ADVICE & TIPS, FLOORING

Cork Flooring In A Kitchen – Pros, Cons & Everything Explained

Were you over at your neighbour’s house and watched a glass roll off the kitchen worktop? Instead of shattering, it bounced! What was that brown tile floor made from that prevented the glass from shattering into every corner? It may have been a cork flooring.

This eco-friendly flooring option is popping up in kitchens across the UK. Is it the right choice for you and your active family? Take a deep dive into everything you need to know about cork flooring.

In this post, I’ll go over what cork flooring is, how it’s installed, its pros and cons as well as answer some frequently asked questions on the topic.

Let’s get into it!

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What Is Cork Flooring?

As its name implies, cork flooring is made out of the same material as the cork found in a bottle of wine.

Cork provides an eco-friendly option for your flooring needs. The cork is harvested from living cork oak trees that grow primarily in southwest Europe and northwest Africa. The trees live for up to 200 years, making this a sustainable green material.

The cork is ground up and then formed into tiles or pressed into strips. Ground cork tiles look much like concrete, stone, or even speckled laminates. Colour is added to achieve designer hues that complement current decor trends. Other planks take advantage of the cork grain to deliver an appearance similar to hardwoods or bamboo flooring.

What Is Cork Flooring? Cork flooring being installed.

Cork: A Soft and Warm Option for Your Kitchen Floor

Cork is a naturally soft yet durable substance. Which means it feels smooth and warm under your toes, unlike hard and cold ceramic tiles. It serves as a great option for families with young toddlers or ageing grandparents that are less steady on their feet. Items dropped onto cork are less likely to break.

Cork resists the formation of mould and mildew, is non-allergenic, and can accept anti-microbial sealants to better protect the health of your family.

However, on the flip side, the floor is more susceptible to scratches and dents. It is particularly prone to damage from dog and cat claws. Even daily foot traffic will wear off its polished appearance over the years.

If you like a well-loved vintage look to your home, cork will fit right in. If you prefer the gleaming expanse of a white tile floor, this is not the flooring for you.

Cork floors are found in nearly every room of the house but are most popular in the garage, workshop, laundry areas, and lounge. However, It is becoming more popular in kitchens as new manufacturing and sealant technologies are improving its stain resistance.

Cork Flooring Maintenance And Installation

Daily care of cork includes sweeping up any loose dirt and debris. Use a damp mop once a week or so for more proper cleaning. The cork is sealed at the factory to help it resist stains and prevent absorbing water spills. However, you will need to apply more sealant every six months to a year to maintain its water-resistant properties.

Prompt Daily Cleaning Prevents Staining And Water Damage.

There are two popular installation methods for cork flooring. The first uses adhesive to stick the cork tiles to a level subfloor, much like peel-and-stick vinyl floor tiles.

The second is a click-in-place method much like floating laminate floor installation. These cork tiles include a base and middle layer constructed out of cork and medium-density fibreboard. The top layer is a thin layer of premium, polished cork.

Since installation does not demand any special knowledge and minimal tools, it is a project that most DIY homeowners can tackle. If you are hiring an installer, labour rates are comparable to a laminate or vinyl flooring job. Expect to spend between £300 and £1,000 depending on the size of the room.

Pros of Cork Flooring

  • Sustainably harvested cork is one of the greenest options for flooring materials
  • Soft underfoot, it helps a room feel warmer while protecting little ones from trip-and-falls.
  • Resistant to mould and mildew
  • Available in a variety of contemporary colours
  • Can look like wood, stone, or concrete
  • Sold in square stick-on tiles or interlocking planks
  • Easy installation makes it a good DIY option for the average homeowner
  • Won’t crack
  • Some cork floors last up to 25 years with proper care

Cons of Cork Flooring

  • Cork is naturally absorbent, so it can deform and warp when subjected to high humidity or water.
  • Requires bi-annual applications of sealant.
  • The polished surface will scratch when the dogs or cats run across it.
  • Direct sunlight will fade or discolour cork over time.
Cork Flooring Samples
Cork Flooring Samples

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Is cork flooring good in a kitchen?

Cork can be the perfect solution for kitchen flooring. It is softer than tile or wood, which means your feet and legs experience less fatigue while standing. A dropped glass is less likely to shatter when it hits the cork. It provides sound deadening, too. So the rumble of the dishwasher won’t be as loud in the living room.

But, it is a naturally porous material. If the floor gets soaked from an overflowing sink or large spill, it can warp and swell. Annual sealing will help it to repel water but provides imperfect protection.

Are cork floors hard to clean?

Cork floors are as easy to clean as any laminate or manufactured flooring found in the rest of your home. A quick sweep prevents dirt from being ground into its surface. Damp mopping removes signs of spills.

It can stain if a puddle of grape juice is left to set in. It is possible to sand off damaged surfaces and reseal them much like hardwood.

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Does cork flooring scratch easily?

Compared to tile, concrete, and hardwood, yes, cork is more likely to scratch. That soft, warm feeling under your toes also means the surface is naturally cushioned.

Heavy furniture, pet claws, and daily foot traffic will leave behind scratches and dents over time. This is not a surface for your museum-quality home.

Do cork floors need to be sealed?

Yes, cork flooring needs to be sealed once or twice a year to maintain its polished appearance and prevent discolouration. Fortunately, applying the sealant is no more difficult than mopping the floor.

After giving the cork a good wash, let it dry, then use a sponge mop to apply a thin layer of sealant. You may need to let the sealant dry up to a day before using the floor for regular traffic again.

Cork Flooring Installation On Concrete
Cork Flooring Installation On Concrete

Is cork flooring waterproof?

A properly sealed cork floor will be water-resistant but not waterproof.  A glass of water will puddle on the surface. As long as you wipe it up immediately, no damage is done.

If the water is left to soak into the floor, it is possible for the cork tile to warp and swell. This is also a problem if you live in a humid area like the tropics or on the seaside.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about cork flooring in your kitchen.

Eco-friendly as well as soft and warm underfoot, cork flooring can be a great option to bring some natural materials into your kitchen. However, if you’re a busy household with pets, the maintenance and scratch resistance may not be up to the challenge.

So, would you consider having cork flooring in your kitchen?

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.