Choosing Cork Flooring for Your Home

Beth Asaff
Cork tiles

Cork is a natural and environmentally friendly flooring option that works well in many homes. Made from the bark of the cork tree, cork floors are moisture resistant, fire resistant and come in a wide range of colors and styles suitable for any room of the home.

Types of Cork Flooring

While the styles that cork flooring is available in are plentiful, the types are generally limited to two forms: glue down tiles and floating planks.

Cork Tiles

Cork tiles are a soft, springy floor covering that can be installed over any level substrate. They come in a wide range of sizes from 6-inch squares up to 36-inch rectangles. The tiles are installed butt-edged against one another, so there is no need for grout. Because cork is naturally bacterial resistant, as well as moisture and fire resistant due to the Suberin they naturally contain, cork is a great choice for kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and playrooms.

Floating Cork Planks

Cork is also available as a floating floor. Like other floating floors, the cork is mounted onto planks that lock together on the edges. This enables the cork to be installed over an existing floor, such as tile, linoleum or vinyl. Cork floating floors have all the same benefits of a cork tile floor, but with an easier, glueless installation.

Colors and Styles of Cork Flooring

While cork is naturally a light tan to brown color, cork tiles and floating floors are available in a much wider selection of colors and styles. Colors of cork floors range from white to dark brown, and include bright and bold colors like hunter green, teal and orange.

Cork Patterns

The patterning of the cork on the surface of the tile typically comes in three varieties, although variations of these are available as well:

  • Nugget: A large-grained pattern with more surface texture and color variation.
  • Striata: A more subtle pattern that resembles the grain of wood or a crosscut marble.
  • Traditional: A tight pattern that closely resembles the cork found in a wine bottle.

Each of these patterns will absorb color differently; the larger the pattern, the more play of light and dark across its surface.

Cork floors can be made up of multiple colors, textures and sizes pieced together to form any tile pattern, or even a random mix.

The Pros and Cons of Cork Flooring

Like all flooring options, cork has its pros and cons. Review them to see if cork is suitable for your home.

Cork Flooring Pros

  • Cork is environmentally friendly. Only the bark is harvested from the trees, once every nine years. Some cork floors are also made of leftover cork from wine bottles, making it a recycled product as well.
  • Cork feels warm and soft underfoot, which can be beneficial for those who spend a lot of time on their feet.
  • A cork floor is extremely durable. It doesn't scratch or stain the way some tile or wood floors can.
  • Cork floors provide thermal and sound insulation to any room they are installed in. They can help to soundproof a room, while lowering the heating and cooling costs.
  • Cork is bacterial resistant, fire resistant and water resistant.

Cork Flooring Cons

  • While cork is durable, it does require a coat of varnish to help protect it. This varnish needs to be applied periodically.
  • Cork can be damaged by highly acidic substances and some cleaners. Only PH neutral cleaners are recommended for cork floors.
  • Dark colors may fade over time, and some types of varnish may affect the color of the cork.
  • Cork is resilient, so anything heavy left on it for too long will leave an impression in the floor.
  • While cork is moisture resistant, it is not water-proof. Extremely wet areas or areas of standing water may damage the cork.

Purchasing Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is fairly reasonably priced, ranging from $5 to $9 a square foot, which is comparable to many porcelain, stone and exotic wood floors. Floating floors can be easily installed by most do-it-yourself homeowners, but the glue-down tiles should be handled by an experienced installer. Contact your cork manufacturer or distributor for a recommendation on a cork flooring installer near you. Cork is sold at many flooring outlets, and you can find cork flooring at any of these distributors:

  • Globus Cork: They have more than 40 colors of cork, as well as numerous sizes, shapes and patterns to choose from.
  • AmCork: AmCork carries several kinds of floating and parquet cork floors in a wide range of colors and styles.
  • Duro-Design: Duro-Design carries more than 20 colors of cork in six different patterns and styles.

Cork Flooring Maintenance

Cork is a fairly easy material to maintain. To keep it looking new, follow these steps:

  1. Sweep or vacuum the cork on a regular basis.
  2. Damp mop the surface with a PH neutral cleanser as needed.
  3. Varnish on a yearly basis with a cork sealer to help protect its color and prevent staining.

Get a Truly Eco-Friendly Floor

With the many color and style options to choose from, cork floors are one of the most desirable eco-friendly flooring options available today. Invest in one of these durable and resilient floors and see what benefits cork brings to your home.

Choosing Cork Flooring for Your Home