Reader question: ‘While checking out our flooring options we have fallen for the idea of cork! Since our three bedrooms and open plan living on the first floor is a tight squeeze we are concerned about the noise from hardwood and laminate. I have terrible allergies and carpet is not my favorite. Some of the newer cork has caught my eye and I am eager for a professional opinion on the matter. Please post about cork flooring. . . will it work with my style? Have they made it look enough like hardwood? Or will it be sad and out of place?‘
I can honestly say that cork flooring is not heavily used in Vancouver. Out of the thousands of homes I have been in, I rarely see cork anywhere. Also when I started searching for images for this post I had a very hard time finding a “pretty room” with cork flooring. That says a lot already about how bossy the colour choices are which brings me to my next point.
Most of the available colours are actually pretty bossy. If you have honey oak floors for example, they still read as “neutral” (dated or not) but if you try to find cork flooring in the same tone what you end up with is a floor that reads “orange.”
After spending quite a bit of time searching for images the first one in this post is the closest to “neutral” that I could find. Even the medium brown ones looked–gasp–pinky beige to me.
You could introduce white (below) if your house has a cottage feel or if you have a more contemporary modern space.
The only time I would consider it as a flooring alternative is if I already had wood floors throughout my house and it would be impossible to extend the same hardwood in an adjoining room (but I would try hard to do that first). This leaves you with tile or cork and if tile was not an option then I would choose a cork floor that coordinated with my existing hardwood floor.
So over to you my lovelies, if you have it, how is the maintenance? Do you still love it? How about the colour? Love it or leave it? We’d love to hear your view.
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I definitely think of cork as a “classic” floor covering that’s seeing a bit of a resurgence. Our family cottage has had cork flooring since it was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s. I can’t think of a floor that would have worn better through years (and generations of sandy, wet children). Wood, tile or carpet would have been trashed. The color is very similar to that of medium-tone oak floors,
We put cork flooring in our kitchen last year, it butts up to our hardwood floors and we didn’t want tile so it was the best option. We used Torly’s Classic Plank in Coffee Bean which is quite dark and it looks great with our white cabinets. We are considering using it on our upper level in the bedrooms eventually as I also have allergies and dislike carpet but it may be over our budget. We are pretty happy with the cork flooring although it can get small nicks and marks in it fairly easily. I have heard that putting a couple of coats of polyurethane on top to seal and protect it helps.
I think the look is fairly timeless and I definitely don’t think it’s just a trend. The colour is important though and a mid-tone brown would definitely be a nice choice, Torly’s has one called Sicilian Olive that is gorgeous (and not really green, it’s a neutral).
Interesting, Maria. I have only seen cork applications in homes built in the 1950’s through the early 1970’s, so frankly it looks dated to me. I believe it darkens over time. It may be a great “green” product, but I don’t really see it as “classic.” I’ll be interested to read the responses to this one!
Cork is my absolute favorite floor I’ve ever had. It’s warm, quiet, and easy to install and take care of. It feels very classic to me and we had no trouble finding a medium finish that wasn’t too orange or pink.
This is our second house we have used it in. Van Gogh and Cassatt at Lumber Liquidators are my favorites. We have used it in a kitchen and bedrooms. I sealed ours with polyurethane. Maintenance is a breeze. Just swiffer and an occasional steam mop! The only con is it will dent with extremely heavy furniture.
We just installed cork floors in our house this week. Our house is transitional to modern and cork floors were one of the first decisions we made. Besides being beautiful, I love the sound-proofing quality (I live with a brain injury…our old floor was hardwood and SO loud). You can see pictures here: http://dejongdreamhouse.blogspot.com/2012/01/our-cork-floors.html
I would disagree with the idea that there are only a few cork choices. Cork can be dyed in any color, or stained, or whitewashed, plus there are several styles as well.
Very nice. I always loved cork flooring and would like to install it on my main floor and in the bathrooms. The colours you chose are beautiful.
I am actually really interested in the responses to this one as well! We are considering it for our basement playroom. I don’t want hard, cold tile for a children’s basement playroom. I like hardwood but because its a basement with more potential for water damage that rules out real hardwood and I think laminate as well. Carpet would be ok but the same water issue applies. It is my understanding that cork flooring does better with the water, and wouldn’t be as hard as a tile. Can’t wait to see the responses to your post, thanks for writing!
Classic and a Yay! from me.
I’ve seen it used in public buildings in Scandinavia (yes Helsinki, too) and it was beautiful, hard-wearing and easy on the feet. I would love to use it in my kitchen and bathroom, but you make a good point about choosing a color with care.
