Cork Flooring Installation Cost

The average cost of installing cork flooring is $965 - $1,055.

In this guide

Pros and cons
Prep-work
Cork tiles
Cork planks
Colors and textures
Brands
Installation
Labor
Maintenance
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to install cork flooring?

Many people want a natural wood look in their homes, but feel that hardwood flooring is uncomfortable and noisy to walk on. Cork flooring is the perfect alternative for those who want all the advantages of wood without many of the problems associated with it.

The average project involves installing a floating floor, along with some minor subfloor 1 repair. Most homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $965 to $1,055 for such a job.

Pros and cons

Although cork has been used as flooring in homes for more than 100 years, it has only recently gained widespread popularity. As a result, not everyone is familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of cork, which is why we have listed them here:

ProsCons

Very comfortable to walk on

Safeguards against moisture damage

Insulation properties that may reduce heating and cooling costs

Fire resistant

Does not release any toxic gasses when burned accidentally

Affordable option

Hypoallergenic

Environmentally friendly

Antimicrobial

Soundproofing barrier

Naturally warmer than other types of flooring

Few color choices to choose from

Easily damaged by sharp objects or even a pet’s toenails

Susceptible to sunlight damage

Can discolor if not properly sealed against humidity

Must be resealed every few years to prevent damage

Planks or tiles may expand and contract when temperature fluctuates

Capable of absorbing liquid from spills

Over time it will need to be sanded 2 down and refinished

Suitable for above-grade floors only, and should not be placed in a basement


Prep-work

Cork must be acclimated to the room at least three days prior to installation. Flooring professionals will open the boxes and remove your planks or tiles from their plastic. Next, they will lay out the cork in a “fanning” pattern, meaning that each piece slightly overlaps the next.

Your subfloor must be clean, dry, and level 3 before applying cork. Your contractor should remove paint, wax, dirt, or other residue before beginning. Next, a professional will check the flatness of your floor with a level. To be suitable for cork, a ten foot section of your floor should have no more than 1/16” difference in slope. Floors with high spots may need to be sanded, while those with sunken areas could need filled in with leveling compound and then sanded smooth. All sawdust residue must be completely removed before laying cork.

After leveling your subfloor, an installation professional will need to nail down any loose areas with a hammer. Next, a technician should check the moisture content of your floors using a moisture meter to ensure it is not above 12%. Homes with a high moisture content could need a vapor barrier 4 added to the top of your subfloor. Your contractor may also use a vapor barrier adhesive to keep moisture levels at a minimum.

Once satisfied with the moisture level, your technician will then remove all baseboards and door jambs from the room. This allows enough room to lay the cork. In some cases, the cork may be so thick that it is not possible to replace your baseboards and doors jambs. In that case, an installation professional will need to “undercut” or slice away a tiny bit of the wood in order to make room. When removing carpeting, you will also need to have the tack strips taken up, as well as the nails holding them in place. Have workers countersink any nails that cannot be removed and fill in holes as needed.

Before laying any tiles, a professional will determine the layout of the tiles or planks. Checking the layout first assures an aesthetically pleasing design, while minimizing the number of cuts. In doing so, it’s important to consider any expansion gap that might be needed around the room. You’ll also want to check the drying times of adhesives. That way, you will know when it is safe to walk on your tiles or begin moving furniture into a room.

Cork tiles

Cork tiles are the most common form, and generally come in squares that are 12” x 12” or 12” x 24”. Tiles vary in thickness–lower-grade tiles are around 3/16”-thick, while high-end ones can be 5/16”-thick or more.

Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. As such, you can expect some slight variation in color between tiles or batches of tiles. Cork tiles are generally made from solid cork and may be stained with a water-based wood stain for added color and depth. Although cork is naturally water-resistant, tiles may also be coated with a polyurethane sealant to provide them even greater protection.

Cork planks

Cork planks look much like hardwood flooring planks and are typically around 4” x 36”. They consist of a bottom layer of High Density Fiberboard (HDF), one or more inner layers of particle board 5, and a thin layer of cork on the top. Cork planks contain interlocking joints 6 that are designed to snap together via a tongue and groove joint. Hence, they do not require any adhesive, nails, or staples to bond them to the subfloor.

