Want a ‘watch-me’ floor that’s comfortable on your feet and wallet? How about a cork? It is durable, unique and environmentally friendly. In addition, cork is a natural material, so it doesn’t emit gas like many other types of flooring.
The cork floor is almost as green as the original. Harvesting does not destroy trees, and very little is wasted.
It is good for anyone with allergies as it is mildew and mildew resistant. Cork is also nice on the ear, soft on the feet, and light on the wallet. And, more music to our ears: setup is relatively simple if you can follow the instructions.
Although cork is not as popular as hardwood or vinyl planks, it has high durability. Portuguese and Spanish explorers even used corks on their ships.
Fast forward to the present day, cork has become a staple ingredient in green buildings. And although 70% of the world’s cork supply comes from Portugal, this flooring can be found in homes and buildings all over the world. But is it right for your home?
Let’s find out:
1. Cork floors are hypoallergenic.
If you struggle with allergies or asthma, cork can relieve some of your symptoms. That’s because they are mildew and mildew resistant, plus they contain natural anti-microbial properties. Which means cork repels dirt, hair, and dust mites better than many other types of flooring.
If you are concerned about the air quality in your home, it is best to look for a floor with FloorScore or GreenGuard Gold certification. This label ensures your floors meet stringent environmental and health standards.
2. Cork is easy to care for.
Cork is not a floor that is maintenance free, but with the right precautions, a cork floor will look beautiful for decades. Once your cork floor is tightly sealed, it should be resistant to spills and pet accidents. However, it is still important to remove fluids as soon as possible.
For daily cleaning of cork floors, use a static dust broom or a vacuum cleaner with an empty floor setting. For heavier jobs, try a mild wood floor cleaner and a damp mop. Standing water and oil-based soap will damage your floor surface, so use only water-based cleaners.
You can find cleaning products made specifically for cork online or at your local home improvement store.
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3. Cork is durable.
Even though cork is described as a hard surface, that’s not quite true. Everyday cork handles are much better than carpet or hardwood, but they are prone to dents. Remember to use coasters under large pieces and move the furniture around frequently to prevent the cork from loosening.
Another enemy of cork? Rocks and grains of sand. These tiny particles can scratch the lining of your floor if they are not swept away immediately.
If you don’t have time to sweep every day, put a floor mat at the entrance or adopt a no-shoes policy. This will help reduce any traced dirt and debris.
4. The bottom of the soft cork.
That’s because it contains 40 million air-filled cells per cubic centimeter. These shock-absorbing cells make the floor feel like a sponge. When the cork is compressed, it will flex and return to its original shape.
If you have leg or back pain, the cork can take the pressure off your joints when you walk and can make standing for long periods of time a little easier on your spine.
5. Cork floors withstand heat.
Tired of stepping on cold floors in winter, but don’t like the look of the carpet?
Buy cork floors. Why? Because cork is a natural insulation.
Unlike tiles and other hard surface floors, cork does not allow heat to escape. Its cellular structure resists room temperature and distributes heat evenly. If you live in a cooler climate, cork flooring can save you a lot of energy costs year after year.
6. Cork is a natural silencer.
Acoustics play an important role in the comfort level of your home. Especially in two-story houses, condominiums and apartment buildings. If you have large pets and an active household you understand what I’m talking about.
Sounds and footsteps can sound like cattle herds at a rock concert if your home is not properly isolated.
If you’re struggling with sound problems, a cork may be the solution. Due to its thick spongy composition, the cork absorbs vibrations and footsteps. This traps the sound and lowers the volume to a comfortable and acceptable level.
7. Cork is a continuous floor.
Cork is the bark of cork oak otherwise known as Quercus Suberus. These trees grow along the borders of the Mediterranean Sea and can regenerate after each harvest. In fact, the cork tree can live up to two centuries.
The first harvest is done when the tree is approximately 20 years old. The removal of the bark then occurs every 9 years – up to 15 times in a lifetime. Farmers are very careful not to damage the tree by using an ax specially designed to strip the bark without disturbing the inner layer.
