Looking for flooring that will stand out to grace your home in a unique way? Few options can beat cork. This flooring is safe, durable and comfortable. It doesn’t outgas, plus it repels allergens such as dust mites, mold, and others. Ask anyone who has cork flooring installed in their homes and they will praise it for the exceptional soundproofing and heat retention properties. Cork also flexes and doesn’t pressure the feet. What’s more, the flooring is one of the least expensive. Should you install it at your place? Read on to find out more about this unique flooring and if it’s suitable for your home.
This guide will delve into cork flooring to bring you all the information you need to make a wide decision. We will have a look at the benefits and disadvantages of cork, what to look for when buying the floor as well as the best brands to consider. I also included an installation guide at the end of this 5-minute read. Let’s get started.
Soft to Walk On
Cork flooring flexes when pressed making it one of the most comfortable floors you can have in your home. The sponge-like nature of cork prevents pressure on your feet when you’ve been standing in one place for extended hours. The flooring a good option if you experience joint pains or if you have toddlers in your home. It also suits areas where you’re likely to spend a lot of time standing.
Absorbs Sound For a Quiet Home
Are you the type of person who cannot stand the noise of footsteps or children playing around the home? Then cork can come to your rescue. The sponge-like nature of this flooring absorbs vibrations and provides for a peaceful home. Footsteps will be as soft as those on carpet and your soft music won’t be disturbed by the children playing upstairs.
Doesn’t Harbor Allergens
Cork is resistant to allergens and safe if you or a family member is prone to allergies. Mold and mildew won’t grow on it, plus it repels pet dander and dust mites. Being a natural product, it doesn’t outgas toxic chemical known as VOCs. The flooring even has anti-microbial properties for a hygienic home. Health-wise, cork flooring is an excellent option.
Can Last for Long
Although susceptible to dents, cork flooring can withstand normal wear exceptionally. Its resistance to damage is better than even hardwood or carpet. But that’s only possible if you take good care of it, or if you understand what to avoid. Pieces of rock or sand cause damage to the flooring, so be sure to keep those abrasives away. You can easily do so by sweeping the floor daily. Alternatively, you can make it a habit for the people living in your home to walk barefoot when indoors. The soles of shoes can carry sand granules and rock pieces which can scratch the floor’s surface. Use coasters to prevent the flooring from being dented by the heavy furniture or appliances. With proper care, cork will easily outlast the floors you thought were most durable.
Can be Sanded For A New Look
Cork is among the floors that allow you to refinish them to restore their beauty. It’s an advantage since it gives you a chance to sand away scratches and other surface damages for an entirely new surface. You can carry out the sanding and application of stain yourself if you know how to do it. Otherwise, it would be more prudent to employ the services of a professional. A word of caution, though; sanding is only possible if your flooring is solid cork. If it’s veneer or composite, apply wax and a sealer instead. It conceals stains, scratches, and dents.
Easy to Maintain
Cork flooring requires little effort for it to look great for long. Properly sealed, it will resist the damage caused by stains and pet scratches. You only need to remove spills while still fresh, and the floor won’t lose its appeal. A multilayered finish ensures the surface doesn’t scratch easily. In the case you have to vacuum it, use the bare floor setting and nozzle of your vacuuming device. For quick sweeps, use a soft-bristled broom. Avoid the use of harsh cleaners and don’t allow water to stand on its surface for long. Use a mild wood floor cleaning solution and a damp mop, and your cork flooring will not have issues for decades.
Cork flooring is cut from the bark of the cork tree, with no single tree being felled. The bark regenerates after harvesting and the process can be repeated for years. The next harvest takes place after nine years, which is a shorter period than what trees usually take to mature. What’s more, the cork tree can live for up to 200 years and give as many as 15 harvests. The stripping of the bark is usually done with care to prevent damage to the inner part. It makes cork the most environmentally friendly option of all wood floors.
Exceptional Heat Retention
Cork is a heat insulator, and a natural one. Its structure consists of millions of cells that trap air and provide excellent retention and distribution of heat making it warmer than other floors such as tile or wood. Installing it in your home can save you a lot in home heating costs, especially if you live in areas that are mostly cold. During the winter, you will walk barefoot on cork flooring and not feel uncomfortably cold.
Cork Flooring Cons
No matter how good a floor is, it’s bound to have its downsides. Cork is no exception and comes with its fair share of disadvantages. Despite the great attributes, the flooring has some flaws which you need to be aware of before deciding to install it. They include;
Prone to Dents and Scratches
The soft nature of cork is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It means the flooring can easily dent or scratch. Playful pets may leave marks on its surface. Stilettoes, too, will sink into the flooring to leave unsightly dents. Heavy pieces of furniture compress the flooring to produce marks or unevenness. Minimize scratches by applying thick wax on the floor’s surface. Rearranging furniture once in a while can take care of dents. Being a flexible flooring, cork easily regains shape once dented areas are freed of the pressing object.