Colors and textures

Manufacturers create different textures using small, medium, or large particles. Some cork may also contain peeled strips of bark laid side by side. Another combination involves burled or chunks of cork with varying-sized particles to create a wavy look.

Different brands all have their own names for the various textures, but some common ones you may encounter are nugget, striata, or traditional. Nugget textures usually have a smooth appearance with varying shades of cork visible throughout. Striata appears more porous, with darker flecks of cork being visible over top of lighter tones. Traditional cork looks much like the cork you would normally find in a wine stopper or bulletin board.

Cork is naturally very light in appearance. Only after baking does cork turn darker shades of brown. Accordingly, tan, beige, and medium brown are the most common colors. Manufacturers may also mix light and dark grains together to create a custom look, but cork can also be painted or stained different colors as well.

Brands

When choosing cork, you have a number of high-quality brands to select from. To help you decide, we’ve listed* a few of the top manufacturers as well as their top characteristics and a breakdown of price.

BrandCharacteristicsPrice
lcork

Tiles and planks in a variety of sizes

Products are shipped directly to the contractor and not stored in a warehouse

$2.21 to $3.79/ sq.ft.
APC Cork

Available in matte or gloss finishes

Better indoor air quality, as flooring is CARB Phase 2 compliant

$2.75 to $5.29/ sq.ft.
Jelinek Cork

Partially made from recycled wine corks

Products come with a full ten-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects

$3.52 to $5.52/ sq.ft.
We Cork

Has an extra layer of vinyl 7 on top for added protection

Environmentally friendly (GREENGUARD certification)

$4.47 to $7.46/ sq.ft.
AMCork

Contains a built-in cork underlayment for additional cushioning

Offers a 25-year warranty on most flooring products

$5.00 to $5.40/ sq.ft.
CorksRibas USA

Planks are waxed on the end for added protection against water damage

Fire resistance testing performed to EN ISO 9239-1 standards

$5.25 to $5.75/ sq.ft.
Globus Cork

Wide variety of color, size, and pattern choices available

Offers ten unique styles of cork inlay

$5.99 to 9.15/ sq.ft.
US Floors

Offers tiles that have the look of natural stone

Have digitally-printed planks that resemble actual hardwood

$7.06 to $8.17/ sq.ft.


*We selected different brands to improve and clarify the information contained in this cost guide. We do not receive any monetary compensation from these companies.

Installation

Two types of installation are available: gluing and floating floor. The one you use will depend on the type of flooring you choose. A professional will glue down your flooring if you choose cork tiles, but planks will be installed as a floating floor.

When gluing tiles down, contractors begin at the center of your room, snapping chalk lines to determine proper placement. Next, they will apply either mastic or contact cement as an adhesive. Contact cement provides adhesion once it cures, thereby limiting moisture exposure. Mastic is somewhat thicker and does not require any additional time to cure. After placing the center tile, technicians will work outward toward the edges of your room. They can go all the way to the edge of the room, as no expansion gap is needed.

A floating floor is laid by placing a plank in one corner of the room with the tongue side facing out. Workers will then place spacers at least ½” from the wall to maintain the expansion gap. With the first plank in place, the crew will then continue attaching planks by snapping the pieces together. When shorter pieces are needed, they willl cut a full-size plank to size.

Glue-down tiles cost more to install than floating floors. Expect to pay anywhere from $1.00 to $2.00 more per square foot to account for the cost of adhesive and the additional labor required to spread it. This will be included in the price of the project.

Labor

Cork is an attractive flooring option, but must be carefully installed to maintain its look. This type of flooring is highly sensitive to minor imperfections in the subfloor or even the slightest installation errors. That’s why it’s important to hire a contractor who is familiar with cork tile installation.

Installing a cork floor is also something that can’t be rushed. An average room can take one to two days to complete. To save time and ensure a proper job, always have your flooring installed by a professional. Contractors may charge between $1.50 and $3.00 per square foot for installation. Several things are built into this labor rate, including the cost of insurance and the licensing requirements in your area. As such, you will pay more if your state has heavy regulatory requirements or higher-than-average insurance rates.

Maintenance

Cork should be sealed at the time of installation with a high quality polyurethane sealer, which is included in the project price. That sealer should be reapplied at least every five years thereafter to keep it waterproof. The sealer and other materials needed to re-seal the floors can cost between $45 and $100.

