Knowing the difference can save your floors
It doesn’t seem like there is much of a difference, but there is. Waterproof means that it can withstand any amount of water, from a small spill to a flood, and be just fine. Water resistant means that it can take on a little water for a short time. Anything after that will more than likely cause damage.
Many types of vinyl flooring are waterproof and/or highly water resistant. Laminate, on the other hand, is made out of recycled hardwood, so it is not waterproof. Due to its melamine wear layer, it has a tough finish, which resists scratches and may have minor protection against a small amount of water. But, like hardwood, laminate does not do well with standing water or high humidity, regardless of whether this water is topical (on top) or seeping into the subfloor from below. If laminate floors become really wet, they will get ruined and buckle.
Water resistance in flooring means that the particular element of flooring has been designed to withstand water better than it normally would. With hard surfaces, most flooring is designed to be able to have some water on top for a while before it will soak through, giving you time to take care of the spill before it can affect the floor. Just about every laminate product claims this. The aluminum oxide coating most of them have is pretty much waterproof, but the seams or gaps between planks, aren’t, so the floor isn’t. In those gaps, you usually have an exposed core, and may eventually soak in water.
So, laminate flooring is NOT waterproof. There is a common misperception out there that laminate is waterproof, and I believe this is due to the fact that many customers mistakenly confuse vinyl and laminate flooring.
If you feel that hardwood is not a good option for an area due to water or humidity, it is also a good idea to avoid laminate.
Laminate warranties usually do not apply to water damage, including but not limited to water damage caused by flooding, standing water (water that remains on the floor longer than 30 minutes), leaking pipes, mechanical failures, appliance leaks, or pet urine. be aware of what you are getting yourself into before purchasing!
BONUS: Scratch Proof vs. Scratch Resistant
The terms scratch proof and scratch resistant are different by definition, but used synonymously by manufacturers to promote their products. Scratch proof, if taken literally, would mean that the product is able to withstand any kind of abrasion and not bear any scratches. Scratch resistant, on the other hand essentially means that the product is able to withstand minor scratches. Scratch proof, therefore, stands for more durability than scratch resistant products.