Requires Frequent Sealing
Cork is uniquely beautiful and versatile. Unfortunately, it requires that you keep sealing it regularly to prevent damage and maintain its look. It can be a costly process that makes the floor an expensive one in the long run. However, you only need to seal it yearly or even after two years, so don’t let it affect your decision to install cork flooring.
Can Appear Faddish
The stylish look of cork could also be its undoing. It can lower your home’s resale value when people view the flooring as being too trendy. I would prefer that you opt for a traditional floor if you plan to put up your house for sale sometime in the future. However, go for this flooring and enjoy its benefits if you don’t have such plans.
Can be Challenging to Install
Installing cork flooring can be stressful if you have to use the glue-down method. The process is not only complicated but also takes a lot of time to complete. There are many requirements to take care of such as proper subfloor preparation, correctly laying the cork tiles, and so on. Unless you hire a professional, be prepared for the agonizing process.
Cork flooring is prone to fading if exposed to direct sunlight. It can be a big problem if the windows of your home allow the Sun’s rays to stream in for hours or if you install the flooring on the patio. Window blinds and curtains could offer a solution, but they need to be quality enough to ensure no sunlight reaches the floor. Using area rugs to cover the floor is not advisable. It would result in the uncovered area fading and give your floor an ugly appearance.
Sensitive to Humidity and Temperature Fluctuations
Temperature differences can cause cork planks to expand or contract. However, the expansion is even and doesn’t pose as great a danger to the flooring as it would for hardwood. For a stable floor, acclimate your cork boards for not less than five days before carrying out the installation. Also, monitor the humidity so it doesn’t go exceed the normal and cause damage.
Easily Absorbs Liquid
You may need to rethink your decision if you plan to install cork in the basement, bathroom or kitchen. The flooring resists moisture poorly and is not suitable for places that are ever damp. Gaps between the planks may leak in water and lead to damage. That may not be a problem if you intend to have the flooring in the living room and bedroom where liquid spills are rare. However, I would advise that you determine how moisture-prone an area is before deciding to installed cork there.
Unless you install cork flooring that’s been factory finished, expect some level of unevenness. That’s because cork doesn’t absorb stain or dry uniformly, giving rise to tone variations on its surface. For better results, only hire a professional with adequate experience to apply the stain. If you can, buy planks that are already finished. That way, you won’t have to grapple with the problem of uneven tone.
Cork Compared to Other Floor Types
I’m sure you’re at a loss to decide whether you want to install cork or not. With the many advantages and disadvantages of the flooring, it’s understandable that you cannot tell how it stands up to other floors. But don’t worry, that’s what we will discuss next: about how cork compares with other flooring types.
Cork vs. Tile
When it comes to holding up to scratches and gouges, tile stands out as the best. Also regarding resistance to moisture and dirt. However, it’s too hard under the feet for comfort. Compared to the insulating cork, tile can be uncomfortably cold to walk on barefoot. Also, it breaks easily if hit by falling objects.
Cork beats tile hands down for the warmth and softness it offers. Walking on it feels comfortable, and its sound absorption is superb for a peaceful home. Being a flexing floor, it won’t break if a heavy object accidentally lands on it. You only need to guard it against scratches and it will last for years.
Cork vs. Vinyl
Vinyl has gained ground in recent times as an inexpensive flooring option with excellent characteristics. It holds up to water and surface damage that most other floors including cork. The best of vinyl boards can resemble any flooring, even the costly hardwood. A major downside of vinyl is the uncertainty concerning its safety. The manufacturing process results in a product that can be harmful to both the environment and humans.
Cork is natural and safe health-wise. It doesn’t outgas toxic chemicals and resists the accumulation or growth of allergens. It’s softer to walk on, and you can stand on it for long hours without issues. Should you prefer cork flooring for its safe nature, be sure not to let the sealants or installation glue ruin the attribute. Ensure both of the products are safe.
Cork vs. Hardwood
Hardwood is considered the king of floors, and it is in many ways. But then, it costs a fortune to install. Besides that, it isn’t immune to damage. It’s prone to scratching easily, and water can ruin it over time.
Cork is less costly, much more sustainable, and feels pretty comfortable under the feet. It also possesses better attributes compared to other soft floor options. It’s one of the few flooring types that can compete with hardwood for durability and other qualities. However, cork appears too stylish and wouldn’t suit a home that has a traditional feel and look.
Cork vs. Carpeting
Both cork and carpet floors offer excellent heat retention and soundproofing. Carpet is less costly and comfortable to walk on. However, it’s much less durable compared to cork. It’s also easily damaged by spills.
