How much does it cost to install cork flooring?
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Cork Flooring Installation Cost Guide
Updated: January 10, 2023
If you want a natural flooring material for your home but do not love the look and feel of hardwood, cork flooring may be the perfect alternative. Cork is a great thermal insulator, helping rooms stay warmer. It is also naturally water and mold-resistant and feels soft and springy underfoot. Several types of cork flooring are available, from tiles to planks, including those that have been stained or finished. This leads to a wide range of associated costs for the project.
The national average range for installing cork flooring in the home is between $1,800 and $3,000. Most homeowners pay $2,125 for 200 sq.ft. of printed cork tile flooring, professionally installed. At the low end of the price range, you could spend as little as $1,472 on installing 200 sq.ft. of natural cork tiles. At the high end of the spectrum, some people spend as much as $3,591 to install 300 sq.ft. of cork flooring planks with subfloor prep work included.
Cork Flooring Costs
|Cork Flooring Installation Costs|
|National average cost||$2,125|
Cost of Cork Flooring per Square Foot
The average cork flooring cost per square foot ranges from $6 to $16 installed, depending on the type and quality of the chosen flooring. Cork is an engineered floor that is also eco-friendly. The bark of the cork oak tree is harvested and ground, mixed with resin, and then formed into sheets and baked in a kiln to create cork flooring. Planks and tiles are available in a variety of designs and colors. The table below shows a breakdown of the average costs of cork flooring per sq.ft. based on common floor sizes.
|Square Footage||Costs (Installed)|
|100 sq.ft.||$600 - $1,600|
|150 sq.ft.||$900 - $2,400|
|200 sq.ft.||$1,200 - $3,200|
|300 sq.ft.||$1,800 - $4,800|
|400 sq.ft.||$2,400 - $6,400|
Cork Flooring Cost by Thickness
If you purchase cork flooring based on its thickness, you can expect to spend $3 to $10 per sq.ft. for materials. Although thickness costs are built into the materials cost, it is still important to understand that this factor has the greatest impact on the total project cost. You can choose thin 4 mm cork for a cheaper solution or premium 12 mm thick flooring at the high end of the price range. The thicker the flooring, the more durable and soundproof it is. The table below shows the average thickness options for cork flooring and their related material costs.
|Thickness||Price per Sq.Ft. (Materials Only)|
|4 mm||$3 - $6|
|8 mm||$5 - $8|
|12 mm||$7 - $10|
Cork Flooring Cost by Type
You can expect to spend between $3 and $10.50 per sq.ft. for cork flooring materials based on the type that you choose. Because of the cork's manufacturing, it comes in several styles and finishes. It has the same impressive insulating and soundproofing qualities in any style you choose, but the look will be different. Whether the cork is sold in tiles or planks may depend on the style that you choose.
Natural cork flooring is basic flooring with few additional features. Printed cork flooring can contain a unique design on top of cork floor tiles or planks. You can also choose from colored cork flooring or luxury vinyl cork flooring if you want something more stylish and unique. Luxury vinyl cork includes a premium cork underlayment covered with a vinyl layer that is easy to clean and shows less wear. Nugget cork designs feature a unique texture and come in many colors and finishes. Cork flooring with striata creates a unique look, with grains and textures that add dimension to the finish. The table below shows the average costs of materials for each type of cork flooring.
|Type||Price per Sq.Ft. (Materials Only)|
|Natural||$3 - $6|
|Luxury Vinyl||$3 - $7|
|Printed||$4 - $9.50|
|Waterproof||$5 - $9|
|Nugget||$6 - $9|
|Color||$7 - $8.50|
|Natural Cork With Striata||$8 - $8.50|
|Color Cork With Striata||$10 - $10.50|
Cost of Cork Flooring by Type of Flooring
The average cost of cork flooring based on the type of flooring used ranges from $3 to $10 per sq.ft. for the materials only. You can typically choose between cork tiles and cork plank flooring. Tiles come in square shapes or long, narrow tiles. They can be created in any design that you desire. Cork tiles usually measure 12” x 12” or 12” x 24”. The size you select depends on the look that you want to achieve. The size also impacts the cost of the cork floor tiles. Plank flooring costs a bit more and offers more durability with a bottom layer of fiberboard to provide a sturdier finish for easy installation. These planks look like any other floor planks you might install in the home. They are installed in the floating style, as opposed to tiles that are usually glued down. Both tiles and planks are generally sold in pre-cut packages that include varying square footage amounts. The number of packages you need depends on the area you need to cover. The table below shows a breakdown of each type of cork flooring and its related material costs.
|Type||Price per Sq.Ft. (Materials Only)|
|Tiles||$3 - $8|
|Plank||$4 - $10|
Cork Floor Cost by Brand
To purchase cork floors by brand, you will spend between $3 and $11 per sq.ft. When choosing cork, you can select from several high-quality brands. Cheaper brands like iCork offer affordable solutions with basic flooring and direct-to-consumer wholesale shipping. Jelinek Cork is partially made from recycled products, so it is a popular choice for people who want something eco-friendly. We Cork is also eco-friendly and includes a vinyl top layer for added protection. Similarly, AMCork offers a built-in underlayment for added cushioning. Higher-end brands like CorksRibas USA and Globus Cork have various premium sizes, colors, finishes, and upgraded features. US Floors offers tiles that feature natural stone looks with the comfort of cork. They offer planks that resemble hardwood, thanks to digital printing. To help you decide, we listed a few leading manufacturers and a breakdown of the costs.