Wow! I have to respond to this one! Cork is definitely classic and has been used for at least 100 years in high-end homes as well as museums and libraries. It was especially popular in the late 1800s when they often used it in inlay patterns ie. Toledo Museum of Art and Dayton MOA. I owned a beautiful 1920s house that had a cork floor in the solarium and have installed a lovely dark colour in my current 3rd floor. It’s remained poplar in Europe, especially for kitchens. If you’ve ever dropped a glass or felt the chill on your feet in the morning, you’ll know why. Quiet, sound absorptive, resilient, warm,easy to clean and available in an astonishing range of colours and designs…what more could you want? I’m surprised you could find so few images on the web or in magazines. Please rethink this one! I think I’ve agreed with practically everything else you’ve written.
Thanks for bringing up the topic.
Why the binary question? Why trendy or classic? Why can’t it be not both, meaning that the people who only do what they’ve already seen on TV decorating shows or in the current mags can install cork knowing that it’s getting a lot of love at the moment, then rip it out (or cover it up) in a few years when something else comes along, and the rest of us can ignore the trends & either keep the cork floors we’ve had for decades–well, anyway, the lucky ones among us–we can install cork when we get the right place for it.
Anyone who’s ever seen Donald Deskey’s interiors for Radio City knows how beautifully the stuff ages–like old leather–and I know from experience that it holds up to traffic because the floors in my old town’s public library (where the noise factor was critical in its choice) are 4 decades old and still looking good. We’ll see how good laminate flooring looks like after 40 years–if it even makes it that long.
My next place will definitely have cork floors.
I think it’s easier to be timeless with wood, but I think that it’s possible to choose cork that will weather the trends. At least, I hope so, because I love the cork we put in our laundry and garage entrance/mudroom. But if you’re skeptical about cork, Maria, I’m nervous.
I’m intrigued by that pale color in the last photo, but, oy, do I really want to replace my tired beige carpet and beige vinyl with beige cork?!
I have radiant heated cork flooring in my kitchen. It butts up to our almost 100 year old hard wood flooring in our adjoining dining room and hallway. I would have chosen hardwood, but would never have been able to match it. Cork is WONDERFUL to stand on, it is SUPER easy to maintain….but mine has lightened, not darkened.
I have a tile floor in my kitchen but it’s cracking everywhere – I live right next to a rail yard, and the vibrations from whenever a train passes so close have been shattering the floor, so I feel like I need to replace the tile with something less brittle. Hadn’t thought about cork until I read this post, but I think it would work well for that reason. (Most of the rest of my house has honey-tone hardwood floors)
I have had a couple of bad experiences with cork.Lifting,which was covered under warranty but more importantly it is not stilletto heel proof.Unless it has improved in the last five years I would think twice.
I just checked with my hardwood floor contractor who works primarily on high end homes on Cape Cod and he said he very rarely installs cork here. However, Jen’s home (commenter above) looks great in cork. Sounds like it has advantages!
Like you, Maria, I love the look of continuous flooring, so when we finally decided to replace our minty vinyl kitchen flooring (yack!) I looked for flooring that would match our old oak flooring. I ruled out new oak flooring. It would never match and would register as “old vs. new”. the cork was too busy and didn’t match the oak. We finally decided on carbonated bamboo, which matches the oak color nicely and is beautiful. The only drawback is that it’s soft and dents easily, but we still love it.
I use cork a lot. It is fantastic in the basement because it is always warm, soft to sit and play on and very durable. It is great in bed rooms on a second floor especially children’s rooms because it is again soft and warm to play on. It also dampens the noise of people walking across the floor above you. Torly’s is the best company I have dealt with. They have a quality product…easy installation and many colours that do not read pink undertones. I love it in kitchens as water does not bother it and again it is easy to stand on for long periods. It comes in tiles, planks, floating floors or glue it down. It is also environmentally friendly . So don’t rule it out. It is a wonderful alternative to wood and a great addition to any home. Loved you book Maria. Everyone should have a copy!
I have cork flooring in the workout room in my basement. It looks and feels great, but does have small dents in it. It is very soft and if something heavy falls on it a small chunk can come off.
Absolutely yes to cork! I have it in my home and if I had it my way – I’d have it throughout. It’s soft on the feet, and comes in tons of colors and patterns. It’s how you can make your flooring the accent piece.
Just keep in mind it’s still a wood and needs to be treated as such. Watch humidity and spills (careful basements and kitchens) because it will get a water mark. Also, like anything else, watch the sun – it’ll fade. Great choice for a playroom or living room but as one comment above said, not good if something really heavy is on it, it has memory. Other than that -It’s a YAY!
