By Reginald Tucker
Who said hardwood and water don’t mix? Manufacturers are looking to dispel old notions about hardwood flooring’s ability to resist moisture incursion via enhancements to both the product’s core structure as well as through installation systems designed to keep water from penetrating the joints. The multitude of introductions in this subcategory is clearly in response to the rising popularity of LVT, WPC and SPC products whose claim to fame is high resistance to water damage and/or moisture incursion.
Following is an overview of some of the latest waterproof and water-resistant hardwood flooring products available:
Bruce, the flagship hardwood brand under the AHF Products umbrella, offers Hydropel, a waterproof, 100% hardwood floor. This engineered product is infused with proprietary technology to resist water for up to 36 hours, allowing it to be installed in areas of the home that are prone to spills and splashes.
“There are sensitivities around hardwood to moisture, and we have addressed those directly with Hydropel,” said Brian Parker, director of product management. “It is real hardwood from top to bottom, and that’s what consumers truly want in their homes.”
In the fall of 2019, American OEM rolled out Raintree, a wood/SPC hybrid that allows hardwood flooring to be installed in areas previously off limits. Raintree features a 1.2mm genuine hardwood veneer bonded to a 5mm composite core the company claims is denser and more heat resistant than WPC. Furthermore, the product is backed with a 1mm IXPE attached pad for sound attenuation, insulation and comfort underfoot. Raintree’s proprietary Ninja technology reinforces the natural hardwood wear layer to protect against moisture, scratches and indentation better than traditional wood flooring, according to Don Finkell, American OEM founder and CEO.
The wood veneer utilized in Raintree by itself is not waterproof; rather, the glue that bonds it to the core is waterproof. Plus, it’s finished using a protective waterproof coating that essentially isolates the wood from the rest of the environment.
New from Cali Brands is GeoWood, a rigid core product featuring a real wood veneer. It was designed to provide the water-repelling performance attributes of an SPC product but with the visual characteristics of genuine hardwood.
“Rather than bury exceptions deep into a warranty, we chose to state up front that this is real wood on a waterproof core, and we gave it an overall water resistance rating,” said Alex Brodkin, Cali’s director of operations. “GeoWood carries so many features and benefits; superior water resistance is just one selling point. It’s also more dimensionally stable, more dent resistant and easier to install than typical engineered wood floors. Plus, a 7-coat, aluminum-oxide, scratch-resistant finish keeps planks looking fresh.”
Johnson Hardwood Floors
The Reservoir Series waterproof wood/rigid core collection from Johnson Hardwood Floors— launched back in early 2019— was a bit of a gamble. Up to that point, Johnson Hardwood Floors, as the name implies, had focused on its core product offering. Fast forward to today, and it appears the hybrid SPC/wood offering has paid off.
“What’s cool about the line is it’s really something different,” said Billy Ko, CEO. “It’s a hybrid product that uses a rigid core and has a sound-deadening IXPE foam cushion but with a real hardwood top layer. It offers the benefits of a rigid core SPC product but with the look and feel and value of a real hardwood floor.”
Shaw Floors offers a pair of innovative products designed to expand the areas of the home in which hardwood can be installed—Floorté Hardwood, which combines the attributes of waterproof SPC flooring with the classic character and feel that only genuine hardwood can provide—and Repel Hardwood, a genuine, top-to-bottom hardwood floor featuring water-resistant properties.
Floorté Hardwood, which is available in multiple species, finishes, sizes and colors, with planks 7.5 inches wide and up to 72 inches long, features advanced finishing techniques such as reactive staining, wire brushing and balayage highlighting to create more than 30 unique visuals.
Repel Hardwood, by comparison, features a protective barrier on top of the plank to keep spills and liquids on the floor’s surface, minimizing the chance for moisture to seep into the plank. An added protective treatment on the edges of each plank adds rein- forced moisture protection.
The beauty of wood lies in its inherent aesthetic qualities, but its hydrophilic nature proves to be a challenge when developing waterproof products. Utilizing alternative core materials and advanced technologies, however, suppliers like USFloors, maker of the COREtec brand, said they have come up with the right combination of beauty and performance—COREtec Wood.
Unlike many of the wood/rigid core products currently available on the market, COREtec Wood features a real, 2mm-thick wood veneer over a mineral core—not an SPC or WPC construction.
“Consumers who want that thicker, sliced-faced European oak visual can now have that in a waterproof wood option,” said Natalie Cady, COREtec and hardwood category manager, Shaw Floors. “Almost all of your issues with water—especially when it comes to wood—happens in the joint, either from the bottom up or the top down. You don’t get any of that with the construction of this product.”
The use of the mineral core has other advantages over SPC, according to Cady. “With COREtec Wood, we wanted the core to be very rigid,” she explained. “SPC, even though it’s rigid, still has some give to it. When you’re dealing with wood, you don’t want too much give to it. Plus, we needed it to be 12mm thick overall—or closest to half an inch that we could get. This way, it could more easily transition to other platforms. That’s why we picked a mineral core.”
The warmth, look and feel of genuine hardwood and bamboo combined with the performance attributes of composite, rigid-core flooring. That’s the winning combination Wellmade Performance Flooring has achieved with HDPC Wood.
Developed more than a year ago, the product had a vinyl wear layer, but over the last year the company added bamboo as a natural wear layer. The line was subsequently expanded to include a host of different hardwood species. “We have introduced different species of wood for a total of 16 products,” said Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing.
The Hydri-Core moisture protection system utilized in the manufacture of the product is based on its three-layer construction, which is designed to block moisture from below while sealing out penetration from above. Structurally speaking, HDPC Wood features a waterproof and anti-microbial vinyl backer adhered to Wellmade’s waterproof HDPC core technology. This is then topped with a natural wood or bamboo wear layer, which is protected with Wellmade’s PowerShield surface treatment created to seal out topical moisture. HDPC Wood is built on a 100% “closed cell” structure, meaning it does not contain any air pockets, thereby preventing water absorption.