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May 05, 2005

Cork Floors, Do or Don't?


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?:

Thanks for the post. Love your kitchen design. The kitchen is often the heart of the home and a place where friends and family seem to gravitate.

Deirdre G

Posted by: condo Philippines | Feb 4, 2010 2:26:57 AM

@ Andrea

I wouldn't worry about your 3 year old damaging it. Remember, cork is highly durable and the cellular structure of cork allows it to be compressed up to 40% without damage. So, toys hitting the floor, running on it, jumping, etc won't effect the floor.

Start going green in your home today! Learn more about cork flooring, a eco-friendly and natural renewable wood flooring solution. Cork flooring is the future of wood flooring in green homes.

Posted by: Brighton Early | Apr 5, 2010 7:29:08 PM

Andrea, cork flooring is very durable and can handle the abuse from a 3 year old. The cellular structure of cork is the shape of a honey comb which contains gas inside these combs. This gives cork the ability to compress by 40% and return to it's normal shape without damage. Cork also resists water, mold and mildew; so food and drink spillage won't be a problem either.

Posted by: Cork Flooring | Apr 13, 2010 9:56:36 AM

Can you put cork on infloor heated floors.

Posted by: merna | Apr 30, 2010 8:06:23 PM

I am considering cork for my kitchen, but am wondering what will happen to it the first time I have to move the refrigerator out. Last time I moved it it left marks on linoleum, I worry that it would scar the cork. Anyone with experience out there? Thanks.

Posted by: Jane | May 16, 2010 1:15:56 PM

We have a lake front cabin that is not heated. Would cork flooring be a good choice, taking into consideration that we are dealing with kids, dogs, sand and water, plus no heat in Canadian winters? Maybe the stick down cork tiles would work?

Posted by: Karen Olson | Jun 3, 2010 5:12:05 PM

I have installed a glue down cork floor in my kitchen. The tiles are factory finished. After installation some of the edges rose slightly as they were not beveled.

I sanded the edges down and they leveled out very nicely.

The only problem is that after I screened the floor and applied poly, the sanded edges darkened substantially over the factory finishes areas of the floor.

I want to just sand the whole floor now, removing the factory finish, then reapply the poly to get a more even color. The floor is only 3/16" thick.

Do you have any advice or tips?


Posted by: Warren | Jun 10, 2010 9:29:08 AM

This is an excellent article on cork flooring.

Posted by: Stephen | Aug 24, 2010 6:29:37 PM

I need to replace the floor in my 125 yr old farmhouse which is partially built on ledge and has a very damp crawlspace. The space is about 16" deep and water sometimes puddles on its dirt floor. I now have carpet over plywood but it gets damp so I would like to get some kind of wood "look" I've been advised that laminate or hardwood will not work here. Will Cork be a good alternative. There is no ventilation in the space. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Deborah | Sep 24, 2010 6:17:41 PM

I want to refinish a cork floor that I have sanded but I need to fill holes and stain the floor then apply a finish. Please advise how to fill holes ( I saved some sawdust) and what type stain and finish to use. Thanks!

Posted by: Prof. Dodge | Oct 25, 2010 5:47:28 PM

Great !!

Thanks for giving all the information about Floor Sanding services.

Posted by: Floor Sanding London | Nov 4, 2010 5:39:33 AM

Thanks for very useful informaion !!

Posted by: Handyman Services | Nov 8, 2010 12:39:58 AM

Can you show some pictures of the cork flooring and hardwood flooring?

Posted by: Laminate floor | Nov 8, 2010 10:01:33 AM

I have a cork floor that was installed about 8 years ago. It's not the floating floor type, it's the thin 1/4 " thick tiles. It held up great until we got a new puppy about a year ago. It is now showing its age and the wear and tear of our new dog. How do I go about refinishing the floor? Can you recommend a competent refinisher in the Ottawa area.

Posted by: Lori | Nov 10, 2010 11:44:54 AM

Can I get the (1) Brand name and the (2) color of the cork flooring that is illustrated in the JennAIR kitchen? It almost looks like a dark hardwood floor but it is not. It is beautiful.

