Today, the watertightness of laminate is assessed through a swelling test. Floorboard samples are submerged in water and measured for swelling. The problem with this method? “It only tests the water resistance of the individual boards; not that of the installed floor as a whole”, says Jasper De Jaeger, Technical Services Manager at UNILIN. “That’s why we’ve developed our own tests – which are more accurate, stricter and, above all, representative of real-life situations.”
The flooring industry has no generally accepted standards for the water resistance testing of floating floors yet. Although the swelling test is commonly used to measure the water resistance of laminate, new standards are coming up for discussion. “The only relevant tests are those performed after installation”, clarifies Jasper. “Only if an installed floor – including joints, bevels, perimeters etc. – proves itself impermeable can we speak of a truly waterproof laminate floor.”
Continuously innovating, UNILIN has developed its own watertightness tests to guarantee that its laminate floors are fully waterproof. “Based on extensive research and experience, we’ve developed three types of analyses to test an installed laminate floor: a mop test, a water cylinder test and a real-life test”, Jasper declares. “That way, we’re testing our products in a relevant, standardized and consistent manner.”
One way to test whether an installed laminate floor is watertight is through a mop test. Jasper: “This lab test consists of covering the installed floor with wet mops for 14 hours. We don’t just use water, but also add soap. This makes for a more rigid trial, as soap reduces the water’s surface tension. Then, we assess. Is water seeping through the joints? Is there any surface damage or swelling? Measurement and inspection tell us whether the floor has passed or failed. After the floor has been exposed to water for 24 hours, we also perform a rolling caster chair test, again putting the watertightness to the test.”
An equally strict – if not a stricter – evaluation of a floor’s water resistance is UNILIN’s cylinder test. “By placing a cylinder on the T-shaped connections of installed floorboards and filling it with water and soap, the bevels and installation quality are put to the test”, Jasper explains. “After 4, 12 or even 24 hours, swelling is measured and assessed. So far, we’ve never seen an increase of over 0.05 mm. In addition, the permeability of all points of contact is analysed. And we’re also testing with other fluids than water and soap – e.g. wine and pet urine – but our floors still score equally well.”
UNILIN’s real-life trial was developed to test floors in actual situations: a leaking washing machine, a spilled drink, a urinating pet, etc. “Analyses like the standard swelling test aren’t relevant to the end customer because they don’t test installed floors in real-life circumstances”, Jasper points out. “Our real-life test does. What if you’re bathing the children and they won’t stop splashing?
What if you knock over a vase? UNILIN tests our floors in all these situations and many more. In this way, our customers can be certain that they’re choosing a waterproof laminate floor.”