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May 05, 2005

Cork Floors, Do or Don't?

Jennaircork_2

When it comes to cork flooring, the design jury is still out, kind of. Cork has its benefits and, for some, its drawbacks. So when deciding between cork, bamboo, hardwood, ceramic, marble etc. for your kitchen, how will you know if cork is the right, or the wrong choice for you?

Gorgeous cork floored JennAir kitchen.

The Pros and Cons:

Cork floors are cushions to the feet and great for chefs who stand long hours in the kitchen. They look warm, natural and unique, and they are natural insulators, so the heat you pump into your home stays there. Insulating warmth means insulating noise. If you live in an apartment building with loud downstairs neighbors (or maybe they're complaining about you?) cork will keep sound waves to a minimum. If you're the type of cook who sometimes fumbles, don't worry if you have cork. The surface is very forgiving and will self heal when you wound it with a dropped knife. Cork is a great option if you are considering an eco-friendly, "green" kitchen, as well. It's a renewable resource, harvested every nine years from trees at least 25 years old in a method that does not harm them. Also, although cork is naturally fire-resistant, it will eventually burn but will not release toxins. Cork's inherent anti-microbial properties allow it to resist mold, mildew, even insects like termites.

Sounds pretty good, but why doesn't everyone have cork then?

Although cork may heal itself when a slit is made, that's not the same as having chunks taken out. If you have dogs or cats or a penchant for cooking in stilettos, cork is probably not for you. But the main problem is refinishing. A cork floor with the standard polyurethane coat is said to stand up to "normal wear and tear" for only 5 -10 years. After which it will need a new coat of poly. Installers recommend adding additional poly. to the original install, which will keep your floors looking great longer but also add cost to the job. Refinishing cork is not like refinishing hardwood, where you can refinish almost endlessly to ensure your floors look great from the first year to decades past the fiftieth. Because the pieces are so thin, usually three-sixteenths of an inch, and crumbly, they require unusually gentle sanding between coats.

If you have a cork floor, are a manufacturer or installer of cork, or just have a question or comment about it, please click the Comment link below and have your say.


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Comment on This Article Here! Cork Floors, Do or Don't?:

Does anybody know if I can put several coats of poly on a cork floor and end up with a product that will resist wear and battering by dogs? Is it more cost effective to switch to tile?

Posted by: caroline | May 6, 2005 1:27:47 PM

Hi,
I think that it is important to remember that there are two types of cork flooring available. The floating click flooring type which comes with an acrylic finish and which does not respond well to wet situations. Thsi type oftne has a thin veneer on the top to create a pattern.

And then there is the stick down type of cork tile which should have around 4 coats of polyurethane applied to it, either insitu or it is bought with 3 coats already applied, as in the case of the Cork Concepts tile, with a final coat being applied once the tiles are laid.

This means that the joins are sealed. This type of tile is resistant to moisture and is completely water proof so is ideal in bathrooms, kitchens and laundries as well as cafes, restaruants, lounges etc.

The stick down tiles are high density and come 1/4inch thick. They are available in 3 sizes 12 x 12", 18 x 18" and in a plank 4 x 36".

These tiles come in many different colours and are ideal for a creative flooring solution.

To answer the question: It will depend on which of the above cork floors you have as to whether you can put other coats over the top. Stick down cork tiles, properly finished will resist dog claws. The acrylic finish could be sanded lightly and have another couple of coats applied but it would be wise to check with the supplier as to just which polyurethane to apply.
Cheers,
Pat Hadlee
Cork Supplies Ltd

Posted by: Pat Hadlee | May 22, 2005 9:42:26 PM

Hi,
I think that it is important to remember that there are two types of cork flooring available. The floating click flooring type which comes with an acrylic finish and which does not respond well to wet situations. Thsi type oftne has a thin veneer on the top to create a pattern.

And then there is the stick down type of cork tile which should have around 4 coats of polyurethane applied to it, either insitu or it is bought with 3 coats already applied, as in the case of the Cork Concepts tile, with a final coat being applied once the tiles are laid.