I love mt kitchen’s cork floor! For a reference of wearability, all I needed to know about it was it has been used in the Georgetown University’s Law Library for nearly 30+ years. Cuts down sound AND the feet love it too!
My mother installed cork throughout her condo and loves it. It always feels warm, stands up to everything, and looks very high end. I know she absolutely loves it and has said she would never have another type of floor again. The grandkids are constantly dropping things and spilling on the floor. It is amazing what it hides! She has a warm honey color. Hope that helps 🙂 have a great day!
What a timely post – I was just researching cork for my home this weekend! My house practically echos from all the hard surfaces, plus the previous owner used 5 different tiles in 5 different rooms, all of the horrendous. In addition, we want to replace the lovely builder’s carpet in the bedrooms. However, my concern is full-of-life toddlers, and 2 70 lb dogs who play non stop and bring mud inside. Can your readers tell us – how does cork stand up to toddlers and dogs?
We did a home for the Street of Dreams in 1996, which was a while ago, and used cork flooring in the laundry room. I thought it sucked then and I still do. It was soooo dated but we got it for free and so that was a deciding factor. We have never used it again.
I have to speak on this one. I put tile floors right through the house and have suffered feet and knee problems ever since. Cork is wonderful for the feet and legs and is quiet and easily cleaned as well. I admire your blog but I think all the nonsense over pinky beige is silly. Context is everything with design. Any colour can be current and beautiful and loved depending on how it is used. Limestone floors which are pinky beige are timeless and extremely beautiful. So why can’t other natural floors such as cork be beautiful and OK. To me, your first picture is very current because of the supporting decor and the cork looks totally in place. In the second picture of three cork samples, the last pink colour cork is light, spaceous, timeless, elegant and very beautiful suiting many situations. I would love to see it used with some lovely antiques in the design. You can, as Jen says, colour cork to your liking anyway. You work the design to bring out its timeless nature by letting it be itself and not a mock copy of something else. Make sure the cork is sealed as dirt will gather in the joins the same as lino tiles and be careful with steam mops as they can lift the tiles over time by softening the glue. This is how I came to have tiled floors – dirty carpets and lifting expensive lino tiles through regular use of a steam mop. Unless done well, wooden floors can sometimes look too raw even with rugs (which the origional floors in our house did) and I had become scared of the possibility of another tile lifting – be it cork. My lesson learnt is chose furnishings and floors that uplift the spirit – but they must also support a healthy and graceful aging of the body. I wish I had explored cork tiles (or wood or rubber floors) more to understand how to ensure they could be beautiful and give comfort to the body.
12 years ago we installed cork in our ensuite as well as our children’s bathroom. I absolutely love it. It looks as good as the day it was installed. Also, you don’t need to heat it as it is warm underfoot (and I live in cold, snowy Alberta). It is very soft on the feet, cleans like a dream, and doesn’t have that hollow sound that laminate does. I love it and would not hesitate to use it again. The color options are endless. There is cork that doesn’t even look “corky”. All that being said, I am not entirely sure I would install it in a kitchen. Only because I think if you dropped a knife or a can on it, damage would ensue. However, I think there is no floor that can escape kitchen damage. We have maple hardwood in our kitchen and it has dents and marks in it. Being that it is hardwood though, those kind of marks are to be expected, whereas cork may not handle it so well. Just my thoughts.
HI Magnaverde, That is such a good question, classic or trendy was definitely not the right question but it was the only thing I could come up with besides bad or bad. I have NEVER seen a cork installation that I like besides the images I posted above. Just try to find some pretty kitchen (or any room) images with cork on-line, it’s near impossible.
And in all fairness to everyone posting that loves it, I probably would too if I was in your house, it’s not very widely used here in Vancouver.
Loved your comment on ‘pinky beige being silly’ however, If you have been in as many homes as I have over the years and seen as often as I have how unworkable that undertone is with most finishes and how yellow and orange undertones make it look dirty and wrong, you would also have the same aversion that I have. Also I have never said that Limestone or travertine or crema marfil are bad and wrong because they have pinky undertones. They are beautiful when i installed correctly but mixed with other finishes with the wrong undertones it’s bad. Don’t get me started on slate, it should never find it’s way into a bathroom.
Thanks for your comment though, I’m sure there are others who feel the same way!
