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Cork Flooring Buying Guide Basics

About Cork

The use of cork dates back as far as 3000BC. Cork's popularity skyrocketed in the 18th century, when Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon began using cork stoppers to seal bottles of champagne.

Cork flooring is manufactured by harvesting the bark of the cork oak tree. This process is environmentally friendly as no more than half of the tree's bark is harvested at one time. A cork oak tree has a life span of 150–200 years and each tree can have its bark harvested once every 9 – 10 years, making cork a rapidly renewable resource.

Other key features of cork are:

  • Natural Structure: Cork is made up of millions of tiny air pockets in a honeycomb structure. This structure allows the material to be highly flexible or "resilient", easily giving way to foot pressure or objects and bouncing back to its original shape.
  • Chemical Composition: The microscopic cells in cork contain Suberin, a waxy material that makes cork moisture resistant.
  • Hypoallergenic: The Suberin in cork also naturally repels pests such as termites and prevents mold and mildew from growing in your flooring.

Your Environment

As you plan your cork flooring purchase and installation, you should take into account the following aspects of your home environment.


Notice how much sunlight comes through the windows and doors of where you plan to install new flooring. Cork's color can fade with repeated sunlight exposure.

Recommendation: To protect your flooring from fading, consider installing window treatments or adding a protective UV coating to your windows.


Cork's natural composition gives it the ability to react to changes in your climate. Cork will expand and contract somewhat as the temperature and humidity levels in your home change.

Recommendation: Consider a humidifier (for dry climates) or dehumidifier (for moist climates) to help regulate room humidity, which should ideally be between 35 to 65%. Allow cork materials to acclimate to your environment for the amount of time suggested by the manufacturer before installing your cork floor.

Room–by–Room Practicality

Cork has many positive characteristics that make it a good flooring choice for almost any room in your home. Below is a list of areas in your home that cork flooring might work well.

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Wet Rooms

Kitchen/ Bathroom

Some manufacturers advise against installing cork flooring in areas prone to heavy moisture or standing water, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Others maintain certain types of cork flooring (such as mosaic cork tiles) are ideal in these rooms if installed and sealed properly. Cork flooring is often installed in kitchens because of its resiliency, which is ideal for areas where extended periods of walking or standing are expected.

Recommendation: Proceed with caution if you want to install cork flooring in your kitchen or bathroom. Make sure you choose the correct cork flooring for your project so that your warranty stays intact. Consult your cork installation or retail professional about specific suggestions for bathroom installation. Always check the manufacturers warranty guidelines before beginning a project in these areas. In kitchens, be sure to wipe up any spilled water or excess liquid immediately. Place mats or area rugs near sinks or bathtubs to provide added protection from pooling water.

General Rooms

Bedroom/ Living Room/ Den

Cork flooring can be easily installed in bedrooms, living rooms, or other areas of your home. Despite cork's ability to "bounce back" from pressure, heavy furniture can leave permanent dents in your cork floors over time.

Recommendation: Area rugs or floor mats can provide added protection for your floors. Furniture pads and movers should be used under any furniture legs to prevent deep scratches. Consider moving heavy furniture periodically to help prevent permanent dents in the flooring.

Lifestyle Factors

Even though cork is a highly durable floor covering, be sure to take any pets and children into consideration when selecting your flooring.


Cork flooring's natural resiliency makes it easy on your pet's joints. Cork floors can generally stand up to the heaviest of pets without too much scratching or denting.

Recommendation: Check with your flooring retail professional about available finishes that provide extra scratch protection. Keep your pet's nails trimmed, and be sure to clean up any accidents immediately.

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Cork's ability to "give" upon impact and resist moisture (when sealed properly) makes it a great surface in homes with children. Cork flooring's sound–insulating properties and ability to handle large amounts of traffic add to its kid–friendly status.

Recommendation: Place floor mats or area rugs in high–traffic areas or places where children play. This will help protect your cork flooring from deep scratches caused by toys or other objects.

Noise Insulation

Cork is a natural noise insulator, and offers better noise insulation than many other flooring materials. Cork is a popular choice for spaces like recording studios and libraries because of its ability to muffle sound.

Recommendation: Not all cork is created equal. The higher the quality of the cork, the better it will be at insulating your home from noise. If this quality is important to you, ask your flooring retail or installation professional for advice on the best type of cork for your needs.

Basic Cork Care

When planning a cork flooring installation in your home, consider what type of maintenance will be required to keep it looking new.


  • DO regularly vacuum or sweep your floors to remove excess dirt and debris.
  • DO mop your cork floor occasionally with a damp mop and mild cleanser for deep cleaning.
  • DO clean up any spills or accidents immediately.


  • DON'T use ammonia–based or generic, all–purpose floor cleaners, as they may be abrasive.
  • DON'T drag furniture across cork floors. Lift furniture and other heavy objects to prevent scratching and denting.
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