12 Things That Can Happen If Water Gets Under Vinyl Plank Flooring

what happens if water gets under vinyl plank flooring

Vinyl plank flooring, a popular choice among homeowners, is recognized for its impressive durability, aesthetic appeal, and relative ease of installation.

This synthetic flooring product, which mimics the look of hardwood, has risen to prominence due to its affordability and wide range of designs.

However, like all flooring options, vinyl plank flooring has vulnerabilities – among the most significant being water damage.

Despite its hard-wearing surface, water can seep underneath vinyl planks, leading to many complications that homeowners should be aware of.

The purpose of this blog post is to explore the potential consequences of water infiltrating beneath vinyl plank flooring, providing an informative and critical guide to aid in preserving your investment.

Water Damage Risks

1. Warping and Buckling

Like a good book kept too long in a damp place starts to puff up, vinyl planks can also warp and buckle when exposed to excessive moisture.

This is a distortion that occurs in the physical form of the planks. I remember the first time I saw it in my own house, I was shocked.

What had once been a flat and smooth surface was now uneven and distorted.

How Water Exposure Causes These Issues

Water is a tricky foe. It can seep into the smallest of spaces and wreak havoc. When water seeps beneath vinyl planks, it gets trapped with nowhere to evaporate.

The trapped moisture causes the vinyl to expand and contract, warping and buckling. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen this happen in homes with poorly installed or maintained vinyl flooring.

2. Mold and Mildew Growth

Mold and mildew are more than just unsightly. They pose serious health risks, including allergies, respiratory problems, and in severe cases, even toxic reactions.

I’ve had friends who developed persistent coughs and eye irritations, all due to mold exposure from their floors.

How Moisture Under Vinyl Plank Flooring Fosters Mold Growth

Mold and mildew thrive in damp environments.

When water gets trapped underneath vinyl planks, it is the perfect breeding ground for these fungi to grow.

And once they establish themselves, they’re incredibly difficult to eliminate.

3. Discoloration and Staining

Water stains are not a good look for any floor, and vinyl planks are no exception.

Over time, water seepage can cause unsightly discoloration and staining.

I’ve seen cases where beautiful white vinyl planks turned an awful yellowish-brown.

Difficulty in Removing Stains and Discoloration

Stains and discoloration from water damage are not just ugly, they’re stubborn too.

In my experience, most DIY fixes fail to restore the original color and luster of the planks, which means you might be stuck with the damage until you replace the floors.

Trust me, prevention is better than cure regarding water damage and vinyl plank flooring.

Structural Damage

4. Subfloor Damage

The subfloor is the unsung hero of any flooring installation, and it’s particularly crucial for vinyl plank flooring.

It’s what gives your floor its stability, and it’s what your vinyl planks adhere to.

I remember working on a home renovation where the subfloor hadn’t been prepared correctly.

The result was a floor that didn’t last a year before it started to give way under the weight of everyday foot traffic.

How Water Can Damage the Subfloor

Water is the enemy of the subfloor. It can seep in and start to rot the material, especially if the subfloor is made of particleboard or plywood.

A home I visited once had a leaky pipe slowly dripping water onto the subfloor.

Over time, the water had caused the particleboard to swell and disintegrate.

This resulted in sagging vinyl planks and, ultimately, a complete replacement of their flooring.

5. Weakening of Adhesive

The adhesive is like the glue that holds your vinyl planks in place on the subfloor.

A job I worked on years ago taught me just how pivotal it is.

The previous installers had skimped on the adhesive, and the planks slid everywhere.

It was a disaster that could have been easily avoided with the proper use of a quality adhesive.

How Water Can Weaken the Adhesive Bond

Water can wreak havoc on the adhesive bond that holds your planks in place.

I once had a client who had inadvertently left their window open during a storm.

The water had soaked their vinyl flooring, weakening the adhesive bond.

Over time, this caused the vinyl planks to shift and become uneven – a frustrating and costly issue to fix.

6. Separation of Planks

Moisture can seep between the seams of your vinyl planks, causing them to separate or lift.

I’ll never forget a job where a dishwasher leak had caused a small flood in the kitchen.

The moisture had seeped between the vinyl planks, causing them to buckle and separate.

It was a clear example of how water can damage even the most beautiful floors.

Effects on the Flooring’s Stability and Aesthetics

When planks separate, it affects both the stability and aesthetics of your flooring.

I’ve seen homes where the separated planks not only looked unsightly but also posed a tripping hazard.