|Brand||Price per Sq.Ft. (Materials Only)|
|iCork||$3 - $4.10|
|APC Cork||$3.10 - $6|
|Jelinek Cork||$3.60 - $5.70|
|We Cork||$3.70 - $8.30|
|AMCork||$4.70 - $5.50|
|CorksRibas USA||$5.20 - $6.50|
|Wicanders||$5.50 - $7.90|
|Globus Cork||$6 - $11|
|US Floors||$7.50 - $8.70|
Cost of Labor to Install Cork Flooring
Of the total $2,125 spent on cork flooring installation, approximately $500 to $1,200 is spent on installation costs. Flooring contractors charge between $2 and $8 per sq.ft. for their services. Flooring specialists will be the best choice for installing this unique floor. However, you could also have a handyman do it at a lower hourly rate, in some instances, if they are familiar with the unique nature of cork and its installation requirements. Most jobs are charged by the square foot rather than by the hour, so double-check when getting quotes.
Several cost factors are involved in the labor rate for cork flooring installation, including the cost of insurance and the licensing requirements in your area. You will pay more if your state has heavy regulatory requirements or higher-than-average insurance rates. The type of cork floor you install also impacts the labor cost. A cork tile floor costs more to install because the work involved results in higher labor. A floating floor generally goes together faster and can be installed for less, but the materials cost more. If you use the flooring in a kitchen or wet area or choose an unfinished floor, it may have higher installation costs because the floor should be sealed to prevent moisture from seeping between the floor. In the table below, you will see each installation type and its respective average costs.
Before new floors are installed, the existing floors may need to be inspected and/or prepared for installation. This will usually be included in the total project costs, but check with your contractor to be sure. There are two types of installation options: glue-down installation and floating installation. Glue is used on cork tiles. The contractor starts in the middle of the room and works their way out to the edges, cutting tiles as necessary. This process is more labor-intensive, so it generally costs a bit more. Floating floors usually require underlayment or cushioning, but that should be included in the installation cost. The underlayment will be laid, and then planks will be installed by snapping them together. Nails are generally not used on cork because the material is too soft. Its engineered construction allows the flooring to come loose from the nail far too easily. The costs for these installations are different because of the labor involved. Exact prices may vary.
|Installation Method||Cost per Sq.Ft. (Labor Only)||Cost per Sq.Ft. (Installed)|
|Floating||$2 - $4||$6 - $14|
|Glue-Down||$3 - $8||$6 - $16|
Cork Flooring Installation Cost by Location
You can have cork floors installed in several rooms of the home and will spend between $6 and $12 per sq.ft., based on the location. This may also be because you might want a different type of cork flooring in certain areas, such as waterproof styles in a kitchen or bath. Usually, it’s a matter of materials and installation considerations and how easy the area is to access.
Bedrooms and hallways are good for any cork flooring, including luxury vinyl and printed tiles, standard cork floor tiles, or natural cork planks. These floors are soft and comfortable to walk on. In high-traffic areas, you might want cork that includes an overlayment that protects from damage, such as a printed vinyl design or just a vinyl finish. In bathrooms, kitchens, and damp basements, you will want to make sure you use waterproof cork flooring designed to be more durable and hold up to the various elements. Otherwise, water could get into the cork tiles and cause swelling, crumbling, and other damage. If you have a dry basement, you may be able to get away without needing waterproof tiles, but a contractor can advise as to the best option based on your specific needs. In the table below, you will see a breakdown of the average costs to install cork flooring in the most common rooms of your home.
|Location||Cost per Sq.Ft. (Installed)|
|Bathroom||$6 - $7|
|Kitchen||$6 - $10|
|Bedroom||$7 - $9|
|Basement||$8 - $10|
|Hall / Foyer||$8 - $12|
Pros and Cons
Although cork has been used as flooring in homes for more than 100 years, it has only recently gained widespread popularity. This is largely due to an increase in brands and available products and people’s desire to choose eco-friendly and unique options for updating their homes. In addition to being an eco-friendly material, cork flooring reduces heating and cooling costs and is known for its comfortable walking surface. Because cork is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, the material makes excellent flooring for people with allergies or sensitivity to mold. Several designs are available with printed cork flooring and other styles. You can install cork floors that look like hardwood, concrete, marble, and other stones for a unique look and a lower cost than expensive materials.
Cork material is not recommended for areas subject to moisture or water unless the cork or the space has been properly waterproofed. While it is less common, modern cork materials can even be used in basements, provided the space is dry and properly sealed to prevent moisture. The cork floors themselves should be finished with a waterproof sealant. Safety is also a high point with cork because it is not only fire-resistant but does not release any toxic gasses if accidentally burned.