Cleaning up spills and stains quickly is very important, even if your floors are sealed. That’s because cork is very porous and can easily absorb liquids. Avoid harsh cleaning solutions, and opt for products that are designed especially for cork or hardwood floors instead.

Also, to protect your floor from scratching, place felt pads underneath furniture legs. Never drag furniture or heavy objects over top of your floors, as this can cause scratches or grooves in the surface. Keep your pet’s nails trimmed so they do not create small dings in the surface. Avoid walking on your floors in high heels, and place rugs or carpet runners in high-traffic areas for added protection.

Regarding maintenance cleaning, sweep cork floors at least once or twice each week. Never use a wet mop or steam cleaner, but instead use a damp mop along with a mild cleaner that is recommended for cork or wood floors. Avoid using any harsh chemicals on your floor, such as ones with an ammonia base.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Sand and refinish cork

Just like hardwood, cork will eventually wear over time. When this happens, you could need to have your cork floor sanded and refinished. Most floors will require re-sanding every ten years or so, at a cost of $2.50 to $6.00 per square foot. As an example, a 140-square foot room would cost between $350 and $840 to refinish.

Cork inlays

Rather than outfitting an entire floor with cork, some homeowners will choose cork inlays. Cork inlays are sections of cork flooring surrounded by hardwood, linoleum 8, or bamboo. Cork inlays provide a stunning display, and will create a warm, inviting focal point for any room. It might be an ideal choice if you only need to replace certain sections of your existing floor. However, cork inlays can cost slightly more per square foot because more cutting and measuring is required. Expect to pay between 5% and 10% more per square foot when choosing cork inlays.

A typical cork inlay is around 3’ x 5’ and contains a unique border design along the outside. You could expect to pay around $150 for cork flooring and trim materials, along with $60 in labor charges for a total cost of $210.

Subfloor repair

Your subfloor must be in immaculate condition before laying cork. If your subfloor is loose and needs to be nailed down your contractor may only charge you a few extra dollars. A professional may charge you between $25 and $40 per hour to sand and/or level an uneven subfloor. When replacing certain sections of subflooring, you can calculate the cost as being anywhere from $10 to $20 per square foot. For a 140 square foot room, you could expect to pay $1,400 to $2,800 to replace the entire subfloor.

Trim or quarter round

If remodeling a kitchen, have cabinets installed first, before laying cork flooring. Their heavy weight might leave dents in the cork if placed over top of your flooring. When replacing an existing kitchen floor, you will not need to remove cabinets first, but you do need to allow at least a half-inch space around them for expansion. You may also want to cover this space with trim or quarter-round. You could incur an additional $1 to $2 per square foot for quarter-round installation.

Additional considerations and costs

  • Cork flooring can be placed over top of hot water radiant heat, but is not suitable for use with electric radiant heat. Prior to installation, allow the slab to heat up to room temperature for at least 72 hours, or while the tile is being acclimated. Do not allow the surface temperature to exceed 84 degrees. Following installation, the heat from the flooring can cause the adhesive to come loose. Using a little extra adhesive during installation can prevent this problem down the road.
  • If you have an existing linoleum, vinyl, or wood floor it is possible to lay a floating cork floor over top, provided your surface is even and clean. When installing cork tiles, you will need to have the old flooring removed first, or lay a new subfloor over top.
  • While you cannot always lay cork over top of existing flooring, you can in most cases use it as an underlayment for hardwood, laminate, stone, or ceramic flooring. So if you later decide to change your flooring type, you will not need to remove your cork flooring beforehand. You can expect most cork flooring to last between 10 and 20 years.
  • Despite its natural warmth, some people nonetheless prefer the look of hardwood. Luxury vinyl cork might be a better option for those who desire the benefits of cork, yet want the more traditional aesthetics that hardwood flooring brings. Luxury vinyl cork provides a wood-grain appearance and comes in snap-together planks for an authentic look.
  • Some brands come with a warranty of ten to 25 years against manufacturer’s defects. This warranty assures you will have no problems with your flooring, but it does not safeguard against installation errors. As such, you should ensure that your contractor will also guarantee his work. A manufacturer’s warranty normally covers the original buyer only and is not transferable if you later sell your home.
  • Many older floor types were made with asbestos 9. If your existing floor was glued down before the 1980s, there might be asbestos in the tiles or the adhesive. In most areas, you can have professional asbestos removal performed for between $400 and $500.