This means that the joins are sealed. This type of tile is resistant to moisture and is completely water proof so is ideal in bathrooms, kitchens and laundries as well as cafes, restaruants, lounges etc.

The stick down tiles are high density and come 1/4inch thick. They are available in 3 sizes 12 x 12", 18 x 18" and in a plank 4 x 36".

These tiles come in many different colours and are ideal for a creative flooring solution.

To answer the question: It will depend on which of the above cork floors you have as to whether you can put other coats over the top. Stick down cork tiles, properly finished will resist dog claws. The acrylic finish could be sanded lightly and have another couple of coats applied but it would be wise to check with the supplier as to just which polyurethane to apply.
Cheers,
Pat Hadlee
Cork Supplies Ltd

Posted by: Pat Hadlee | May 22, 2005 9:43:24 PM

I'm currently remodeling a 1955 house with an original cork floor in the family room. How can I tell what kind of cork (i.e. veneer or solid) was used, what original finish, and how to refinish now? Is "old" cork more likely to be solid straight through and therefore sandable?

Posted by: Meredith | Mar 10, 2006 7:50:53 PM

I have been hired to refinish a cork floor that has paint and a few deep indentions in it. My question is first what do i use to sand it? Second what can i use as a filler for the indentions and what kind of urethane do i use?

Posted by: scott Houchins | Apr 10, 2006 1:52:06 PM

We are restoring a house also built in 1950's with cork flooring. We removed old carpeting to find cork flooring with water stained cork tiles. What is the best and most cost effective way to refinish the floor?

Posted by: Denise | Aug 13, 2006 8:23:22 PM

Can anyone recommend a reputable company that refinishes cork floors. I am refubishing a house built in the 1960's and it has the original cork floor. I am interested in refinishing/sealing it.

Posted by: Margaret | Feb 5, 2007 10:29:43 AM

I have a 1950 ranch with gorgeous cork flooring. The previous owners cared for it well, with regular waxing. However, there are track patterns on the areas most walked on. How can I clean these up? Do I strip the wax from the floor? I don't know if it has a poly coat on it or not. Will I need to sand? Or just use a cleaner for wood floors and then reapply the wax. Tried to find info all over the place but there is a lot of conflicting advice. Any help you can give would be great!

Posted by: Kris | Mar 1, 2007 2:12:07 AM

Kris,

You need to strip the wax from the floor. If it has wax, then there is no poly. After you strip the wax, you can use wax again and polish it, or you can use polyurethane. Any poly used for floors is suitable. Varathane, minwax, etc. all make one for cork floors.

If you need to sand it, then you can use 150 grit. I don't recommend going any more coarse unless you are ready to do some serious sandings.

if you find areas that need to be filled, you can take some cork dust and mix it with some poly and fill the areas. yes, it will be noticable, but any area that has been ripped open will be noticable. unless you can find a match of the floor tile, then you can try to cut out the part that is damaged and replace it with the new tile. obviously, do this before putting down your finish.

Posted by: hj | Mar 4, 2007 9:02:54 PM

I just discovered that the home we bought a year ago, which was built in the 50"s has cork flooring. I have removed the register vents in several rooms and see that the whole house seems to be done in the same cork tile. My question is if I pull up the carpet and find that cork floor is severly worn in areas how hard is it going to be to refinish the heavily worn areas, also once the carpet tackingis pulled up, will the damage form it's nail holes be a huge problem?
Thanks-Brenda Shank, Elkhart Indiana

Posted by: Brenda | May 18, 2007 1:55:15 PM

How well does cork hold up to spills, such as wine, tomato gravy, grape juice, etc.? I am thinking about installing a cork floor in the kitchen which resembles a cream color travertine.

Thanks.