8. Cork floor can be re-polished.
Solid cork can be sanded and recolored. The trick is to use a palm sander and fine grit paper. Once you’re done sanding, you can go ahead and apply a new coat of stain.
If you have a foam or composite finish, don’t sand it. You will break the floor. Instead, use a thick wax and sealer to remove scratches and restore the natural beauty of your cork floors.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing the job yourself, you can hire a professional distiller for less than your flooring replacement costs.
Like any other natural material, cork isn’t perfect. In fact, cork may not be the best choice for your home. In order to weigh your decisions accurately, you need to check the drawbacks:
1. Cork floors are sensitive to changes in temperature.
Like hardwoods & engineered hardwoods, cork reacts to changes in humidity and temperature. Corkboard and tiles will expand, and contract based on the humidity level. Cork wood is slightly more stable than traditional hardwoods because cork expands in all directions compared to traditional hardwoods.
If you are installing cork, be sure to adjust the floor at least 5 days before installation. Also, you should purchase a temperature and humidity monitor to ensure that the humidity levels stay within an acceptable range.
2. Cork floors may wear off.
Direct sunlight may light up your life, but it can also fade your cork. If you have large windows or a south-facing bedroom cork may not be the desired option.
Sure, you can use a rug, but the floor around it will fade. Then you will be stuck with an unsightly line.
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If you can’t wait to use cork, buy high-quality blinds or light-filter blinds for your windows. This will help minimize the amount of sunlight hitting your floors.
3. Cork floors can be dented and scratched.
There is no such thing as scratch resistant wood floors. And although cork is not a traditional hardwood, cork has similar properties. That means dirt, pet nails, and high heels can leave scuff marks, scuffs, and scratches.
Heavy furniture can leave indentations on your floor after some time. The good news is that cork has a flexible composition, so dents and dents will disappear as the pressure is reduced. Most cork manufacturers recommend changing the layout of your room every few months to reduce the chance of compression damage.
You can protect your cork coating with a sealer or wax, but if you are looking for a great pet-friendly flooring option, or have an active household, ceramic or porcelain tile may be a better choice.
4. Cork can absorb liquid.
Cork isn’t as scalding as hardwood or natural stone, but it isn’t waterproof. Even with proper sealing, liquid can enter through the cracks and leave rings or water spots. Floating floors are particularly susceptible to damage to the gaps where the planks mesh together.
Pet accidents and red wine spills can even stain the polyurethane coating or coating. It is important to consider the use of your room before investing in cork flooring (that is, it may not be the right choice for kitchens or basements). If not, you may feel disappointed with your choice of flooring.
5. A stained cork floor may look uneven.
If you choose a solid cork floor, understand that it will not look completely uniform. Cork is a natural material that absorbs stains and dries at different speeds. Even professionals have a hard time applying an even finish.
If the variation in color or tone is making you twitch, choose a product that is already dyed to a factory finish. And if you choose to stain on the spot, hire a professional with years of experience.
6. Cork floors can look trendy.
Some people like the style and versatility of cork flooring, but others don’t like its unique appearance. In fact, it is difficult to find discussions on cork that do not reflect opposing opinions.
If you plan to stay at home for 10 years or more, then embrace your love of cork. However, if you anticipate putting your home on the market soon, it may be best to stick to more traditional floor coverings.
7. You must seal floors regularly.
Sealing your cork floors every few years will keep them from looking dirty and out of date. Unfortunately, costs can add up, and the process is time consuming. If you want a set-it-and-forget-it option, vinyl or laminate are better choices.
If a little annual maintenance doesn’t bother you, you’ll be glad to know that the cork-veneer doesn’t need sanding. Just a few layers of roll-on polyurethane for the cork & lots of patience.
8. Glue installation can be tricky.
Installing your cork in a damp area? You need to use the glue method. And if you tackle the installation of cork flooring yourself, be prepared for headaches.