FAQ

  • Do I need underlayment for cork flooring?

Cork naturally has cushioning properties, so no additional underlayment is required. All you need is a clean, dry, level subfloor, which can be either wood or concrete.

  • What are the benefits of cork flooring?

Made from renewable materials, cork flooring is an environmentally-friendly option for those who enjoy a wood look, but are concerned with the prospect of harvesting trees. It provides a soft, cushiony surface to walk on, making it practical for anyone with joint problems.

  • Is cork good for basement floors?

Cork is not recommended for basement floors or any other area where there is a high moisture content.

  • Does cork flooring need to acclimate?

Yes, cork flooring should acclimate inside the room where you are having it installed it for at least three days.

  • Is cork flooring durable for a kitchen?

Cork flooring is highly susceptible to spills and water damage. That doesn’t mean you can’t place it in your kitchen, but it does mean you should use caution when doing so. Caulk 10 all areas where the floor meets the wall and around any fixtures such as cabinets and sinks. Consider an extra coat of polyurethane for even greater protection.

  • Are cork floors expensive?

Although cork comes from an imported material, it is nonetheless comparable in price to many other flooring options, including bamboo, laminate, hardwood, and vinyl.

  • Does cork flooring stain easily?

Unfinished cork has a sponge-like quality that allows it to readily absorb spills. Even so, most brands come with a polyurethane coating to protect against spills and water damage. Your contractor may also apply an additional coat during installation, or paint or stain your flooring with a product that also safeguards against stains.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Subfloor: The bottom-most layer of a floor, supported by joists, over which finished flooring material is laid
2 Sanded: Process of removing the top surface of a material, such as wood, using sandpaper and/or a specialized sanding machine (for large surface areas)
3 Level: The process of evening out the ground's surface, making it either flat or sloped.
4 Vapor barrier: A protective cover, commonly made of polyethylene, used for damp proofing walls and floors
5 Particle board: An engineered wood product used in construction projects and composed of wood chips, sawmill shavings, and/or sawdust and a suitable binding agent, such as resin.
6 Joints: A fold, line, or groove where two pieces of material join together
7 Vinyl: A synthetic plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl has many applications in the construction industry and it is widely used in sidings, window frames, roofing and gutters, among others
8 Linoleum: An inexpensive flooring material made from linseed oil, resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, limestone and mineral pigments, on a canvas or jute backing.
9 Asbestos: A group of fire-resistant silicate minerals found in construction materials including paint, particularly in older homes. When the asbestos deteriorates, particles can become airborne and this is a serious health hazard.
10 Caulk: A chemical sealant used to fill in and seal gaps where two materials join, for example, the tub and tile, to create a watertight and airtight seal. The term "caulking" is also used to refer to the process of applying this type of sealant

Cost to install cork flooring varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Alpharetta, GA
+9%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Belmont, MA
+41%
Boston, MA
+40%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Cary, NC
-5%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Chico, CA
-14%
Chula Vista, CA
+8%
Cibolo, TX
-16%
Cincinnati, OH
+6%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Columbia, SC
-10%
Columbus, GA
-20%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Covington, GA
-12%
Dayton, OH
-7%
Delaware, OH
-1%
Denton, TX
+17%
Denver, CO
+1%
Escondido, CA
+9%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Fremont, CA
+35%
Glendale, CA
+14%
Grand Prairie, TX
+6%
Greenville, NC
-26%
Hamilton, OH
-3%
Houston, TX
+24%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Jersey City, NJ
+23%
Kent, WA
+9%
Killeen, TX
-27%
Lakeland, FL
-13%
Lansing, MI
+8%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Leander, TX
+4%
Little Elm, TX
+17%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Madison, WI
+13%
Miami, FL
+1%
Montgomery, AL
-10%
Nashville, TN
+21%
New York, NY
+77%
Norristown, PA
+44%
North Charleston, SC
-6%

Labor cost in your zip code

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Methodology and sources