Cork is a highly unique flooring option for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s one of the most sustainable solutions to your flooring needs, because the tree itself doesn’t need to be cut in order for it to be produced.

Secondly, the comfort of cork flooring is something that hardwood options can’t match. It also offers a distinct look that visually separates it from other alternatives in the flooring space. 

However, like any other option, it has its drawbacks. Cork isn’t as durable as some other flooring materials and is susceptible to several forms of damage – more on that later. 

What is Cork Flooring?

Cork flooring is produced from the bark of the cork oak tree, primarily found in the Mediterranean, with Portugal being the largest producer of cork in the world. 

The bark itself is harvested without cutting the tree from its base, and the forests which house these trees are protected by the governmental restrictions to prevent deforestation. 

Cork oak trees can have bark harvested from them for over 200 years, making cork the most sustainable wood flooring option. 

It’s available in tiles and planks, and can mimic the look of hardwood, stone, or even include original cork patterns, providing a range of design choices for your household.

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Pros of Cork Flooring

Comfort And Insulation: It’s one of the most comfortable floors to walk on due to cork’s natural tendency to cushion your steps.

This makes it an amazing choice for rooms where kids are playing, as it’s not as hard to land on. Along with this, it’s also an excellent insulator of both heat and sound thanks to its cellular structure.

Eco-Friendliness: As previously mentioned, periodically harvesting cork bark ensures that each tree will remain healthy and strong for up to 250 years.

Health Benefits: Cork naturally repels dust, hair, and other small particles from its surface, making it a good option for people with allergies. It also has antimicrobial properties that can minimize the growth of mold and allergens (more on that later).

Cons of Cork Flooring

Durability: Heavy furniture can leave permanent dents, and sharp objects can gouge the flooring. You should purchase furniture pads when moving heavy items to mitigate this issue. 

Fading: Exposure to direct sunlight can cause cork flooring to fade over time. This means that area rugs and large furniture can leave uneven tones on the floor.

Sealing is Required: It needs to be resealed once in a while (every 5 to 10 years) to protect it from water and other types of damage.

Cork and Moisture: Mold and Termites

A common concern with any flooring is how it handles moisture and pests. Cork comes with the advantage of being naturally mold resistant. 

This means that, under normal conditions, it does not hold moisture long enough for mold to form, provided spills are wiped up promptly and it’s not installed in very damp areas.

As for termites, cork does not provide a food source for these pests due to its cellular structure. This makes it a safer choice in termite-prone regions compared to traditional wood flooring.

Is Cork Flooring Expensive?

The cost of this flooring option can vary depending on several different factors. The quality of both the finish and cork itself can bump the price significantly, with it ranging from $2 to $12 per square foot. 

It’s not the cheapest type of flooring out there, but its price pales in comparison to other options like teak and mahogany.

Is Cork Flooring Right For You?

Cork flooring can be an excellent choice for tons of applications. It’s soft, springy, and has the perfect amount of give—making it great for children’s rooms or places where you may need to stand for long periods of time (like the kitchen). 

Plus, installation can be really simple depending on the type of product you choose. Once properly sealed, a cork floor will be resistant to mold and mildew as well as pests like termites.

It also doesn’t have the off-gassing issues that can appear with other types of natural flooring, and it’s an eco-friendly choice as well.

Of course, there are drawbacks: it needs to be regularly maintained (which is a non-starter for many buyers), it’s not as durable as hardwood floors, and it can fade over time, so it’s crucial to thoroughly think about its placement in your home!

About The Author

Dr. Sara Austin

May 28, 2024

Best known for being “not that kind of doctor” and never knowing which fork to use, Sara is a learning designer and writer, former real estate agent, and builder with a penchant for home design and remodeling.