Good point, about not seeing many (ANY?) photos online that were beautiful examples of cork. Wish I could take a photo of our Florida house, with cork throughout the main living areas, including the kitchen. We totally gutted it and the kitchen cabinets are faced with gorgeous English sycamore (the color of a little girl’s blonde hair!) Our cork is somewhat more figured than I would choose today, but nonetheless, beautiful. We’ve rented the house out for 3 years, so no pics now. When we did stay there, we had a whole bottle of wine spill, with no evidence left, dropped stemmed glasses on it that did not break, and no longer got the lower back aches we used to get when we stayed in Florida on tile floors! Also had a dishwasher overflow with no damage to the floor whatsoever! Our floor came from DuraCork, out of eastern Canada. Their images are pretty good.) We searched for an installer in our local area to even out the concrete slab & lay the stick down cork tiles. It was actually cheaper to fly their installer (from Detroit), put him up @ a motel, & lay the tile than ANY local installer! (Go figure). He did 5 layers of Poly (low gloss) on the surface and it is virtually impenetrable! Really, there are some good photos
available, if you Google other cork companies.
I have to say that, having lived in North Carolina houses with so much wood flooring—I would spec cork in my next home (if I am so blessed) in a heartbeat. Sooo much warmer, quieter and easier to keep clean!! Hope you get a chance to see some beautiful rooms one day with cork. You might like it!
Thanks for opening up the subject….
I’ve installed cork flooring for an elderly client’s kitchen. I thought perhaps it might be easier to walk on and might soften the blow of a fall somewhat. The cork looks absolutely gorgeous and it buts up to an identically toned maple hardwood in the hall and dining room. He’s had it there now for 2 years and is wearing very well, still looking like new. Client is thrilled.
I’m not sure I like the look of it for a living room, but I’ve gotta say it’s looking great with the custom creamy antiqued kitchen cabinets. So, I’d say yay, but only for kitchens.
I have used cork in 3 homes in the last 3 years – not a lot in average, but In all cases we have used a darker (chestnut) cork in either a square or a plank pattern. It is a great classic look that I think will be around for a long time. It is very comfortable underfoot. My clients love it.
Hi Maria – I just installed Torley’s sandstone cork planks in the kitchen – a warm grey taupe – with cloud white creamy cabinets and a honed and filled travertine backsplash and the look is amazing – the cork and travertine literally shake hands with each other. It is amazing how the travertine makes the cork seem almost a golden beige – but it is actually quite grey.
I say I have created a classic and elegant look – I get rave compliments on the floor – but most ask ” what is it?” I live in Ottawa and the dealer says it is selling like crazy but I have not sen much of it.
As for the cork – it is warm, soft, never shows dirt and the spot where i dropped a knife and the point stuck in has “healed” over. I would never put anything else but cork in the kitchen.
I used cork in my kitchen renovation nine years ago. It looks beautiful with the wood floors that abut it on either side. Every few years we do sand it lightly and apply a new coat of varnish but it’s a simple quick process that if done after dinner will be dry and ready to use again by breakfast. Its extremely durable, warm and soft to stand on. I have five kids and many pets and it looks just as it did the day it was installed.
I will chime and agree with the others; cork is GREAT!! It’s definitely classic. As others have mentioned, I have also seen in it 100 year old buildings locally, as well as in Europe. It is much, much more comfortable than tile for standing on while cooking all day, is easy to clean and hides dirt and spots (a must with kids and a dog!) better than any other type of flooring I’ve ever had. I also like that it is soft, so when my kids fall (as they always do), it does not even hurt them. You do need to coat it with polyurethane (we used Bona brand, I believe), similar to hardwood.
Our house has it in our little office, kitchen, powder room, and family room. The people we bought the house from had it installed when they put in an addition. It does join with the original (1930) hardwoods in our living and dining room (which were covered with nasty carpet when we moved in and that we had refinished in a maple stain) and while it’s not visually seamless, I think it is a nice compliment.
The color cork we have has a larger scale pattern than the samples you showed, and it looks almost like many cross sections of wood, if that makes sense, and has a variety of medium to darker brown tones, as well as some green. It’s neutral in our house, but the color we have would not work well with the new gray trend. Luckily for us, we have always loved earth tones and natural wood with pops of brighter color, so it looks great with our style.
I actually LIKE the fact that cork is not super common. It feels more special and unique than a trendy, common material that will be dated in a few years time.
Great topic! Glad to have a chance to defend it!!
Cork is classic, natural, warm, absorbs sound and has colour options. As for continuous floors, I consider this in a general way i.e., a flow of colour and height. You can get both with cork.
This was an interesting post about cork. Take a look…http://howtofloortile.blogspot.com/view/classic#!/2011/09/why-you-should-not-install-this.html
I’m not surprised that someone who lays tile for a living would dis cork flooring.
Cork is a classic. I don’t have any yet; however have seen them in both old and new homes and love the look and feel. Green too!