Cork Flooring: Got it? Know anything about it?

We need to put in new flooring at our house. I hate the linoleum and the carpet that was in the house when we bought it is really cheap and is starting to look like crap.

I’ve been looking at alternatives to carpet because we’ve got two dogs and I’d like something that’s easier to clean. At the same time, though, I don’t want anything that is slick, hard, or horribly expensive to put in (like tile or slate).

I’ve discovered cork flooring, which apparently has been used in Europe for a long time. Does anyone here have any experience with it? I’d love to hear about the pros and cons before we shell out $$ for something I can only read about.

Hi: We put it in our bathroom - bought on line from Creative Cork in Ottawa - 12 x 23" (?) tiles with none of the fancy backing they have now - just cork. It’s great - I have a large window in my bathroom and the sun comes in, warms up the cork and it’s warm for a long time, soft, comfortable. I absolutely love it.

Not sure I would try the kind with the big thick backing on it though.

Only tip - use scissors to cut it - an exacto knife cuts it but you can’t see the mark if you want to go over it again!

We had to re-do floor entirely (old as the hills) so we did birch plywood, layer of durabond 90, then cork.

I would highly recommend it. Let us know how it works out! Incidentally, we only paid about $1.72 per square foot for it!

Urgh, we had cork floor tiles once, they were horrible! You couldn’t let anyone wearing shoes with thick tread, or high heels walk on them, as it left marks, some of which were permanent …

We have had the expensive, Spanish cork flooring for the past 4 years. We had a choice of either tiles covered with a urethane coating or tiles covered with a wax coating. The wax is matte finished and needs to be buffed out to get a glossy shine.

Our cork flooring experience was a fiasco. It was very difficult to find a professional floor laying firm in Seattle that had experience doing jobs for non-commerical, non-office sites. The commercial installation firms wanted to charge an outragious fee, several thousand dollars. The firm we hired, who had an excellent reputation, did a terrible job-so terrible that I ended up not paying them the $1500 bill. After hearing my story, the humbled owner understood and did not seek payment.

Cork floors have rather particular requirements that can be taxing. To do it right requires your room have a special super-strong plywood subfloor to handle the very strong adhesive and possible pulling up of the tiles. It also must be a specific thickness.

The tiles themselves were artier than a bulletin board–for the $2400 cost is better be–and had various dark and light hued patterns on select tiles. The firm which did the job neglected to give any forethought to the layout pattern, even though the strict installation instructions stated so. So when I got home it appeared that a drunk had just clumped a whole mess of dark hued tiles in just a few places on the floor–instead of spreading them out with a design of sorts. The glues used were pretty toxic and my wife was pregnant at the time so she couldn’t really monitor the job.

I called the company to complain and they came back out and had to chisel and rout the ill-placed dark tiles out by hand. Of course the tiles were destroyed and we had to order new ones which had to be shipped from Spain–which took 4 weeks. The contractor paid.

Unfortunately the replacement tiles was imperfectly glued in on two accounts. First, the routing didn’t really remove every bit of the “old” tile, so laying new tile on top of that resulted in a slight lip showing next to adjoining tiles. You don’t really see it, but you do feel it, especially when wearing socks. On top of that, about a dozen tiles (and the room is over 400 square feet) started curling up about an hour after the layer left our home. I ended up putting stack of books on each offending tile and that seems to work fine.

I am sure that I could have called those SOBs back, but I didn’t want to seem them again no matter what the cost. You see, they started this job about three months prior to about when my son was due to be born. I gave them that requirement at the outset. We were planning on having a home birth in the room with the new cork tiles. They messed up big and he was born in another room in the house before they finished the job and we had to seal off the flooring job part of the house to keep the glue smells away from him and my wife. I still resent having to deal with the floor, the hassle, and the bleeping installers instead of helping my wife and being with my son.

After life got stable again I undertook the task of buffing out the wax on the tiles. I rented a commercial waxer and the right pads and all that stuff. I could never get the gloss right and even today they look dull.

There are a few good things to say about the cork–they insulate both sound and cold rather nicely. Dropped glasses don’t break. That’s about it. Aside from our installation horrors, I have been disappointed with the visual aesthetics–too large gaps between tiles really cheapens the whole look.

If you want to consider alternatives check out bamboo. Also we really like linoleum–not the cheesy vinyl stuff that is probably in your home (and most other folks’ too) but the original 1930’s stuff which is made from natural products. There are some great Italian designs available. Both of these floor types are fairly hard, but you can lay nice rugs on top.

