Cork Flooring-What To Know…

Cork flooring has been gaining popularity in the US market however many are skeptical because they don’t know much about it.  Here are some bits of information about cork that you may not have known.  For example, cork was widely used as a flooring material in the 1950s.  If your house was constructed in the ‘50s, there is a chance that cork floors are hidden beneath wall to wall carpeting.  Depending on the condition of the cork, you may be able to sand & refinish it for an eco-friendly, trendy floor.  Here’s some more to know about cork…

Cork has a cellular construction that provides cushion under your step making it easier on the feet, legs and back especially when standing for long stretches.

The resilience of cork reduces the impact of fallen objects, such as glass or china, which would likely shatter on a wood or ceramic floor.

Shhh.  Cork is quiet underfoot.

Cork is forgiving (but not impervious) when you drop something that dents or punctures because it “recovers” or bounces back, kind of like memory foam.  Minor damage is inconspicuous.  Major damage can often be repaired.

Cork is eco-friendly because it is a strictly regulated and renewable natural product made from the bark of cork oak trees that are at least 25 years old.  Removal of the bark does not harm the tree and the bark grows back.  It can be harvested again in intervals of 9 years.

Cork has natural fire-resistant (not fireproof) properties and does not release toxins (good for air quality) if it does burn.

Cork is naturally resistant to mold and mildew.

Cork is resistant to insects, such as termites or carpenter ants, because of suberin, a natural component of cork, which repels critters.

Most of today’s cork floors are coated with polyurethane and require 3 – 4 coats for durability and extended wear.  Refinishing is required every 5-10 years.  This involves sanding and recoating.  (A cork floor from the 1950s may have a wax finish requiring different care than urethane.)

Routine cork care is easy and required to keep the floor in good shape.  Sweep or vacuum routinely to prevent small particles of dirt from scratching the floor’s surface.  Dust mopping is recommended. Clean with a neutral spray cleaner and microfiber mop, similar to what is used on polyurethane coated wood floors.  Avoid harsh detergents or high pH cleaning products that will likely cause damage.

Some cork floors have a veneer surface while others are through and through material.  Patterned cork tiles are typically a veneer while solid color cork is typically cork through the thickness of material.  While veneer-surfaced cork tiles can be coated with polyurethane, you may not be able to sand before recoating.

Cork should be used on floors at ground-level or above.  Not a good fit for basements that are below grade where dampness and moisture can become problematic.

Cork floors and pets?  Claw marks are not typically a problem because of the forgiving nature of cork.  A deep scratch can be sanded and sealed.  When compared with hardwood flooring, cork will outperform in regards to visible pet scratches.

Cork floors are water resistant but not water proof.  Spills should be cleaned up as soon as possible after they happen to avoid staining and degradation of the material.

Hypoallergenic properties of cork:  Cork floors contain no fibers or toxins.

Cork, like wood, will fade when exposed to direct sunlight.  Keep this in mind when placing area rugs on your cork floor and when selecting window treatments.

Remember to lift, not drag, furniture that is being moved across the cork floor or use felt-bottom furniture slides to prevent damage.

Wondering if you can install cork flooring as a do-it-yourself project?  If you’re handy, you may be able to install your own cork floor.  Be sure the surface you’re installing on is flat and level.  Many cork floors use a glue-down method while others are floating floors.  Consult the installation manual that comes with your flooring material and make sure your subfloor is in good condition.

A general rule to follow when it comes to finishing, waxing or cleaning a cork floor is to test a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding with the entire area and follow manufacturer’s recommended procedures.  When product literature is not available for your floor, consult industry sources to produce the best possible results.

Call 1-877-floorguy with questions and a knowledgeable, experienced staff member will provide the information you need to care for your floor.


  1. Rhea Hanselmann on October 24, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Hi. I’m hoping for some guidance.
    I want to refinish/repair original 1950s cork floors in a house I recently purchased. The floor is 12×12 cork tiles, maybe 1/8-1/4 inch thick, glued directly onto the underlying concrete. They seem to be waxed and there is some glue residue (non-asbestos) on them from the carpet that was overlying. There are also many brittle and broken tiles around the edges.
    Do you have any recommendations on how to clean off the glue, sand, and seal the salvageable cork tiles and which product is available/best suited to replace the damaged tiles? Also, do you recommend sealing with polyurethane after this? Any products you recommend for this?
    Thank you for your help!

    • 1877floorguy on October 25, 2021 at 3:34 pm

      Hi Rhea,

      Unfortunately not knowing what type of finish is on the floor I am unable to recommend a product to remove the glue. I do suggest reaching out to Lititz Flooring and inquiring about their Capri Cork to see if they have a product that may coordinate with your tiles.

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