How to Install Cork Flooring

Jim Williams
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Durable and sustainable, cork flooring is the natural choice for many homeowners and renovators. Many people choose to install cork floors because they are more affordable than most bamboo and hardwood floors, and are easy to install. Cork flooring is also mold resistant and completely hypoallergenic, making it a viable option for gyms, bathrooms, yoga studios, and even kitchens.

Time commitment:

2 to 3 hours for a 10-by-15 ft. space

Steps to install cork floors

1. Prepare the space. “An installation is only as good as the surface below,” notes Before you install your cork flooring, make sure your sub-floor is free of any debris, clean, and completely dry.

2. Even steven. Level your sub-floor before you begin installing cork flooring. This will make the installation process a lot simpler and your finished floors longer lasting. To do this, use a Portland cement–based floor leveler. Feather the filler perfectly smooth with the underlayment and sand using 100-grit sandpaper.

* Note: Installation over concrete, such as in a basement, requires the removal of any baseboard so you can cover the slab with 6-mil polyethylene sheeting and run it 3" up the wall. 

3. Remove trim. Look for any vertical trim that will need to be cut away to allow the new flooring to slide beneath it. At doorways, place a cork plank atop the saddle (the threshold) and butted to the door stops. Using a flush-cutting backsaw, trim the stops—but not the jambs—on either side of the door above the saddle. Carefully pry up the saddle before installing the flooring. Also cut the casings on the wall around the door, using a cork plank to judge how much to trim them. 

4. Address the type of cork flooring you have. Plank, tounge and groove, or cork tiles are the three most common. 

5. Lay the planks, sheet, or tiles along the longest uninterrupted wall. Measure the distance between the two opposite walls, then subtract 1 inch for expansion. Divide the remainder by the width of a cork plank to calculate the number of tiles or planks needed to cover the floor. 

6. Cutting. It’s likely that your tiles, planks, or sheets will require cutting, as no space is a perfect square. For example: if the last course ends up being less than half a plank, you'll need to cut the first and last courses narrower to balance the layout. Use a jigsaw to rip the first-course planks to this width. If you don't need to rip down the first course, saw off their tongues to create an unobstructed expansion gap at the wall," according to

7. Installation.

  • Tongue and groove: Place a tapping block against the plank, fitting it around the groove. Use a hammer or mallet to tap block and coax the tongue and groove to click together. Install the next plank by clicking its end into the previous plank, then tapping it against the previous course. Continue installing planks until you have filled the field. 
  • Tiles and sheets: Tounge and groove cork floors will not need any sort of adhesive; however, plank and tiles need adhesive. Two types of adhesives are used: contact cement and mastic. Once you have the orientation of the cork set and the pieces cut, now is the time to lay a thin layer of adhesive. Go by sections and follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Allowing the adhesive to completely dry before moving forward, use a roller or a mallet to pound the tile and fasten each section securely. If there is excess adhesive, remove it with a damp cloth. Allow the cork floor to dry for at least 24 hours before permitting any foot traffic on the area.

8. Apply a finish for non-treated cork. Most cork floors are pre-treated with a eurethane finish, however if this is not the case, you are going to want to treat  or seal your floors.

9. Putting design elements back into place. Install or reinstall shoe, trim, or any other design elements used near your newly installed bamboo floor.

Enjoy the warmth of natural insulation when you install a cork floor in your home. The installation process is straightforward, and the materials are affordable making cork floor installation a great choice for your home.