What are the Pros and Cons of Cork Flooring?

Kay Paddock

Cork comes from a tree that grows in the Mediterranean called the Quercus suber, or the cork oak. The outer layer of bark is harvested every nine years and dried. The same corks used in wine bottles come from this bark. After the bottle corks are punched out of the bark in one piece, the rest is used to make sheets for flooring and other applications. The pros and cons of cork flooring include benefits like sound absorption and softness underfoot, as well as drawbacks like a limited color palette and the possibility of moisture damage.

Wearing high heels can damage cork flooring.
Wearing high heels can damage cork flooring.

Homeowners should weigh the pros and cons of cork flooring before making a decision. One of the biggest pros is how comfortable it is to walk on. Made from a naturally soft and airy material, these floors serve as shock absorbers and can reduce fatigue from standing for long periods of time. Other pros include the natural look that some people prefer, and cork's resistance to insects and allergens like mold. Cork floor tiles are also fire-resistant, which can add to the safety of a home.

Cork flooring has a supportive and springy surface.
Cork flooring has a supportive and springy surface.

Among the pros and cons of cork flooring there are a few drawbacks that should be considered. A cork floor will probably cost quite a bit more than a similar material like vinyl or even ceramic tile. The cost could be about the same as some hardwoods, however. Cork is also usually not very moisture resistant unless it is properly sealed. That can mean high maintenance with yearly stripping and resealing to keep it looking its best.

Softness is a benefit of this type of floor that can also be a drawback. The floor could be damaged from a heavy item more easily than a harder floor like tile or wood might be. Even something like pet toenails, pointy high-heeled shoes or dropping a heavy or pointed object could potentially damage the floor. If it is a floating cork floor with interlocking pieces that simply rest on top of the surface beneath, replacing a damaged piece should not be too difficult. If it is tacked down with adhesive, this could be a more expensive and time-consuming process.

The pros and cons of cork flooring also include a factor that is important to many people today. Cork is a green alternative to some other types of wood floors. Stripping the bark of the cork tree does not damage it. The bark grows back and can be harvested again in nine years. It is a renewable resource that does not require deforestation or destruction. This is an issue to carefully consider before choosing floors for a home.

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