Simply put, gluing cork tiles is not for the faint of heart. As well as carefully preparing the sub-floors, you must ensure that the tiles are even, the glue is consistent, and the manufacturer’s instructions are followed by the written filling. Otherwise, you could damage your floor or void the warranty.
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Now you may be wondering how cork stands out over other popular floor coverings. Here’s a brief summary of the side-by-side comparisons to help you pick a winner:
Cork Comparison Guide
Cork vs Carpet
Like cork, carpets provide superior soundproofing and insulation. It’s cost-effective and a soft surface, but the rug has a short life. If you have pets or small children, carpeting may be an expensive option. Accidental spill or puddle can damage your new floor in less than 10 seconds.
On the other hand, cork provides better protection against damaging fluids. Once sealed, you can relax a little. And if it happens that your cork falls prey to grape juice, you can always fix it.
Cork vs Tiles
It won’t scratch easily and is resistant to dirt and moisture. But, it’s also cold & potentially uncomfortable. Also, if you drop something heavy, the tiles may break.
On the other hand, the cork can leak – but it won’t break. The spongy cells feel like clouds under your feet. However, you have to watch out for scratches & keep it out of direct sunlight.
Cork vs Hardwood
Hardwood is the gold standard for floor covering. However, it scratches easily, dislikes water, and can be costly.
In comparison, cork is made from tree bark. It is slightly cheaper and holds up better than many softer wood species. Unfortunately, cork can feel a little “trendy” (so can laminate), so if your home is in a traditional style, hardwood may be a better aesthetically pleasing option.
Cork vs Vinyl
Luxury vinyl tiles and planks have become popular over the last few years. Vinyl is an affordable material (see: FloorCritics cheap floor ideas), a durable material that offers superior water and scratch resistance. Plus, the high-quality planks bear a surprising resemblance to hardwoods and come in a variety of textures and patterns.
However, vinyl is not a natural material. There is a cloud of controversy surrounding the manufacturing process and ongoing concern about the effect this material has on air quality.
On the other side of the spectrum: cork. Cork does not contain VOCs or release toxic chemicals into the air. It is allergy friendly, hypoallergenic, and resistant to mold and mildew. If you choose cork based on its health benefits, be sure to double-check the label for adhesive or sealant. This product may contain chemical irritants.
The price of a cork often depends on several factors, including quality level & warranty period. The color and size also contribute to the price tag. Average cork tiles range from $ 2-7 per square foot. However, you can usually find them online for less.
Adhesive cork tiles are available in both natural and stained varieties. The sealed cork has a factory-grade wax or polyurethane finish and stains. Remember to check with your sales staff to verify if the floor is made of solid cork or cork veneer.
Solid cork tends to come in as an unfinished product. It is cheaper but requires sealing after installation. If you install the floors yourself, the gallon of sealing will cover an area of 100 square feet and will cost about $ 80.
If you opt for floating flooring, corkboard will set you up to pay around $ 4-8 per square foot, again depending on price and quality.
If a professional installs your cork, expect to pay $ 1-2 per square foot. And if you do the installation yourself, don’t forget to include the price of the adhesive, undercoat and preparation material. These extras may seem small at first, but the costs add up over time.
Still Team Cork? Smart decision. Time to discuss quality. Let’s have a look:
Finding High Quality Corks
Shopping for cork flooring can be a little tricky. Most manufacturers will not post a sign advertising their product as “cheap, low quality cork”. If you’re lucky, a helpful salesperson might point out better options, but often their intentions may be driven by commission or personal preference.
The internet may not be of much help either. Sales of cork contribute less than 1% of the entire wood flooring market. That is, for every 100 floors sold, only 1 customer buys the cork. Therefore, reviews are few and far between.
However, there are a few guidelines that can help you make a well-informed purchase.
Cork flooring is an environmentally friendly building product, therefore, cork flooring must always have regulatory and quality standards. Products with certifications such as the Greenguard Gold seal, FloorScore or FSC have been independently tested for compliance with quality and safety guidelines.