Cork, on the other hand, is more durable. Once sealed, you won’t need to worry a lot about water damage. Only don’t let spills or standing water stay on its surface for long. You also can refinish cork flooring to remove damages to the surface, unlike carpeting which would need to be replaced once damaged.
The Costs to Install Cork Flooring
By now, I bet you’re almost sure that you want cork for your home’s covering. Should that be the case, you may want to know more about what it would cost you to install it. So, let’s have a look at the expenses involved, right from purchasing the floor to the installing it.
Cork flooring costs between $2 and $7 for every square foot. Particular prices depend on the quality level, color, size, and length of the warranty. You can always get quality cork for less if you shop for it online. That’s because manufacturers and dealers often offer attractive discounts from time to time on their websites.
You can purchase the flooring as pre-finished or one that you will finish on-site. Solid cork comes mostly unfinished and costs much less. But you will still undergo the expenses of applying the stain and sealant yourself. It would cost you between $70 and $90 to seal a hundred square feet of cork flooring, which isn’t expensive when compared to buying a pre-sealed floor.
Pre-finished cork comes already sealed and with wax applied. The good thing about it is that the finish is quality, being factory-grade. This type of flooring can be either solid cork or veneer. Be sure to confirm at the store before making your purchase.
Installation costs around $2 a square foot. However, this price may vary depending on the rates of the professional you hire. It could also be higher depending on your location. Should you decide to carry out the installation yourself, be sure to budget for the underlayment and the glue needed. Also the materials you will need for the job, from subfloor preparation to the laying of the planks.
How to Shop for Cork Flooring – Factors to consider
Now that you’re informed about the costs involved, it’s now time to head to the store to get your cork flooring. But how do you ensure the product you buy is quality based on your budget and preference? No manufacturer will claim to be producing inferior products, so you need to be cautious when buying your cork flooring. Therefore, look out for the following.
Finished or Unfinished
Finished cork costs more but is more quality. The sealant and stain are factory-grade and undoubtedly better than what you could apply. It’s also bound to be evenly applied. Should you choose a pre-sealed floor, go for one that features an aluminum oxide layer. It’s one of the most durable finish you can get. A polyurethane finish is also superb. Several coats of finish can mean a floor that will last for long, so go for that.
The thickness of cork flooring ranges from 4 to 12mm. For residential installations, consider thickness of between 4 and 8 mm. Higher values than this are better suited for commercial settings where traffic and wear are higher. Remember, the thicker the flooring you buy, the better its soundproofing properties as well as resistance to damage. A thicker material also means you will be able to refinish the flooring in future to restore its look. It can also mean an extended lifespan when the flooring allows you several refinishes over the years. That’s in addition to the thickness offering adequate cushioning for comfort.
Certifications From the Relevant Bodies
Look out for seals that indicate the flooring is passed as safe and quality for installation in homes. There are agencies concerned with certifying floors after quality checks. They include FloorScore, Greenguard Gold and FSC. Check to see that the manufacturer has been passed by these organizations as producing quality flooring.
Don’t forget, too, that the length of warranty matters. It’s a strong indicator of how long the manufacturer expects the floor to last. Companies offering warranties that cover more than 20 years are confident about the quality of their products.
Best Cork Flooring Manufacturers
Now that you know what to look for when buying your flooring, the next task should be finding the right company. How do you do it? You could search online for review about the companies. Online forums can also be sources of information concerning the manufacturers and specific floors. You could also visit company websites to get a glimpse of the products they offer including the prices. To help narrow down things for you and make your search easier, I created a list of top brands made by reputable companies from whom you can buy your cork flooring. They are:
The flooring from this company is attractive in many ways. Apart from the variety of styles, sizes, and shades to choose from, prices are affordable. You can visit their website to find out more about the different prices of their floors as you select the one that appeals to you. You can even request for free samples. Their floors are available as glue-down and floating type, with the thickness ranging from 10 to 12mm.
The cork flooring from this company is both safe and quality. The company sells floors for home and commercial applications and its products are available the world over. It’s a reputable company that’s been among the leaders in floor making for years. For prices and a look at the available flooring styles, you can visit their official website. The company offers free samples, and you can request for some before committing to buy from them.
Flooring from this company comes as glue-down, interlocking boards, or large sheets. You get a total of 30 colors to choose from as well as several styles and patterns. Cork flooring from this company comes at an affordable price. The company has been in existence for decades, having started in 1855 making stoppers. They later ventured into the industry of making cork flooring.
Cork floors from this company are available as either planks or tiles. The flooring comes in 30 different colors and gives you the option for the glue-down or floating style. The company offers a lifetime warranty for the floor that’s installed in home settings. The floorings from this manufacturer carry a GreenGuard seal among other certifications.
