About Cork Flooring

Cork flooring has become an increasingly popular choice for homes and businesses in recent years. Made from the bark of cork oak trees, cork is a sustainable, durable, and attractive flooring option with some unique properties that set it apart from other types of flooring.

What is Cork Flooring?

Cork flooring is made from the thick bark of cork oak trees, which are most abundant in the Mediterranean region, especially Portugal. The bark is harvested every 9-12 years without harming the tree, making cork a renewable and eco-friendly resource.

The bark is boiled to make it pliable and then compressed and dried into sheets to make cork floor tiles and planks. Cork has a naturally closed cellular structure which makes it lightweight yet sturdy and supportive underfoot. It also contains suberin, a waxy substance that makes the material highly water-resistant.

Cork flooring comes in various forms:

  • Cork tiles – Usually 12″ x 12″ or 24″ x 24″ square tiles made of solid cork pieces. Easy for DIY installation.
  • Cork planks – Long planks of solid cork made to resemble hardwood floors. Floating click-lock planks are common.
  • Cork underlayment – Thin cork sheets used underneath other flooring materials as a cushiony sub-floor. Absorbs sound.
  • Adhesive-backed cork – Self-adhesive cork tiles and sheets that can stick directly on top of existing floors. Easy to install.

Cork flooring provides warmth, comfort, and acoustic and thermal insulation in any room. Let’s look at the key benefits and considerations of this unique flooring material.

Benefits of Cork Flooring

There are many reasons why cork floors make an excellent choice for both homes and commercial spaces:

Natural and Sustainable

Cork oak trees are not cut down for cork harvesting – only the outer bark is stripped off every decade or so without harming the tree. The trees live for over 200 years and continue to absorb CO2 throughout their lifetime. This makes cork a very sustainable flooring choice.

Cork is also biodegradable and recyclable. Old cork floors can be ground up and recycled into new cork products. And cork is a natural material free from toxins often found in carpets and synthetic flooring.

Comfortable and Supportive Underfoot

Cork’s closed-cell structure contains millions of tiny air pockets that make it very lightweight, flexible, and shock absorbent. This gives it a comfortable, cushiony feel underfoot. Cork floors are gentle on feet and joints and reduce fatigue from standing or walking for long periods.

The springy nature of cork also makes it warm and quieter to walk on than hard surfaces.

Excellent Acoustics

With its sound-dampening cellular structure, cork effectively absorbs echo, ambient noise, and impacts from walking. This helps minimize sound transmission between rooms, making it ideal for multi-level homes. Cork flooring provides a quieter indoor environment.

Thermal Insulation

Cork is an excellent thermal insulator, keeping interiors warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Its air-filled cells prevent heat loss through the floor. This quality helps regulate indoor temperatures and reduces energy costs for heating and cooling.


Suberin, the waxy substance in cork bark, makes it naturally moisture resistant. Cork flooring can withstand spills, moisture from high humidity, and routine cleaning without warping or degrading. Properly sealed cork is not damaged by water.

Durable and Long-Lasting

Cork floors can last 20-30 years or longer with proper care. The material is resistant to mold, mildew, rot, and pests. Cork retains its shape over time and resists indentations from furniture. High-quality cork flooring performs well in high-traffic areas.

Attractive Appearance

Cork comes in a variety of natural tones ranging from light beige to deep brown. Grain patterns and shades add visual interest. Cork can be finished with stains and urethanes for different looks.

Cork floors complement both rustic and contemporary decor. Available in tiles and planks, they provide design flexibility for beautiful floors.

Considerations for Cork Flooring

Despite its many advantages, there are a few things to keep in mind with cork floors:


Cork flooring has an average installed cost of $3-7 per square foot. This is moderately priced, similar to engineered hardwood. Solid oak or exotic hardwoods tend to be more expensive than cork.

Like other floors, the final cost depends on the product grade, thickness, and installation. While cork is not the cheapest option, it provides good value given its durability and performance.

Dents and Scratches

While durable, cork can get scratched or indented from heavy furniture or objects. Use floor protectors under furniture legs. Also consider the thickness – thicker cork resists damage better but comes at a higher cost.

Cork floors should be professionally sanded and refinished periodically to maintain their appearance in heavy traffic areas. Avoid excessive moisture and harsh cleaners that can damage finish.

Not Good With Water

Although naturally water-resistant, excessive water can damage cork over time. Flooding or leaks should be immediately cleaned to avoid moisture seeping into the cores of planks. Using rugs near kitchen sinks and regularly sealing the floors helps protect cork.

