Pros and Cons of Cork Flooring

Jim Williams
Posted in:
Buying Guides

Cork is known to preserve bottles of wine or fasten post-it notes to an office board. Yet, one of cork's most unique applications will make you feel as if you’re on air: cork flooring. Recently, the appeal of green, or environmentally friendly, products has prompted a renewed interest in cork flooring for the home. In fact, according to The American Institute of Architects Home Design Survey, more than 60 percent of survey participants said there was an increased interest in sustainable flooring options like cork.

There are many reasons to choose cork flooring, but it is not for everyone. Cork flooring pros typically apply to people with very specific needs, and the cons of cork flooring should also be taken into account. While it may seem that cork flooring would be a sure-fire choice, it is necessary to look at all aspects:


Cork flooring is usually used as a sub floor, and applied underneath laminate and wooden floors for sound absorption as well as a strong, sturdy underlay. Here are the primary benefits of cork flooring:

  • Environmentally Friendly: Because it is a renewable resource made from the bark of oak trees, the pros of cork flooring lie in its environmental properties and fully natural material - which is a draw for many home or business owners looking to accent a space with cork flooring. Cork is harvested every nine years from trees at least 25 years old in a method that does not harm their growth.
  • Hypoallergenic: Cork is completely hypoallergenic due to its natural anti-microbial properties. Not only is this a more natural and sustainable choice, oak bark is resistant to organism infestation, mold, mildew, and even termites; making cork a safe choice.
  • Unique Texture: Cork has a warm, natural, and unique appearance. If you are looking for added depth and contrast in a room, cork flooring is a wonderful option.
  • Natural Insulators: Cork is a natural insulators, so the heat and cool air can’t penetrate this surface.
  • Quiet: Insulation also means protecting noise. For apartment or office buildings where rooms are in tight quarters, cork will keep sound waves to a minimum. In fact, cork flooring dates back to the 15th century in churches and libraries to preserve the peace.
  • Soft: Cork floors are cushions to the feet and great for chefs who stand long hours in the kitchen, yoga studios, and workspaces. The surface is also very forgiving and will self heal when you wound it with a dropped knife.
  • Resistant to Elements: Cork is fire and water resistant, making it a great choice for many kitchens.


  • Discoloration: Cork flooring can damage and endure discoloration over time. Overexposure to sunlight can cause discoloration, so it's important to consider the location of your cork floor installation.
  • Strength: Heavy objects can permanently damage cork flooring, because of its soft and "cushiony" texture.
  • Wear and Tear: 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 is Difficult: Unlike refinishing hardwood where you can refinish the flooring every year for 50 years, cork’s refinishing is a bit more difficult. Because the cork pieces are usually thin (three-sixteenths of an inch) and sometimes crumbly, they require unusually gentle sanding between coats.
  • Cost: Because it is becoming very popular among flooring installers and do-it-yourself homeowners, cork flooring is becoming more expensive. This is also due to the renewable and all natural properties present with cork flooring.

Every type of floor has its inherent advantages and disadvantages - it’s all about making a decision based on what works for you and your domicile or workspace. All in all, if you are looking for a unique, environmentally option that fosters great insulation, then a cork floor is your perfect flooring option. If you are looking for a more durable option that offers easy refinishing, then consider a hardwood floor.