Can Water Get Through Vinyl Plank Flooring?

If water is allowed to seep through the flooring, it can negatively affect the subflooring that can ruin the structural integrity of your house, and it could also allow molds to grow in the long run. It is important then to keep the floor dry or, better yet, make it watertight in case of any spills that may happen. This is especially important in wet areas such as basements, and toilets.

Vinyl plank flooring is a scratchproof and water-resistant floor material and it can be used in wet areas such as in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. It will not get water damaged or warp when exposed or even submerged in water for a long time, but can water seep through vinyl planks?

In most cases, the latest click-lock or interlocking vinyl planks will prevent water from getting through to the subfloor. They were designed for the connections at the seams to be 100% watertight. The perimeter of the vinyl floor should also be sealed properly to prevent water from seeping through.

It is however possible for water to still get through vinyl plank flooring if the right conditions were met. Knowing what to watch out for is important when using vinyl plank flooring in wet areas, such as in toilets or bathrooms, to make it truly water-tight.

Can Water Seep Through Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Water and other forms of liquid that are spilled accidentally, due to a burst pipe, dog pee, or from any other sources can become a big problem in our homes if they start spreading from one area of our house to another. It is extremely important that the kind of flooring materials used for your house’s floors should not allow any moisture to seep through them. The question now is can vinyl plank flooring prevent water from getting through it?

There are three general types of vinyl plank flooring systems. The first one is a glue-down vinyl plank system, the second one is very much similar to the first which is the peel-and-stick type vinyl plank system, and the third one is the click-lock or interlocking vinyl plank system. All three are waterproof and will not get damaged even when they get submerged in water.

There are several differences between the three systems which include the way they are installed, and their water tightness in between the seams when installed. Only the click-lock or interlocking vinyl plank flooring system can prevent water from seeping or getting through to the subflooring.

Both the glue-down and peel-and-stick type vinyl plank systems are very similar in that they are both fixed to the floor with an adhesive. The glue-down vinyl plank flooring is fixed to the floor by first applying glue on the floor surface, and sticking the vinyl plank over it. The peel-and-stick type vinyl flooring, on the other hand, already has a sticky underside which is initially covered by a plastic film. You just literally peel off the plastic film off the adhesive side and stick the vinyl plank directly onto the floor surface.

The video below shows how the glue-down vinyl plank flooring is installed.

The video below shows how the peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring is installed.

Both the glue-down and peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring systems are installed with each plank placed tightly side by side. Though they are waterproof and will not get damaged even if they get wet, they are not watertight and will not 100% prevent water from getting through the seams.

They may stop a small puddle of water from getting through for a short moment if you make sure to wipe the flooring dry as soon as you can. Allowing water to stay or stand over the vinyl surface for a long time could allow it to slowly seep through. They were not designed to be watertight between the seams which is why they are not suitable to be used for areas that can be heavily exposed to water such as in basements, bathrooms, or toilets.

The click-lock or interlocking vinyl plank systems, on the other hand, are made with a tongue-and-groove system that locks each plank to one another. This type of vinyl plank flooring system is also called a floating vinyl plank floor since it is not fixed or glued down to the subflooring, and is allowed to move and float over the subflooring.

The video below shows how this type of vinyl flooring system is installed.

Although there are sub-types of interlocking and floating vinyl plank flooring systems with different characteristics, most of them, if not all, are designed to be 100% watertight between their connections and seams and will prevent water from getting through. It is also important to seal the perimeter of the flooring to make the whole space watertight.

Below is a video testing the water tightness of one type of interlocking vinyl plank flooring.

If water tightness of the flooring is needed in a particular space, then go with a click-lock or interlocking vinyl plank flooring system. Not all interlocking vinyl plank flooring product is the same though, and some may be better than others so make sure to compare each product’s characteristics and specifications so you would know which one is the best fit for your needs, before committing to one product.

3 Common Reasons Why Water Seeps Through Vinyl Plank Flooring

Here are 3 common reasons why water can seep through or is already seeping through your vinyl plank flooring.

1. The Interlocking Vinyl Plank Joints Are Not Installed Properly or Gets Damaged

Floating or interlocking vinyl plank flooring systems are designed with the plank seams watertight when they are properly locked together. If the vinyl planks were not installed properly, such that some of the joints are not properly secured to one another, those seams will not become sealed and watertight, which in turn will allow water to pass through.

Another reason for a joint to fail, even when it was installed correctly, is if the seam or joint connection becomes damaged. Since the interlocking joint is specially designed to be watertight, damaging it may compromise the flooring’s water tightness.

There are several reasons an interlocking vinyl plank joint can get damaged. Here are a few of them:

  • A hard and heavy object was dropped on the vinyl plank flooring.
  • The cupping or buckling of the vinyl plank flooring due to improper installation.
  • Exposing the vinyl plank flooring to corrosive materials that can damage the floor.

Replacing and repairing the affected vinyl plank floor may be the only solution to resolve this issue.

2. The Interlocking Vinyl Plank Flooring Perimeter Is Not Sealed Properly

When installing an interlocking vinyl plank flooring system, most especially in wet areas such as in bathrooms or toilets, everything should be sealed including the flooring perimeter.