Typically, cork floors should be at least 4-12mm thick, or the equivalent of 2-6 nickel stacks. Thicker tiles are commonly found in commercial applications because they resist better to wear, and have superior soundproofing properties.
Most residential grade tiles tend to fall in the 4-8mm range. If you plan on perfecting your cork, choose thicker tiles or planks. Not only will you have more materials to work with, but you’ll also have a more comfortable and durable floor.
The next factor you want to consider is the end result. If you buy natural cork, you’ll add the finish in place. However if you go for a sealed product, you’ll want a cork with an aluminum oxide finish or a layered polyurethane finish. The multi-layered hardening layer acts as a protection and protects your cork from everyday dangers.
Lastly, make sure your seller presents the warranty documents before you buy. The best manufacturers offer warranties ranging from 20 years and up. Please note that most warranties will not cover damage due to improper installation or excessive wear.
Want to know which manufacturer has the highest quality cork? It depends. There are tons of reputable companies out there, and some of the ones that are not very trustworthy. Your best bet is to find a floor you like first, then research the company.
Also, check the company’s website for a better understanding of their service and quality standards.
The following manufacturers have an excellent reputation among consumers and professional designers:
8 Popular Cork Brands
The company sells tiles in 25 shapes and sizes, and more than 40 interchangeable colors. You can even order custom sized tiles. And if you are an environmentally conscious consumer, you will be pleased to know that Globus tiles are VOC free, LEED certified and harvested responsibly.
Globus Cork tile prices range from $ 6-11 per square foot depending on size, color and finish.
US Cork Floor
The owners of WE Cork were part of the original Wicander flooring-making family, but the two companies were completely separate.
WE Cork has three rows of tiles and planks of all sizes and styles. You can choose between 33 floating and glue product colors to create unique designs and eye-catching patterns.
WE Cork sells flooring through distributors and showrooms throughout the United States. Product prices are not displayed on their website, but anyone interested in purchasing WE Cork products should use their on-site dealer locator or contact the company by telephone.
(Note: For those interested in Wicanders flooring rather than WE Cork, here are some of their cork flooring options at Wayfair)
CorksRibas, a Portuguese company, is a leading manufacturer of cork flooring selling its products through distributors and retailers around the world.
CorkRibas flooring is suitable for both business and residential applications. Float boards come in several sizes and have a click lock mechanism for easy installation. The company describes flooring products as functional, fashionable and environmentally friendly.
You can find more information on prices and styles on the company’s website. Better yet – make a request for a free floor sample.
iCork Floor is the distribution division of Cancork floors in the United States. The company sells direct to consumers and offers ‘rock bottom’ prices on a large selection of floating and adhesive tiles and cork boards.
You can browse the internet to browse their collections and order free samples. As a bonus, iCork does not tax sales on online orders outside of Washington state.
The thickness of the tiles ranges from 4-8mm, and the planks vary from 10-12mm. iCork has floor colors and patterns that mimic the appearance of natural stone, traditional cork, and even weathered wood. The company also sells coordinating wall tiles, undercoats, and adhesives.
APC Cork is one of the largest suppliers of cork flooring in North America. As one of the pioneers in the sustainable cork movement, APC Cork is working harder to ensure its products are harvested responsibly and only from law-abiding plantations.
APC Cork Tiles come in several types of glue-down and floating styles. Samples are available on the company’s website for $ 5 per sample.
Gabus Jelinek Group
Jelinek Cork Group is the oldest supplier of cork flooring in the world. Founded in 1855 in the Bohemian province, the company has grown from a bottle stop supplier to a trusted source for flooring, fabrics and cork furniture.
Jelinek corks are available in mosaic tiles with glue, large format sheets and interlocking boards.
And, although most floors only have a 10-year structural warranty, the company claims that many Jelinek floors installed in the 1950s are still as beautiful and functional as they were 60 years ago.
The company sells 12 × 12 self-adhesive cork floor tiles and 12 × 36 tongue & groove locking boards. AmCork is available in 30 colors and patterns.