Cork bathroom flooring should be treated with extra waterproof coatings. Avoid cork in damp basements or outdoor areas prone to standing water.

Difficult Repairs

While cork floors can last decades, damaged or worn areas can be tricky to spot repair. Refinishing the entire floor may be required instead of patching small sections. Consider how easy it will be to make future repairs before choosing cork.

Limited Style Options

Cork flooring comes in a narrower range of colors and patterns compared to ceramic tile, hardwood, laminate, or luxury vinyl floors. There are fewer options mimicking stone and exotic wood looks. But cork offers a versatile, natural style.

Cork Flooring Pros and Cons

| Pros | Cons |
|Sustainable and eco-friendly|Higher upfront cost than some flooring|
|Comfortable, supportive cushioning|Susceptible to scratches and dents|
|Excellent acoustic insulation|Not ideal for damp areas like basements|
|Thermal insulation regulates temperature |Limited color/style options compared to other floors|
|Naturally water-resistant|Difficult for small spot repairs|
|Durable and long-lasting|Needs periodic sanding and refinishing|
|Attractive natural visuals||

Cost to Install Cork Flooring

On average, expect to pay $3-7 per square foot for cork flooring installed. This includes the material and professional installation. Labor typically costs $2-4 per square foot depending on complexity.

Here are some typical installed cork flooring costs:

  • Solid cork tiles: $3-5 per sq. ft.
  • Cork click-lock planks: $4-7 per sq. ft.
  • Cork underlayment: $1-2 per sq. ft.

Cork is more affordable than hardwood ($6-12 per sq. ft. installed) and less expensive than natural stone, ceramic tile, or luxury vinyl. Cork provides value given its durability and performance.

The final installed cost depends on:

  • Product type – Tiles are cheaper than planks. Floating planks cost more than glue-down.
  • Thickness – Thinner options like underlayment save money over thicker cork planks.
  • Quality grade – Higher-density commercial grades are pricier than low-density residential cork.
  • Adhesives/finishes – Water-based polyurethane is the most common finish. Added coatings increase cost.
  • Installation – DIY vs. hiring a professional installer. Simple rooms cost less than intricate tile layouts.
  • Subfloor prep – Existing floors may need minor repairs or full replacement, affecting project costs.

Always get contractor quotes for your specific project requirements. The condition of your subfloor, chosen materials and layout, and labor rates in your area determine cork flooring installation costs.

Should You Choose Cork Flooring?

Cork flooring makes an excellent choice for certain homes and situations:


  • Eco-friendly, sustainable material
  • Comfortable, supportive feel underfoot
  • Noise-reducing acoustic qualities
  • Thermal insulating properties
  • Naturally moisture-resistant
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Attractive appearance

Best for:

  • Bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms
  • Multi-level homes to reduce noise transfer
  • Bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens with extra sealants
  • Rooms with high foot traffic
  • People wanting comfortable supportive floors
  • Those seeking an eco-friendly flooring option
  • Homes in varying climates


  • Higher upfront cost than some budget options
  • Not invincible to dents, scratches
  • Requires professional refinishing every 5-10 years
  • Avoid in damp basements or flood-prone spaces
  • Limited color and style options exist

Cork flooring provides a durable, comfortable, and eye-catching flooring solution for a variety of residential and commercial spaces. With proper care and maintenance, quality cork floors can last for decades. Speak to flooring specialists to decide if cork is the right choice for your next flooring project.

Cork Flooring Installation

Installing cork flooring takes careful preparation and precision. Proper installation ensures your cork floors last for years while looking beautiful.

Here are general guidelines on how to install different types of cork flooring:

Cork Tiles

Subfloor prep:

  • Clean floor of debris/dust. Level any uneven spots with filler.
  • Test moisture levels – should be less than 3% for concrete or 12% for plywood.
  • Coat plywood subfloors with polyurethane adhesive to prevent moisture damage.


  • Use a chalk line to mark install pattern on floor. Start from center of room outwards.
  • Apply thin-set mortar adhesive using a notched trowel held at a 45° angle.
  • Press tiles firmly into adhesive, spacing 1/16” – 1/8” apart. Use spacers for consistent gaps.
  • Cut perimeter and accent tiles to fit with tile cutter. Use contact cement for these pieces.
  • Roll entire floor with 100 lb. roller after 24 hours.
  • Wait 72 hours for adhesive to fully cure before grouting seams.
  • Apply grout sealer once dry. Use cork-compatible cleaners.