The floor comes in 25 different sizes as well as shapes for your choice. It also features as many as 40 different colors. The tiles are pre-finished and already pre-glued, which makes them easy to install. Prices range between $6-$11 for a square foot. You can order for the floor online direct from the manufacturer. The company has been operating since the 90s and sells products that are passed as safe by the concerned agencies.
This company sells glue-down cork tiles and interlocking planks. Their floors come in 30 different colors and patterns. Expect to pay around $4 on average for every square foot of AMCork flooring. For better deals, check out the company’s discounts on their website which may see you purchase quality flooring for as low as $2 a square foot. The planks come backed by a lengthy 25-year warranty.
The company offers three lines of cork flooring with a total of 33 colors to choose from. The floor comes as either floating or glue-down and is available all over the US at distributor stores. The company doesn’t indicate prices on its website, and you can only find out by contacting them directly. WE Cork has been in operation for long, having started as a cork stopper maker before shifting to flooring manufacture.
APC Cork flooring comes in a variety of sizes, styles, colors, and finishes. The company is one of the leading manufacturers who adhere to sustainable cork harvesting and safe production processes. Their customer care desk is also great. You can order for their flooring through the company’s website. Their prices are down to earth. However, they don’t offer free sample; each sample you order for costs you $5.
Installing Your Cork Flooring
You now have your budget taken care of and the company to buy from. Next comes the installation part. Which method do you choose? Let’s look at the different ways to install your cork flooring so you can decide which method is suitable for you.
The floating floor installation is one of the easiest to carry out. You do not need to be an expert in the field, and neither does it take much of your time. The planks come with a locking mechanism that makes them stick together without the need for glue. Should you decide to do the installation yourself, be sure to observe all the rules. Prepare the subfloor by leveling it. Clean it of any dirt or debris. Ensure, too, that it’s dry since moisture can easily ruin your new cork flooring. You may also use a moisture barrier to cover the subfloor before installing your cork planks. Once you’re sure the subfloor is ready to hold the planks, you can proceed to lay them. Do it in rows starting with the side where the wall is the longest. Ensure you leave space for expansion. Use the right cutting tool to size the planks such as a jigsaw. To level the planks after installation, use a rubber mallet. Tap the raised parts gently until they flatten.
For the best of results, avoid installing floating cork flooring in areas that are prone to moisture or water. Floating floors leave spaces that allow water in easily causing the planks to buckle or shift. Also, acclimate your cork flooring for not less than 5 days before installing it. Doing so prevents moisture and humidity problems.
This method is suitable when installing cork in moisture-prone places. Unlike in the floating installation, there won’t be spaces to let in water which makes the flooring to withstand moisture and standing water better. A disadvantage with the method is that it requires expertise and experience to carry out. It’s also time-consuming and requires a lot of keenness. Sadly, this is not the kind of installation that I would advise you to take as a DIY. You risk ending up with a poor floor, plus you could easily void your warranty for using the wrong procedure. It would be safer if you hired a professional. In the case you still decide to do it you’re self, be sure to install the floor with caution. Level and clean the installation surface to remove dirt, debris, and moisture before applying the adhesive. Allow the glue time to cure before waxing or sealing the floor.
Glue-down cork floors may come pre-glued or not. If you can avoid the already glued tiles. They cost more yet the adhesive may not be effective by the time you buy them. The glue may have lost its bonding strength which would not justify the extra cost involved. If you have to, ensure the pre-glued cork you buy is not more than two months old after manufacture.
To Sum Up
Having looked at all that entails cork flooring, you’re now in a position to decide whether to opt for it or not. Should you find it unsuitable for your home, be sure to check out my other flooring guides. You may come across another floor type that interests you. If you’re still determined to install cork, here’s a summary of the benefits you stand to get from it.
Cork is an inexpensive flooring and one that isn’t as much demanding as some other floors can be. Compared to hardwood, it’s almost maintenance-free. You only need to guard it against scratches, spills, and dents for it to last for decades. Being a floor that allows for refinishing, you can bet on it to last a lifetime.
It’s also cushiony and comfortable. This makes it a good choice if you have seniors or children in your home. Even for areas where you spend a lot of time standing and you don’t want to develop pain in your feet. Speaking of comfort, cork flooring can be pretty warm. Apart from saving you on heating costs, it means everybody in your home can walk around barefoot and not complain of cold feet.
For the environmentally conscious, cork is the flooring to go for. No trees are cut to produce it, plus it gives out no obnoxious chemicals such as VOCs. Its manufacture is safe for the environment right from harvesting the bark, factory processing, to when you discard it at the end of its life. Check out this video if you want to find out more about recycling cork:
Granted, it has its downsides such as its “less-stylish” appearance and the fact that it gets scratched easily. However, it’s one of the best floors if you’re looking for comfort, safety from allergies and durability or if you’re in need of a floor that absorbs sound adequately. Use the “Comments form” to share your thoughts on cork flooring.