year commercial warranty.
One more interesting note: AquaGuard prices range between $3 and $4 per square foot for hardwood, but $2.50 to $4 per square foot for laminate. Why is this interesting? Laminate is usually significantly cheaper than hardwood. Perhaps that hints at the quality of the two products?
Raintree Floors (Waterproof Hardwood Hybrid)
Raintree is a brand that specializes in hybrid waterproof wood flooring. In fact, it’s all they make.
Like Hydrotek and AquaGuard, their products mix an SPC core with a real wood veneer. And to compensate for the hardness of that SPC core, they feature an attached “Ninja Stealth” underlayment (again, their wording) that’s supposed to be quieter and more comfortable.
According to Raintree’s website, its flooring doesn’t have special care instructions and can be used with radiant heating. This is something of a rarity, as heating wood floors is usually a no-no with waterproof products.
Raintree’s biggest advantage though: the company claims that their floors can be “chemically or mechanically refinished.” It’s unclear how that’s possiblegiven that most waterproof wood floors rely on a waterproof wood finish, and Raintree doesn’t specify.
That said: Raintree sells for about $5 per square foot—and if it really is able to be refinished, that’s a pretty impressive deal.
So what are the downsides? Raintree reviews are generally positive, but there are only a handful of them on the internet—and they’re conspicuously hard to find.
Trident by Avalon Flooring (Waterproof Hardwood Hybrid)
Trident is yet another product that mixes a stone-plastic composite core with a hardwood veneer. However, Avalon seems to skip the foam backing that makes the floor more comfortable.
These floors start at $7 per square foot and offer a decent range of style options to choose from. However, even a quick search on Google reveals mediocre reviews.
Who Sells the Best Waterproof Hardwood Flooring?
Honestly? It depends on what you’re looking for. To be blunt, the best waterproof hardwood flooring on this list is probably Proximity Mills. This company is on our list of the best hardwood floor brands for a reason, and they stand by their products.
The Pros and Cons of Waterproof Hardwood Flooring
So: now that we know all about its top products, let’s go over the pros and cons of waterproof hardwood flooring.
Pro: Waterproof Hardwood’s Protective Coating Can Also Make it Scratch-Resistant
There are many wood floor designs you can find or create with waterproof hardwood flooring. For example, if you want parquet flooring patterns, you only need to line planks up accordingly.
Color-wise, whether you want dark or light wood floors, you can find any tone your heart desires.
Pro: It’s Versatile and Can Go (Almost) Anywhere
Waterproof hardwood flooring can go almost anywhere indoors: bathroom flooring, kitchen flooring, mudroom flooring, you name it. That said, we’d recommend using something like teak flooring if you’re looking for outdoor flooring options—teak is full of natural oils and resins that stand up to the elements.
On the one hand, wood flooring is naturally derived and biodegradable. On the other hand, hardwood species can take a long time to mature and harvest. Producing hardwood flooring can also be resource-intensive (deforestation, the use of heavy machinery, etc.)
Also, the chemicals used to seal most waterproof hardwood flooring aren’t very Earth-friendly. Now, you can remove them before tossing out your old flooring (for whatever reason), but those old sealants still have to go somewhere.
And you have to remember that many of the waterproof hardwood flooring products on the market have synthetic (aka) plastic cores—so they aren’t biodegradable either.
Con: There’s a Limited Selection of Waterproof Hardwood Flooring
Most waterproof hardwood products come in a broad—if common—swath of wood floor colors and species. If you want something normal like ash flooring, you shouldn’t run into problems. But more exotic options like ebony flooring are going to be hard to find.
Rigid core luxury vinyl (aka EVP flooring) is particularly robust, and brands like Proximity Mills carry products that far exceed the scope of what waterproof hardwood flooring offers. If you compare vinyl plank vs. laminate, you might even prefer the former. Vinyl plank is a little hardier than laminate at a similar price.
Tile is super durable and offers just as many style options as LVP, but it can feel a little cold underfoot. Compare tile vs. wood floors, and you’ll find that most wood floors (including waterproof hardwood flooring) are cozier.
On the other hand, if you compare tile vs. laminate, you’ll note that tile is 100% waterproof while even the best laminate floors are only “waterproof” to a point. For example, premium RevWood can handle standing water for around three days (more than enough), but tile can be installed in pools!
How Does Waterproof Hardwood Perform Against Other Waterproof Floors?
Continuing from our last section, let’s talk about how waterproof hardwood stacks up against waterproof hardwood alternatives.
Most Waterproof Hardwood Flooring Is Low-VOC
Volatile organic compounds are harmful chemicals commonly found in synthetic floors, flooring adhesives, and the coatings that are applied to hardwood floors. Fortunately, most waterproof hardwood is classified as low-VOC flooring because it tends to off VOCs before installation—unlike LVP.
Of course, both of these options are easier to install than tile, which requires a professional. Even “DIY-friendly” products like snap-together tile flooring need to be grouted (which is a pain).
Waterproof Hardwood is Hard to Clean
We’ve mentioned that most water-resistant and waterproof hardwood flooring products have special care requirements. Tile and rigid core luxury vinyl flooring, on the other hand, almost never have special care requirements.
Waterproof Hardwood Flooring Is (Ironically) Vulnerable to Humidity Changes
Something that pops up frequently in waterproof hardwood guides and warranties: recommended humidity levels. Bruce’s Hydropel, for example, requires an environment of 35% to 50% humidity.
With hardwood, this is to be expected—but you would think that waterproof flooring would be able to resist changes in humidity.
For tile and LVP, (with the exception of a few low-end LVP brands like Stainmaster luxury vinyl) “waterproof” really does mean waterproof.
LVP is Generally Cheaper Than Hardwood
Cheaper waterproof hardwood hovers around $3 to $5 per square foot, but $5 to $9 seems to be the standard (plus another $5 or more per square foot to install).
So what have we learned? Waterproof hardwood flooring options do exist, but none of them are “traditional” wood flooring types. Rather, they’re almost entirely a mix of waterproof laminates and waterproof hardwood hybrids (that combine wood and plastic).
With the exception of one single option, none of them can be refinished. And while that means you don’t have to worry about the cost to refinish hardwood flooring, it does mean you have to worry about the cost to replace your entire floor when it inevitably wears out.
And: fake wood flooring options like wood-look tile and waterproof vinyl flooring generally offer better waterproofing at a lower price point. Of course, there’s no substitute for real, authentic hardwood in the eyes of some buyers.
Our take: look at specific products as opposed to broad comparisons. Chances are, some waterproof hardwood floors offer an inherently better value than their water-resistant or fake wood counterparts.
No matter what you choose, your local flooring stores are absolutely the best way to start shopping around! Local flooring stores tend to offer better deals and products than the big box stores nearby. If you want to look into specific brands, they’re the ones to talk to.
Good luck finding your perfect floor and, for more information on all things flooring, be sure to check out the articles below:
Christian is a freelance everything-writer, editor, & SEO guy. When he’s not writing about flooring and remodeling, he’s either writing news for the California American Legion or writing fresh content for his camping & EDC blog (or, you know, actually camping).
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