It’s another reason I always stress the importance of preventing water damage to your vinyl plank flooring.

Costly Repairs and Replacements

7. Repairing Water-Damaged Vinyl Planks

  • Difficulty of Repairing Damaged Planks

Repairing water-damaged vinyl planks can be a daunting task.

Each plank is designed to interlock tightly with the next, making it nearly impossible to remove just one without causing additional damage to the surrounding planks.

I remember a job where a single plank in the middle of the room had been damaged.

The time and effort it took to remove and replace that one plank was more than I’d ever anticipated.

  • Costs Associated with Repairs

The financial implications of vinyl plank repairs can also be rather steep.

Not only do you have to pay for the replacement planks, but you also have to account for the labor costs involved in the process.

In a job I did recently, the client was shocked that the repair cost was nearly as much as installing a brand-new floor.

8. Subfloor Replacement

  • Replacing Damaged Subfloors

Sometimes, the water damage is so severe that it permeates the vinyl and affects the subfloor beneath.

In these cases, replacing the subfloor becomes essential.

I can recall a case where a client had been dealing with a slow leak for months before they realized the damage it had caused.

When we arrived, the subfloor was so severely damaged it was beyond repair.

  • Expenses Involved in Subfloor Replacement:

Replacing a damaged subfloor can be a costly affair. It involves removing the existing floor, replacing the damaged subfloor, and then reinstalling a new floor on top.

I once worked on a project where the subfloor replacement cost alone was more than the client’s initial flooring installation budget.

9. Full Flooring Replacement

  • When Full Replacement Becomes the Only Solution

In extreme cases, the entire floor may need to be replaced.

This typically happens when water damage is widespread, affecting most of the planks and the subfloor.

I’ve seen it firsthand in a home that experienced significant flooding.

The damage was so extensive that replacing the entire floor was the only viable solution.

  • The Financial Burden of Replacing the Entire Floor

The cost of replacing the entire floor can be financially overwhelming.

Not only do you have to pay for all the new materials, but the labor costs can also be relatively high.

I’ve seen clients’ faces fall when they realize the actual cost of a complete floor replacement. It’s a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Health and Safety Concerns

As a professional in the flooring industry, I have witnessed the health and safety concerns that surface when water damage is left unchecked.

It isn’t just about the aesthetics of your home or the financial burden; it’s about the well-being of you and your loved ones.

10. Allergies and Respiratory Issues

  • How Mold and Mildew Can Affect Indoor Air Quality

I once visited a home where the owners had ignored a small leak for some time.

Over time, the dampness created the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.

The home’s air quality had declined significantly, making it difficult to breathe comfortably.

The musty smell of mildew was a constant reminder of the lurking issue they had neglected.

  • Impact on Residents’ Health

In the same home, one of the family members, a young boy, started experiencing severe allergies and respiratory issues.

When a health examination pointed to poor indoor air quality as a probable cause, the family finally decided to address their flooring issues.

11. Slip and Fall Hazards

  • Slipperiness Caused by Moisture Under Vinyl Planks

I recall a frightening incident where an elderly client slipped on her vinyl flooring.

Moisture had seeped underneath the planks, making them slippery.

Luckily, she wasn’t severely injured, but it was a wake-up call for the family.

  • Potential Accidents and Injuries

This can be a common and dangerous consequence of ignoring water damage.

So it’s not just about maintaining the aesthetics of your floor but also ensuring it’s safe to walk on, particularly if you have vulnerable individuals like young children or the elderly at home.

12. Long-Term Health Implications

  • Chronic Health Problems Due to Prolonged Exposure to Mold

I met a client living with a mold issue for years. Over time, he developed chronic respiratory problems.

The doctors attributed his health issues to his prolonged exposure to mold at home.

  • Addressing Water Damage Promptly

This experience hammered home the importance of addressing water damage promptly.

It isn’t just about money or appearances but a matter of health and safety.

Ignoring water damage can lead to severe consequences, some of which may not even be reversible.

Preventative Measures

Proper Installation Techniques

One of the most effective ways to prevent water damage is through proper installation.

I’ve seen a stark difference in homes where the flooring was installed correctly versus those that were rushed or haphazardly.

With the proper techniques, we can ensure no gaps or cracks for water to seep through, thereby mitigating the risk of moisture damage.

Hiring a Professional Installer

I once worked with a client who tried to save money by attempting a DIY installation.

Sadly, just a few months later, they had to replace the entire flooring due to water damage.

This experience taught me that hiring a professional installer is a worthwhile investment.

