A Complete Guide to Natural Cork Flooring

A Complete Guide to Natural Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is known for its natural wood look, warm feel underfoot. It’s also made with natural materials and is one of the more versatile flooring options, suitable for most areas of a home.

How Cork Flooring is Made

Cork is a renewable resource made from the bark of the cork oak tree. Cork flooring is made with either slices or cork or granulated cork mixed with resin binders. There are two main types: solid-cork tiles are the traditional option and are designed for glue-down application. Cork planks are a laminated product made with a bottom layer of compressed cork, a core of medium-density or high-density fiberboard, and a top decorative layer of cork.

Benefits of Cork Flooring

Cork represents a unique mix of hard and soft flooring. It is a smooth, hygienic, easy-to-clean surface that’s also easy on your feet and ears.

  • Softness: It has a yielding surface beneath the feet that is very comfortable to stand on, even for long periods of time.
  • Quiet: Cork flooring is relatively quiet to walk on, much quieter than hardwood or laminate flooring.
  • Renewable: Cork flooring is primarily made with wood products and is resource-efficient.
  • Resilient: Cork’s ability to bounce back from impressions means that most objects will not leave dents in its surface.
  • Non-slip: Even when wet cork can provide a good level of traction for your feet.

Drawbacks to Cork Flooring

Cork isn’t the toughest flooring material, and it’s vulnerable to moisture damage, so it must be protected from damage and excess moisture.

  • Maintenance: Solid-cork tiles must be sealed with polyurethane or other protective finish after installation and every two to three years thereafter. All types of cork should be cleaned regularly to remove grit and dirt.
  • Stains: If not sealed properly, cork can be stained very easily by dirt, spills, or other contaminants.
  • Moisture: Cork flooring is generally not recommended in very moist environments unless it is properly sealed several times in order to protect the material. This seal will have to be reapplied periodically to prevent moisture from penetrating the surface of the floor.
  • Dents: You will need to place protective mats underneath the legs of particularly heavy furniture to prevent permanent divots from forming.

Cork Flooring Installation Tips

Specific installation methods and steps vary by flooring product, but most installations involve standard procedures.

Tips for Cork Floating Floors:

  • Install a high-quality foam underlayment over the subfloor before laying the finish flooring.
  • Let the flooring planks acclimate for several days in the room where the flooring will be installed.
  • Install a manufacturer-approved moisture barrier over concrete basement floors, followed by a moisture-resistant underlayment below the flooring.

Tips for Glue-Down Cork Tiles:

  • Install cork tiles on a dry, smooth surface that has a maximum variance of plus or minus 1/8 inch.
  • Do not install cork flooring over radiant floor heating systems, as they can cause the tiles to curl or the adhesive to become loose.
  • Apply a protective finish to the surface of the cork to protect the material and seal over the seams between the tiles.