Posted by: lola | Jun 2, 2007 7:14:49 PM

Hi
We are thinking of putting cork flooring in our kitchen. Please advise us which is the best? We noticed there is a cork click from a company called quickstyle.com. We know nothing about cork flooring, so we would really appreciate your expertise on the matter.
Many thanks
Bernice

Posted by: Bernice Artuso | Dec 20, 2007 10:45:58 AM

Hi, We have a cork floor that is about 3 years old and is the floating, click type floor. Portions of the floor have faded in color so that now the flooring that is under the furniture is a much darker color as it was orginally. Does anyone know what type of coating or finish I could put on it to bring it all back to its original color?? Please advise. Thanks

Posted by: cindy | Feb 13, 2008 7:12:43 PM

WE have kitchen cork laminate that has been "heelied" on (shoes w/skate) and has scars and damage. How can we refinish this floor?

Posted by: Ellen | Apr 20, 2008 4:07:09 PM

I am considering cork flooring as a replacement to worn out hardwoods throught a 1922 historic bungalow.

Will cats dig or attempt to sharpen their claws on a cork floor? Also, are there versions of cork flooring this is already impregnated with a finish or coating? An architect colleague mentioned to me that their used to be a company that made a polyvinyl impregnated cork that didn't need the urethane finish.

Posted by: Kevin | Apr 28, 2008 12:41:37 AM

I have a 1961 home with original cork tile throughout. The former owner attempted to refinish it a few years ago, with a waterbased coating which looked pretty good, at first, but it hasnt' really resisted scratching and it is totally intolerant of moisture. After much research, I suspect the floors may have been originally waxed, and although they did sand and prep before this last refinish, perhaps it didn't bond properly, or they didn't apply a sufficient number of coats. Where should I go from this point, if I want to refinish it at this point?

Posted by: Michelle | May 20, 2008 7:37:52 PM

Here's a guide to the pros and cons of different types of flooring:

The Pros and Cons of Flooring Materials

Posted by: jasonp | Aug 3, 2008 1:12:19 PM

can cork flooring be practical in a beach condo?

Posted by: Nancy | Sep 10, 2008 8:37:10 AM

can cork flooring be practical in a beach condo?

Posted by: Nancy | Sep 10, 2008 8:37:38 AM

I have cork flooring in my laundry room and love it! I have 100lb dog that is fed in the room and comes into the house through this room. It still looks great after 4 years. I had a coat put on when installed. Mops up great, the dog brings in a lot of red clay and cleans right up. Love it so much that I’m having it put in my ski condo.

Posted by: Allison | Nov 15, 2008 5:27:29 PM

To the person with the 100 lb dog. What did you put on your cork floor to keep the finish? I have spots on my kitchen cork floor that looks as though the colour has come off, o whatever is used for finishing I have tried wood stainer which holds for awhile, but not permanently.

I'm open for advice
anne hayden

Posted by: anne Hayden | Jun 5, 2009 10:24:03 AM

I love my cork floors because they are an affordable alternative and are super easy to clean. I clean mine with this cleaner a href=" http://www.rejuvenate.tv/cork-floor.php"
> cork floor cleaner

Posted by: nyoka | Jun 24, 2009 3:53:45 PM

I love my cork floors because they are an affordable alternative and are super easy to clean. I clean mine with this cleaner a href=" http://www.rejuvenate.tv/cork-floor.php"
> cork floor cleaner

Posted by: nyoka | Jun 24, 2009 3:55:57 PM

Wicanders Cork makes a great cork with an extremely durable finish. they actually mix ceramic beads into the finish to give it an extra tuff finish.. i got mine from Rug Bug Floor Coverings in Portland oregon. they had the best deal and the most knowledge when it came to green products. and my dogs nails dont seem to leave any marks on this floor. cheers

Posted by: andrew | Oct 17, 2009 1:44:36 PM

how is cork with small children? i have a 3 yr old and i'm afraid how my boy will damage it. he is so rough in his play as small boys are so you can understand my concerns.

Posted by: Andrea | Feb 1, 2010 2:11:12 PM

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