Professionals bring expertise and experience to the table, ensuring that your flooring is not just attractive but also durable and water-resistant.

Regular Maintenance

  • How Routine Maintenance Can Help Prevent Issues

Routine maintenance is another key component in preventing water damage.

I’ve seen homes with vinyl plank flooring that has lasted years without any water damage, all thanks to regular maintenance.

By frequently inspecting your floor and quickly addressing any signs of damage, you can extend its lifespan and maintain its aesthetic appeal.

  • Cleaning and Inspection Tips

Cleaning vinyl floors involves more than just sweeping or mopping. It’s crucial to avoid harsh chemicals that can degrade the material over time.

I suggest using a mild detergent and a soft cloth for cleaning. Regular inspection for any signs of damage, such as discoloration or warping, can also help you catch and address issues before they become costly repairs.

Using Waterproofing Products

Waterproofing products are unique formulations designed to protect your flooring from water damage.

They create a barrier that prevents moisture from seeping into the material, thus enhancing its durability.

There are various types of waterproofing products available in the market, including sealants and coatings, each with unique properties and application procedures.

  • How They Can Protect Vinyl Plank Flooring

I’ve had clients who swear by waterproofing products.

One client, in particular, applied a waterproof sealant on their vinyl flooring right after installation, and even after a major plumbing leak, their floor remained intact.

This incident reiterates that with the right product, you can significantly enhance the water resistance of your vinyl plank flooring, ensuring it remains beautiful and functional for many years.

Early Detection and Response

Detecting water damage early and responding promptly can save you a lot of trouble. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Signs of Water Damage

  • Identifying Common Signs of Water Damage

Water damage can manifest in many ways on your vinyl plank flooring.

You might notice slight discoloration, buckling, curling at the edges, or a musty smell indicating mold growth beneath the flooring.

I once visited a friend’s house where the vinyl flooring looked warped.

Upon closer inspection, we discovered water had been seeping in from a leak in the kitchen plumbing.

The damage would have been worse if we hadn’t spotted it early.

Importance of Prompt Detection

The sooner you detect water damage, the easier and less costly it will be to rectify.

A family member didn’t realize that their floor was being damaged by a small, unnoticed leak in their bathroom until the flooring started to lift.

They had to replace some of their vinyl plank flooring, which could have been avoided with earlier detection.

Responding to Water Intrusion

  • Steps to Take When Water Gets Under Vinyl Plank Flooring

If you discover that water has infiltrated your vinyl flooring, it’s crucial to act fast.

First, try to identify and stop the source of the water, if possible.

Then, mop up as much water as you can.

Once, during a particularly heavy rain, some water got under my vinyl plank flooring.

I immediately used towels to soak up the water and ran a dehumidifier to dry out the area, which minimized the damage.

  • Contacting Professionals for Assistance

Sometimes, you might need professional help to deal with water damage effectively.

Professionals have the knowledge and tools to assess and repair the damage properly, ensuring your flooring returns to its original condition.

When my cousin’s basement flooded, they wisely brought a professional to handle the damage.

They salvaged some of the flooring and were also given expert advice on better waterproofing their basement in the future.


Reflecting on our discussion, it becomes evident how water intrusion can have severe consequences for your vinyl plank flooring.

From causing visible discoloration and warping to creating hidden dampness that facilitates mold growth, the potential outcomes underscore the importance of maintaining a vigilant eye.

My neighbor’s unfortunate encounter with a flooded basement and the subsequent peeling and warping of their vinyl floor is a stark reminder of how destructive water can be.

There’s an old saying that rings true here, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By being proactive, you can avoid the majority of water damage issues.

Regular inspection of your plumbing, maintaining proper seals, and immediate action at the first sign of water can save you both time and money.

When I noticed a small leak under my kitchen sink, quick action and a call to the handyman avoided what could have been significant damage to my vinyl flooring.

Knowledge is power, and staying informed about the potential dangers and preventative measures can help you safeguard your beautiful vinyl plank flooring.

After all, your home is an investment, and it deserves your care and attention. From my experience and the stories shared here, you can see the importance of being proactive and understanding what to do when faced with water intrusion. Keep learning, stay vigilant, and protect your home; it’s worth the effort!


Hi! I’m Kobby, one of the co-owners of favoredstoneguides.com and the newest house owner in town. I’m a huge fan of most things natural. Over here on this site, I'm happy to share all the exciting hacks, tricks, and tips I have learned and continue to learn each day about taking care of natural stones.

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