Since the seams of the interlocking vinyl planks are already watertight, the only way water can get through the subflooring is through the vinyl flooring perimeter. If the perimeter is not sealed properly, water can get through it.

A break or damage to the vinyl flooring perimeter seal can also cause water to get through to the subflooring.

Normally, silicone caulk is used to seal the perimeter of the vinyl plank flooring, adjoining the wall, after it has been installed. It is usually applied at the baseboard and vinyl plank corner.

3. A Glue-Down or Peel-And-Stick Type of Vinyl Plank Flooring Is Used

As mentioned above, a glue-down or peel-and-stick type of vinyl plank flooring are not watertight in their seams and will not prevent water from seeping through to the subflooring. If this type of vinyl plank flooring was used on your flooring, make sure to wipe it dry as soon as you spill liquid or water over it. Don’t allow water to settle on the surface for a long time as water could slowly seep through between the seams.

A glue-down or peel-and-stick type vinyl plank flooring may prevent water from getting through the seams for a short while, especially if the planks were tightly installed edge to edge, but letting water stand for a long time could lead it to seep through the seams eventually.

What Happens if Water Gets Under Vinyl Plank Flooring?

If water manages to get under your vinyl plank flooring, there are several things that might happen which includes the following:

A Floating Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Get Displaced

If you have a floating floor installed with a click-lock system, if a large volume of water manages to get under the vinyl plank flooring, it could break off the interlocking connections of some of the planks and displace them in the process.

Walking on a floating vinyl plank flooring with water underneath it will move the volume of water underneath it which can add pressure to different points of the floor, especially on the interlocked joints. This could break apart the plank connections or even potentially damage the vinyl planks’ locking joints altogether.

A vinyl plank with a damaged locking joint will no longer be watertight when used, and it cannot be repaired. The only option would be to replace the affected plank with a new one.

A Glued-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring Can Peel Off

If a glued-down vinyl plank flooring is used and water manages to get through underneath it, the glue or adhesive may deteriorate which could lead the vinyl plank flooring to peel off. It will not damage the plank though and you could still glue the plank back again after drying off the affected surfaces.

The Subflooring Can Get Damaged

Plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) are the materials that are typically used as subflooring. They are made to be water-resistant but to a certain degree. Exposing them to moisture for a long time could lead them to warp and could cause irreparable damages.

If water was able to get through the vinyl plank flooring with plywood or OSB subflooring, you should act fast and be able to get the water out and completely dry off the subflooring to prevent it from absorbing the water and warping. A warped subflooring could still be flattened but replacing them entirely, in most cases, especially if they have become extremely warped, may be more practical and less tedious to do.

Molds Can Start to Grow On the Subflooring

If water gets underneath the vinyl plank flooring and was not allowed to dry off completely, it can allow molds to grow. A moist and wet condition can create a perfect environment for molds to thrive. Molds can start to grow within 24 to 48 hours of water exposure, so it is very important to be able to completely dry off the vinyl plank flooring, as well as the subflooring underneath it.

What to Do if Water Gets Under Vinyl Plank Flooring?

If water gets under your vinyl plank flooring, the first thing you need to address and manage is the source of the water spill or leakage. Find where the water is coming from and fix that problem first. If there’s a leaking pipe, turn off the water valve and repair the leaking pipe. If there’s flooding, you need to address and control the flooding issue first.

Once you stop the source of water, that’s the time you go and check your wet vinyl plank flooring. First look for any damage that your vinyl flooring may have incurred. The damage, if there are any, would usually be in the form of broken joints. If a plank has damage, you would need to replace it.

Next, completely dry off your vinyl flooring, including the surface underneath it. You would need to partially or completely remove the vinyl plank flooring if you have a floating system. You may also need to use fans and dehumidifiers to help dry the wet surfaces faster.

Make sure every surface, above and underneath the flooring is completely dry. Once everything is dry, you may already start repairing and reinstalling the vinyl plank flooring.

Can Water Damage Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Vinyl planks are 100% waterproof and will not get damaged by water. Since vinyl planks are made out of mostly synthetic and plastic materials, even if they get submerged underwater for a very long time, it will not warp, distort, or become damaged. Vinyl plank flooring is a good flooring material for wet areas, and you can read more about it by clicking the link.

Is It Better to Glue or Float Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Both the glue-down and floating vinyl plank flooring are 100% waterproof and will not warp, distort, and get damaged easily. They have both excellent scratch-resistant qualities as well. But in terms of preventing water from seeping through the flooring, a floating vinyl plank flooring with an interlocking system is superior to the glued-down or peel-and-stick type of vinyl plank flooring. This is because the interlocked joints provide a watertight seam that prevents water from getting through, which is what is lacking on the glue-down type vinyl plank flooring.

If you’re planning to use vinyl plank flooring in wet areas such as in bathrooms, kitchens, and even basements, consider using the floating type vinyl plank flooring instead of the glue-down type.


He is an architect for more than 20 years. He is passionate about design and architecture and enjoys sharing his knowledge and information with people as well.

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