Cork Planks

Subfloor prep:

  • Subfloor must be flat within 3/16” over 10 feet. Grind down high spots.
  • Concrete should have vapor barrier. Plywood must be structurally sound.
  • Test moisture on concrete and ensure humidity is controlled.


  • Sweep and vacuum floor. Roll out cork underlayment if using.
  • Cork planks are floating – do not adhere directly to subfloor.
  • Start in corner and connect planks together with tongue-and-groove or click-lock joints.
  • Use spacers at walls for expansion gap of 1/4”. Cut final planks to fit with jigsaw.
  • Install wall moldings to cover expansion spaces.
  • Avoid rolling or moving heavy furniture directly on floors.

Cork Underlayment

  • Sweep and clean floor. Apply moisture barrier on concrete.
  • Roll out cork underlayment over entire floor. Cut to fit room with utility knife.
  • Trim perimeter edges with 1/4” spacing from walls.
  • Apply flooring adhesive and lay new floor on top per its instructions.
  • Trim excess cork after installing final floor layer.

Always follow the manufacturer’s detailed instructions for proper subfloor prep and installation steps.

Maintaining Cork Floors

With proper care, quality cork flooring can last for decades. Here are some tips for keeping your cork floors looking beautiful:

  • Vacuum frequently – Regular vacuuming keeps dirt and grit from scratching the finish. Use soft brush head on canister vacuums.
  • Protect surface – Use felt pads under furniture legs. Do not drag furniture across floors. Avoid high heels, which can dent cork.
  • Control humidity – Keep indoor humidity 35-55% year-round. Excess moisture damages adhesive and seams. Use dehumidifier if needed.
  • Clean spills quickly – Immediately wipe up liquid spills to avoid stains and moisture damage. Spot clean with damp cork-compatible cleaner.
  • Reseal as needed – Reapply polyurethane sealants every 2-5 years in high-traffic areas depending on wear.
  • Refresh finish – Lightly sand and refinish cork floors every 5-10 years to restore luster. Screen floors first before full sanding.
  • Avoid excess moisture – Use rugs near kitchen and bathroom sinks. Check for wet mopping. Don’t use steam cleaners on cork.

Proper maintenance preserves the investment of your cork flooring. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific products installed in your home or business.

Cork Flooring FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cork floors:

How long does cork flooring last?

With proper care and maintenance, cork can last 20-30 years or longer. Commercial-grade cork withstands heavy use. The expected lifespan depends on quality, thickness, traffic, and refinishing schedule.

Does cork flooring scratch easily?

Cork is susceptible to scratches and dents from heavy furniture or sharp objects dragged across it. However, minor scratches can be sanded out when refinishing. Using felt floor protectors helps prevent scratching.

Can you install cork flooring over concrete?

Yes, cork flooring can be installed over concrete. Ensure the concrete is flat, clean, and dry first. Always test moisture levels, which should be under 3% for solid cork flooring. A vapor barrier is recommended.

Can you install cork flooring in bathrooms?

Cork can be used in bathrooms with proper precautions. Use a waterproofing sealer to protect against moisture. Avoid direct water contact from tubs/showers. Provide good ventilation. For heavy use bathrooms, porcelain tile may be a better option.

Should cork flooring be sealed?

Yes, cork flooring comes pre-finished but should be periodically resealed over time. Factory finishes usually involve multiple coats of polyurethane. Reapply sealants every 2-5 years depending on traffic and wear. This protects the floors.

Does cork flooring add value to homes?

Yes, high-quality cork floors can increase resale value like other flooring upgrades. Their positive attributes like durability, comfort, acoustic and thermal insulation make cork a desirable flooring that adds value for many homebuyers.

Is cork flooring eco-friendly?

Absolutely. Cork harvesting does not harm trees, which continue absorbing CO2 for over 200 years. Production uses sustainable practices. Cork is naturally biodegradable and recyclable. This makes cork floors an environmentally responsible choice.


With its natural beauty, acoustic benefits, comfortable cushioning, thermal properties, and eco-friendly pedigree, cork flooring offers many advantages over traditional hard surface flooring materials. Sourced from renewable cork oak trees, cork is durable, water-resistant, affordable, and attractive in homes or businesses.

Install cork properly, care for it diligently, and your floors can last for decades. There are many quality cork flooring brands and styles to choose from. Cork tiles, planks, and underlayment provide design flexibility. While no flooring is indestructible, minor wear and scratches on cork floors can be repaired by sanding and refinishing over time.

Talk to flooring specialists about how cork can transform the rooms in your home or workpace. With appropriate expectations and care, installing cork floors can be a wise, sustainable investment that enhances comfort and aesthetics for years to come.