Cork board comes standard with the coating inside and a 25 year warranty. This eco-friendly company is pricing its planks for sale at an average of $ 4.75 per square foot, with tiles approaching the $ 4.50 range.
Tip: If you are looking for a really cheap deal, see the sales section on the Am website. You can find deals for first-quality cork flooring starting at $ 2-3 per square foot. The company also offers online discounts, so you might consider signing up for their mailing list for exclusive savings.
USFloors is the only supplier of cork and bamboo with a factory located in the United States. All milling and finishing work is carried out at their factory in Dalton, Georgia. Apart from the US Floors Cork brand, the company also markets products under several well-known labels, including Natural Cork and Navarre.
Natural Cork Lines are available in plank and tile formats. In addition to 30 color choices, consumers can also choose between bottom glue and floating installation.
All US Floor cork products are GreenGuard and UV Cured certified. The company guarantees its floors are 100% Suber cork, and provides a great lifetime guarantee for all residential applications.
Now that we have discussed the selection criteria, are you ready to choose an installation method? Floating, or glue? Which option should you choose?
Let’s go into the details:
You shouldn’t install floating floors in a bathroom or any area where there is a high probability of splashing. The reason: liquid can seep through the gaps between the planks and cause your floors to warp & shift. In addition, if you choose to install a floating floor in your kitchen, keep in mind that it must come after the cupboards. You can run it under foot kicks for a smooth look.
Floating floors are ideal for underground installations, and projects that are easy to do yourself. Once your flooring is properly adjusted, it should only take a day or two to install the floor. The click-lock corkboard has attached a locking mechanism that fits snugly in the joints like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
First, make sure your subfloor is level and level, then run a vacuum cleaner over the area to vacuum up any dirt or grime. If you use a moisture barrier, it must come down before you start installing the plank. Cut all door frames and moldings to make sure they fit.
Start with the longest wall and work in rows. Don’t forget to leave room for expansion. If you need to cut any boards, you can use a jigsaw or a good tool. One final tip, if you have trouble with the locking mechanism, use a rubber hammer or tapping block to even the seams.
If you are installing the cork in an area with high humidity, then glued tiles are the best choice. Even so, the installation is a bit complicated. Since the chances of making a mistake are quite high, the process is best left to a professional.
Any misstep can lead to undesired results or a violation of the product warranty. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and follow them to the letter.
Make sure you start with a clean, even surface before you roll the glue. It’s also a good idea to sort through the boxes ahead of time and decide on a layout before you start. After you lay the tiles, check the label for drying time and let the adhesive dry before applying the sealer or walking on the floor.
If you have any doubts about installing self-adhesive tiles as a DIY, do yourself a favor and spend the extra cash on professionals. It’s worth the added peace of mind.
As a side note, there are cork tiles available with an adhesive backing. Pre-glued tiles are expensive and usually not worth the extra cost. Most installers will not recommend this option because pre-glued tiles have a shelf life of 3-6 months. This means that the glue loses its adhesion over time.
OK, so we’ve covered the installation options, now it’s up to you to finish the story. Fair warning, this is one of your own final choice types.
If you’re still not sold on cork, check out our other flooring guides. However, if you believe the cork is the cover for you, take a final look at the facts:
Cork, in a nutshell
Cork is a great choice for anyone who wants a floor covering that is unique and functional. It is slightly less maintenance than hardwood, lasts for decades and won’t empty your bank account.
If you are looking for eco friendly building material, cork is eco friendly and sustainable. It’s great for allergy sufferers, people with joint pain, and those looking to lower their energy bills.
Cork is not as durable as vinyl, but it is a natural product. This can be fixed several times and can even add to the resale value of your home. However, you’ll have to seal it every few years, and that can be expensive and time consuming.
If you are looking for maintenance free flooring, you may want to consider tile or laminate. However, if you want to grease your elbows, a cork floor can be a great investment for the quality and comfort of your space.