Posted by: Karla Barnette | Nov 22, 2010 3:02:19 PM

Cork is considered a renewable and sustainable natural resource and it is environmentally friendly. This kind of floor can be a little expensive but worth the cost when used in the kitchen floors.

Posted by: Double Glazing | Jan 29, 2011 1:58:19 AM

Using sustainable wood flooring is the way to move forward for sure. With so many of our natural habitats and trees being cut down, it contributes to the erosion of our topsoil and other factors that may contribute to some of the climate issue today.
While there are bigger ways to manage our climate change, every little bit counts.

Posted by: bamboo flooring Perth | Feb 16, 2011 8:12:35 AM

Their are many advantages of cork flooring. They not only provide a natural touch to the floors, they also have an anti-microbial property.

Posted by: Handyman | Feb 18, 2011 8:38:12 AM

This is a great read! Cork is indeed becoming a top choice for the every day home owner. I was referred to a friend about this stuff- he recently had his whole living room and basement done by TORLYS Cork Flooring. He's a drummer, and said he actually noticed a big difference in volume. Apparently it does quite a good job at sound proofing the house- who would've thought :)

Posted by: TORLYS Cork | Feb 22, 2011 2:55:40 PM

Like Cindy, Ihave floating cork floor that is faded in parts and i am wondering if there is a way to stain or treat the faded areas to match the rest?



Posted by: Ellen | Feb 27, 2011 1:53:33 PM

I'm not sure about cork floors they just seem quite feeble

Posted by: walnut flooring | Mar 15, 2011 6:23:20 AM

Having constructed a New House, or renovated an Old one most of the People are confronted with a variety of flooring materials to choose. But none will ever come close to the good Old Hardwood which happens to be the best Flooring for more than Hundreds of years. The time has tested many Hardwood Floors laid Centuries ago still keeping very good shape, color, and strength for centuries to come.

Posted by: plumbing | Apr 4, 2011 12:09:13 AM

Cork flooring is a favorite resilient flooring material among homeowners. Though it requires a bit more maintenance than other flooring materials, the benefits are well worth it. Another advantage of cork is its being fire resistant, it doesn't release any toxic gases or chemicals when combusting.

Posted by: Carpets for Less | Apr 19, 2011 6:13:45 AM

One good advantage of cork floors is being a good insulator, cork keeps houses cool in summer season and warm in winter. It brings down the energy bill during winter due to its energy efficiency. Another advantage also is its outstanding appearance.

Posted by: All Floors Inc. | May 30, 2011 11:12:58 AM

I work for a cork flooring company that produces a factory finished product. Most of the concerns mentioned here are being made obsolete by today's technology. Installing a cork floor is now as easy or easier than traditional laminates. We even have the ability to produce floating flooring that is capable of withstanding cats, dogs, kids and kitchens.

It seems that the major concern is how to "refinish". Yesterday's technologies require yesterday's answers. If you purchased a floor that had to be "refinished" every few years, then the best thing to do is refinish it every few years.

Today's technology allows us to produce a cork floor that is finished with high-grade polyurethane that can go "without" extra layers when in a "dry area" (living room, bedroom etc.).

It is the factory finish that will tell you how long your floor will last. I would be wary of any floor that requires too much post installation work. Today's cork can be factory sealed and able to withstand 25 years of wear. Look for long warranties. If they only guarantee 10 years, that is how long your floor will last. Beware of cork that needs "refinishing" multiple times throughout it's life. It means the finish is not top of the line. Today's cork should not have to be sanded or stripped. You should be able to lay it and walk away. If you can't, then perhaps you should do just that...walk away.

Fading is part of the cork game. Sadly, this is often left off of the "things to remember" list when purchasing your cork. Cork is wood. Wood, when put in direct sunlight will bleach. All wood does it. So will glass. So too ceramic. UV rays are the damaging agent here.

If you are going with cork, don't "cheap out" on the finish. It is the finish that protects your outlay of money. If you wouldn't "cheap out" on the finish for oak, mahogany or rosewood, then don't do it for cork.

As for kids...bring it on! Cork is great for play areas! For busy areas, simply apply your finishing x2 extra layers at the beginning of your floors life and it will pay you back 10 fold!!!


Posted by: Stephanie | Jun 3, 2011 2:14:50 AM

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