When choosing flooring, most people consider aesthetic, room location, daily use, and how easy it is to clean. However, many don’t weigh which flooring holds up best to water damage and mold growth. With years of experience in water damage and mold restoration, we’re comparing tile, carpet, and hardwood to share which is the right pick for your home.
Which Flooring is More Mold-Prone?
While mold grows best on porous surfaces, it can develop on nearly any surface with the right amount of moisture and light. By a quick glance, carpet and hardwood floors tend to be the most mold-prone because both absorb humidity and excessive amounts of water. However, tile can develop mold if exposed to high levels of humidity without proper ventilation (think, bathrooms, kitchens, and basements). To determine which flooring is best for handling water damage and preventing mold, discover the pros and cons of each below.
Water Damage and Mold on Carpet
Due to the plush nature of carpet flooring, it may seems like the worst pick when dealing with mold or water damage issues. While carpet is the most absorbent, it’s also the easiest to remove and replace. Typically, carpet is held down by tacks placed along the perimeter of a room. When water damage occurs in a carpeted room, you can easily pull the carpet and padding away from the tacks, roll it up, and remove it. Then, you have access to the subfloor and can eliminate remaining moisture.
A large part of how carpet flooring holds up to water damage or mold depends on the pile and type of fabric. Below, we look at the most commons types of carpet to see the benefits and downfalls.
- Nylon carpet is the most popular since it’s durable and resilient in heavy traffic areas. However, this type is known to absorb spills and stain easily, so some variations offer a stain-resistant treatment.
- Olefin is a great pick for outdoor and basement carpet because it’s tougher and shorter than nylon. It’s known for being resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew. The downside is it’s not as comfortable to walk on.
- Acrylic carpet is an inexpensive substitute for wool, but is not commonly available.
- Wool is the only natural fiber used in carpeting, making it an expensive, yet eco-friendly, option. It’s naturally durable and stain-resistant, but may not feel as soft as fabricated carpeting.
Although some of the above options have stain-resistant properties, mold can grow underneath any type of carpet and padding. After water damage on carpet, look for warning signs of mold such as discoloration, musty smells, or a damp surface. Carpet can create the dark, moist environment mold needs to flourish. But by properly ventilating a room, removing wet carpet and padding, and drying the subfloor, you can prevent mold and repair water damage.
Mold and Water Damage on Tile Floor
Tile is incredibly common for rooms experiencing high fluctuations in humidity, such as kitchens, basements, and bathroom floors. Both vinyl and ceramic tile absorb miniscule amounts of moisture, and are easy to clean if mold is discovered. However, water can sneak into tile floor if the seals and grout are damaged. Think of the seals around your bathtub or shower—are there cracks or gaps? Since this flooring is constantly exposed to excessive moisture, it needs to be properly maintained to prevent mold. Below, we look at the two most popular types of tile.
Ceramic vs. Vinyl Tile
Ceramic Tile – Notoriously, ceramic tile is known for it’s durability and water resistance. Once you install ceramic tile, it will likely last for decades with minor touch-ups. While this tile is low-maintenance, it’s incredibly difficult to repair and replace if extensive water damage occurs.
If a room with ceramic tile flooring experiences water damage or flooding, water can seep into the subfloor if there are cracks in the grout. When this occurs, the water needs to be completely removed to prevent mold growth. The best chance of saving the tile and avoiding costly repairs is to call a water extraction expert. Ceramic tile is difficult to remove without damaging the pieces, but with speciality drying equipment, professionals can try to salvage your floor. Luckily, tile is amazingly impervious to water and grout is easy to reseal. Yet, if you don’t maintain or dry tile, mold can form in the cracks of grout.
Vinyl Tile – Increasing in popularity, vinyl tile is easier to replace than ceramic tile. Almost all variations are extremely water-resistant, and will only absorb water if there are gaps in the planks.
Even with the best installations, gaps will occur somewhere throughout a room. But unless there is excessive water damage, vinyl tile flooring is good at stopping water from seeping down to the subfloor. Unfortunately, DIY installations often always have a gap. Unlike ceramic tile, vinyl is simple to remove and restore. Sections can be removed with a sharp cutting tool, but repairing the floor requires you to completely remove and replace the planks.
Water Damage and Mold on Hardwood Floor
Easy to maintain but expensive to replace, hardwood floors are extremely susceptible to water damage. Wood is naturally absorbent and sensitive to humidity fluctuations. Since it expands and contracts to reflect moisture levels, it’s common for gaps to form between hardwood boards. Hardwood floors require humidity range between 35-55%—too little moisture causes boards to dry out, while too much moisture results in swelling. While this is great for ventilating your subfloor, it can be catastrophic when flooding or water damage hits.
Small spills on hardwood floors are easy to clean and dry, but a burst pipe, broken water line, or flood requires professional repair to save the floor. If treated immediately, specialized fans can remove water from the boards and subfloor before buckling occurs. These fans also remove moisture to prevent mold growth. If water damage isn’t handled within 48 hours, you’ll likely experience damage from buckling and the beginning stages of mold growth. The upside of hardwood floors is that it’s relatively easy to pull individual boards up and remove just a small section of the floor.
Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Wood
Solid Hardwood — This flooring is very sensitive to moisture and changes size during winter and summer months. Commonly, this fluctuation leaves gaps between boards and increases the risk of extensive water damage.
Engineered Wood — Engineered wood flooring is more resistant to moisture, since it’s made up of several layers of compressed wood. This means the floor is less likely to absorb moisture because there is a layer of glue and between the hardwood top and the rest of the board. While the planks tend to fit together better (decreasing gaps), engineered wood can still absorb and retain water.
With both types of wood flooring, regular maintenance and wax can increase the strength of your floor. If you have a solid hardwood floor, look to a professional company if you experience water damage to save money and make sure all moisture is removed.
How to Choose Between Carpet, Tile & Hardwood
After debating the advantages and disadvantages of each floor, there are still a number of factors to consider before picking the best for your home. Think about the room, the daily traffic on each floor, the humidity levels, the cost and maintenance, your family, and your location. If flooding, heavy rain, hurricanes, or other natural disasters are common in your area, you may want a floor that’s more resistant to water damage and mold. If you’re located in any of our service areas, give us a call after water damage so we can help save your floor and your peace of mind.
Interested in more home tips? We put together a top home maintenance checklist to help you keep your home happy and your family safe!