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Tile Council of North America Product Performance Testing Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. John Sanders of the Bishop Materials Laboratory at Clemson University, evaluated the extent that water can leak through plastic based material (PBM)1 floor coverings advertised as 100% waterproof. To make this assessment, product literature was examined to determine which test methods were used to support the manufacturers’2 claims of products being waterproof. Neither test methods or data to justify a 100% waterproof claim were found, despite a thorough review of product literature.3

ASTM, ANSI, ISO, and CEN standards were examined for relevant test methods for waterproofness. Two methods were identified: (1) EN 13553, Resilient Floor Coverings - Polyvinyl Chloride Floor Coverings for Use in Special Wet Areas – Specification, is used to assess water penetration for plastic flooring materials, and (2) ASTM D4068, Standard Specification for Chlorinated Polyethylene Sheeting for Concealed Water-Containment Membrane, is used to assess waterproof membranes commonly used in wet area applications to protect the substrate. To be considered watertight, both methods specify that test specimens show no evidence of water leaking during testing.

All the products tested for this report failed to meet the criteria outlined in EN 13553 and ASTM D4068. Testing results for each product are detailed in section 6.2 for EN 13553, and section 6.3 for ASTM D4068. When the results from EN 13553 are extrapolated to the area of an average bathroom (40 square feet)4, flow rates ranged from 12.1 L/hr. (3.2 Gal/hr.) to 187.0 L/hr. (49.4 Gal/hr.). As detailed in section 3, these volumes of water can do significant damage to a home.

This report shows that the PBM products tested leak under the conditions of the test methods. Believing the products are waterproof as advertised could lead to an inappropriate flooring selection and may result in damage to the subfloor and surrounding areas. The results from this report suggest a dry use-only caution, or warning regarding lack of waterproofness, should be considered for products that perform similarly to those tested in this report