While cork flooring has many advantages, it is not as durable as other flooring options and can be easily damaged by pets and sharp objects. It requires regular maintenance, which may include applying a sealer like polyurethane regularly. Otherwise, discoloration from humidity and staining from spills can damage the flooring, ruining the appearance and requiring replacement. You will also need furniture pads to protect the floor from dents and damage due to the weight of furniture sitting on the cork.
Cork floors require more maintenance than other flooring materials. However, if they are properly installed, you can reduce that. Cork should be sealed after it is installed using a high-quality polyurethane sealant. This will be included in the project and its costs, but make sure that it is done. The sealant needs to be reapplied every five years to keep the floors waterproof and in good condition. This costs $45 to $100 for the materials and $0.30 to $0.70 per sq.ft. for the labor if you hire someone to do the work (recommended) instead of doing it yourself. This includes sanding the floors and then refinishing them with a new coat of polyurethane.
Regular maintenance includes sweeping your floors at least once a week. You should only use a damp mop with a mild cleaner recommended for cork specifically. Avoid steam cleaners, overly-wet mops, and harsh chemicals because these damage the floors. Taking a proactive approach to maintenance makes a big difference in the longevity and quality of your cork floors. For instance, clean up spills immediately and use furniture pads to protect from furniture damage. Do not drag items across the floor. Keep your pets’ nails trimmed so they do not damage the cork. You can also add rugs or runners in high-traffic areas to protect the cork from damage. When you clean the floor, make sure that you allow it to air dry properly before placing any rugs back down so that moisture buildup does not occur. Another way to protect a cork floor without covering it up is by applying wax. Wax forms a shield against spills, scratches, and stains that help keep the cork floor looking good. Use a pure, all-natural wax that is not diluted, and follow the schedule recommended by your flooring installer.
Cork vs Other Types of Flooring
Cork flooring costs from $6 to $16 per sq.ft. Compared to other types of flooring that you can install, you will find a range of $2 to $25 per sq.ft., depending on the style of flooring that you choose. Tile has the widest price range, but it is also a more stylish option and offers durability in bathrooms and kitchens where cork flooring might fall into disrepair sooner. Hardwood and bamboo are a bit more expensive, but they offer their own perks, such as the beauty and durability of hardwood flooring. Some people install laminate flooring or carpet because they want comfort and a stylish look without a huge expense, but the price of these materials adds up quickly. In the table below, you will see a breakdown of each type of flooring and its average costs.
|Type||Price per Sq.Ft. (Installed)|
|Vinyl||$2 - $14|
|Hardwood||$6 - $10.50|
|Cork||$6 - $16|
|Laminate||$6 - $14|
|Carpet||$7 - $12|
|Tile||$10 - $25|
|Bamboo||$10 - $25|
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
If you want to add a unique focal point to your cork floors, cork inlays cost $200 to $220 installed. A typical cork inlay is around 3’ x 5’ and contains a unique border design along the outside. Cork inlays are sections of cork flooring surrounded by hardwood, linoleum, or bamboo. These cork inlays cost slightly more per square foot because more cutting and measuring are required. However, they give a custom look to any space.
Radiant Heat Flooring
If you add radiant heat flooring to enhance the comfort of your new cork floors, you can expect to spend between $11 and $22.50 per sq.ft. Cork flooring can be placed over the top of hot water radiant heat, but it 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 acclimating. Do not let the surface temperature exceed 84 degrees. Following installation, the heat from the flooring can cause the adhesive to loosen. Using a little extra adhesive during installation can prevent this problem.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Old floor removal vs overlay. If you have an existing linoleum, vinyl, or wood floor, it is possible to lay a floating cork floor over the top, provided your surface is even and clean. When installing cork tiles, you must first remove the old flooring or lay a new subfloor over the top.
- Underlayment. While you cannot always lay cork on 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.
- Subfloor repair. You will need to ensure that the subfloor is in good condition before installing any new flooring, including cork. This could include replacing loose nails, leveling an uneven floor, or even making other repairs or replacements.
- Molding. If you are laying cork floors in a new or renovated kitchen, cabinets should be installed first. You should allow a ½-inch space at the edge of the floors for expansion. You might want to install new trim or quarter-round molding to cover this gap and protect the floors, which comes at an additional cost of $1 to $2 per sq.ft.
- Warranty. Some brands come with a warranty of 10 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 also guarantees the work.
- Asbestos. Many older floor types were made with asbestos. If your existing floor was glued down before the 1980s, there might be asbestos in the tiles or the adhesive. In most areas, professional asbestos removal can be performed for between $400 and $500.
- Removal and disposal. You may also need to have cork flooring removed and discarded. This is typically factored into the installation costs, but you should make sure that you know the cost to remove cork flooring and whether it is charged separately.
- Lifespan. Cork floors typically last 40 years or more with regular maintenance and care. This depends on the location of the flooring, the traffic in your home, and how well the floors are maintained over the years.
- Do I need underlayment for cork flooring?
Cork naturally has cushioning properties, so no additional underlayment is required unless you install floating cork planks. All you need for glue-down tiles 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 high moisture content unless the area has been sufficiently waterproofed.
- 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 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.