I have cork flooring in one room of my house (the bit leading into the laundry). It was there before I moved in, but I haven’t experienced any of the problems described above. People walking on the cork don’t leave any marks and the seams between the tiles are very difficult to spot. The surface is covered with a hard and slightly shiny veneer, which I guess protects the cork from damage.

One interesting feature is that water spilled on my cork floor seems to seep below the veneer, so it leaves a mark which cannot be rubbed off. But lo! wait 30 minutes or so for it to evaporate and the stain disappears.

The rest of my place is tiled with slate. Slate is warmer to the feet than ceramic tiles, but the cork floor is an even better insulator.

Thanks for the replies. The biggest thing I am afraid of is getting a crappy installer like Geoduck had - since this isn’t a real common type of flooring, finding someone who is experienced in installation might be our biggest problem.

Since the area we are considering doing is pretty large, if we do this we’d probably use planks instead of tiles - that would eliminate the seam problem, and since it’s a floating floor the expansion and contraction of the planks would be a less significant issue:

The place above also sells bamboo flooring. I’ve never seen any of that, don’t know anything about it, but I will check it out. It’s really important to me not to get anything hard/slippery. I don’t want to have to coat the floor with rugs just so the dogs can walk on it - pretty much defeats the purpose of not getting carpeting in the first place.

maggy, your floor sounds wonderful. I will check out that company you mentioned. I hadn’t thought of putting any in the bathroom - we were considering tile or similar in there. Right now both bathrooms have carpeting in them too, which is just weird.

We never used a professional - never found the need - we had severe time restrictions - the only bathroom in the house and we were re-doing the entire thing - taking out walls, reinsulating, drywalling, painting, had clawfoot taken out and refinished…all in about four days…

We did not use the cork with the backing on it - I think that would make it more difficult - why don’t you just do it yourself? Use a good plywood, screwed every four inches, then durabond 90 then cork. YOu can apply sealer yourself - that’s the only tough part - waiting for it to dry. I think, using floating cork would be sort of defeating the purpose.

We dropped pretty much everything on the floor we’ve got and,that’s the nice thing about cork, nothing leaves marks (well, except for the clawfoot but we’re not moving that anytime soon!

I’m watching this thread with interest: my parents want to re-do the flooring in the great room with some kind of wood, but they’re not sure which path to go.

It’s a large area, with a few odd-shapes (bar area, corridor leading to the rest of the house) so something that can easily deal with this would be nice. Something that we could do ourselves would be even better, espically if it could be put down over the current ugly stuff. (The floor is in good condition, it just looks like crap because of the nature of the tiles on it.)

I’d been looking at bamboo as a reccomendation, it looks like I may reccomend cork as well, assuming we can find it around here.

<< Life is that annoying time between naps. >>

Because poo-flinging monkeys could do a better job than me - trust me on that one ;). Handy Andy I am not.

And because we’re talking about a lot of space here - kitchen, living room, two hallways, and dining room - probably 1200 sq. feet or so. The only room that is a plain rectangle is the dining room, too, so a lot of cutting and fitting is going to be required. And there’s flooring that will need to be pulled up, as well. The carpeting won’t be hard, of course, but there is some hardwood that needs to go away. Not sure about whether the vinyl can be left down or not.

Never heard of cork flooring before. Sounds interesting. :slight_smile: Also seems to have some downsides also.

My husband and I have been considering bamboo flooring when we redo it all who puts in white (well it was white at one time) carpet in the desert- looks like crap, gets all dirty. Bamboo is supposed to last like hardwood flooring, but is way cheeper than traditional hardwood. Mainly because it is a fast replensihing natural resource & it has an interesting look to it as well.

The important thing with cork flooring is to go for LOTS of layers of the sealant stuff when it’s first laid. It’s a huge pain, because you have to wait days for each to dry, but it pays massive dividends in the longevity of the tiles. And it cuts down on the damage from high heels etc.

And I don’t think we are going to do it. I liked it - the place we went to actually had a section of their own floor done with it - but the acrylic sealant they put on it makes it almost as slippery as hardwood. So that’s a non starter for us. I did like the look of it and it was not cold, or as hard as the hardwood, but I can see the dogs doing their Bambi on Ice imitation on it anyway. Took a look at the bamboo, too, but it’s pretty much just like hardwood in terms of the slick factor.

We’ll probably go with a (much) better quality carpet for the living room and dining room, and maybe laminate for the kitchen. Saw some very nice textured stuff that could work - not slippery, nor as heavy or expensive as something like slate.

If this doesn’t work out, I’m going for the Astroturf :).