Cork is one of the newer materials in the flooring world, and something many consumers fall in love with at first sight. While just as exotic as bamboo flooring, cork has unique properties not found with other flooring materials. It’s also considerably softer underfoot than hardwood, laminate, and luxury vinyl.
We’re big fans of cork, but it’s not ideal for every room, and the installation process can be tricky compared to other materials. That means the installation cost for cork flooring can be critical, along with the price of cork flooring itself. In our guide, we’re going to cover both aspects of this interesting material so you’ll understand what to expect if you decide to go the DIY route or hire a professional for your project.
Cork Flooring Cost Factors
When you’re dealing with hardwood flooring, the species used can greatly affect the price, but that isn’t an issue with materials like bamboo or cork. Manufacturing techniques can still play a part in the final cost, and as it’s still fairly new, it’s not as cheap or budget-friendly as other styles of flooring.
Samples of cork aren’t quite as easy to acquire as other types of flooring, but you can find free or cheap cork samples locally or online. It’s a great way to try before you buy and allows you to get a feel for the material while checking a few of the factors we’ll discuss below.
Cork may be unique, but the one thing it has in common with almost every other style of flooring is the fact it comes in different formats. Initially, cork tiles were the only way to go, but now manufacturers have turned to new techniques when producing cork flooring.
With the exception of ceramic tile, how thick your flooring is can play a major part in how much you’ll pay for flooring. Thicker flooring typically last longer and can even provide extra padding for harder subfloors like concrete. With cork, you can expect to pay a premium for thicker flooring, whether it’s a cork tile or plank.
How much style raises the price factors into the type of cork flooring you choose to a degree. Waterproof cork is available in different styles than natural cork, and both have a variety of price points. While most manufacturers keep pricing tight between styles, you will pay more for stained cork or planks that have a weave-like texture compared to traditional cork flooring in natural colors.
Cork Flooring Cost
One of the nice things about cork, aside from the way it looks, is the fact the prices are stable. There’s not a lot of variance from one brand to the next with premium products. The cost of cork flooring is also comparable across brands on the lower end, as you can see from our chart.
11.5” x 35”
$4.78 sq. ft.
7.5” x 48”
$5.49 sq. ft.
12” x 36”
$7.25 sq. ft.
12” x 36”
$3.99 sq. ft.
12” x 24”
$3.18 sq. ft.
5.5” x 36”
$3.89 sq. ft.
12” x 24”
$3.11 sq. ft.
5.5” x 36”
$3.18 sq. ft.
The Cost to Install Cork Flooring Yourself
How big is the area you need to install cork flooring in? If you’re doing a whole house, you’ll want to set aside some time and prepare to have help ready for moving furniture and anything that will impede your progress.
Also, consider acclimation time. Cork is a sensitive material, and while acclimation times are typically just a few days, we have seen products that need a week or more to breathe. Your new flooring also needs to acclimate in the room where it will be installed, which could alter your schedule when it comes to the prep work.
How the floors will be installed depends on the product and who makes it, but all forms of cork flooring have one thing in common. You will need to ensure the surface where they’ll be installed is completely free of debris and clean. That can take some time if you’re removing carpet or covering up old tile and not just tidying up.
Tools of the Trade
It doesn’t matter if you’re installing engineered flooring with a cork veneer or thick cork tiles, you will need a good measuring tape, pencil, and a speed square or straight edge. If you have to remove your current flooring or pull up baseboard, you’re also going to need a hammer or pry bar. You could also require a tapping block and rubber mallet depending on your method of installation.
In most cases, you can cut cork tile with a razor knife as long as it’s sharp. For engineered or cork planks, you’ll need a saw. A circular saw will work with the right blade, but a miter saw will make your life easier if you’re installing cork throughout your house. You can pick up a saw from a rental store for around $40.00 to $50.00 per day or purchase a solid circular saw for around the same price.
As with most style of flooring, the first thing you’ll need to pick up that falls under the “extras” category would be base or trim. In some cases, you may be able to reuse what you pull up, but if it’s old or thin, you’ll probably need to replace it.
Moisture barriers and underlayment are also something you can’t do without. It’s also an area where you need to follow the manufacturer’s directions to a fault, or you could void your warranty. Read the installation instructions on your flooring before you buy it, not after the fact.
If purchasing cork tiles, may need to seal seams which requires sealant, and you’ll need adhesive to glue them down as well. That will set you back around $40 per gallon while a seam or flooring roller is something you’ll need to rent. Other additional expenses can include things like floor registers, stains, finishes, and rollers. That’s assuming your current flooring is in excellent condition as well. If not, you could run into some serious issues.
Cork Installation Problems
Simply following directions can save you a lot of headaches, whether you are installing luxury vinyl flooring or thick traditional hardwood. From our research, we found that most cork flooring problems were related to two things – a poor installation or a subpar product.
Cork is suitable for a wide variety of surfaces and can be installed over certain types of exiting flooring like ceramic tile, vinyl, or wooden floors as long as you prep the flooring according to the manufacturer’s directions. We found that underlayment grade materials like particleboard and OSB are acceptable as well in most cases along with concrete slabs if the moisture level meets the requirements and proper precautions are taken.
The biggest issue most homeowners will face when installing cork flooring themselves are problems with their subfloor. It can be something as simple as a squeaky board that needs to be nailed down or something far more drastic like rotten wood.
The cost to fix issues with your subfloor varies but can increase the price of your project from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Using leveling compound or filling gaps is something most homeowners can handle, but fixing joists and replacing plywood isn’t nearly as easy.
Professional Cork Flooring Installation Cost
If you feel like installing cork flooring is too much to tackle or just want to ensure your project goes smooth, hiring a professional can be an excellent option. While it will increase the overall cost of the project, professional pricing is broken down into a few key areas.
The cost of the material is usually added into the project unless you find a contractor willing to let you purchase the material yourself. That all comes down to the contractor or handymen installing your flooring. Some prefer to purchase the flooring through their channels while others are happy to let you supply materials. Labor is the other half of the cost to install cork flooring and something that can differ from one state to another.
Assuming your subfloor is in excellent condition, you can expect to pay around $5.00 to $10.00 per square foot to have cork flooring installed by a professional. If you haven’t cleared the room of furniture, there can be an additional charge to deal with that, along with the cost to remove and haul off old flooring from your home.
The Best places to Purchase Cork Flooring for your Home
Considering cork isn’t quite as popular as bamboo or luxury vinyl, it’s not as easy to find the top products. A quick online search will bring up plenty of results, but you could end up with poor quality flooring if you don’t look before you leap.
Green Building Supply is your best option if you need to buy cork flooring online and want high-quality planks or tiles that will outlast others. GBS carries cork flooring from Wicanders, US Floors, Nova, and Amorin with over 50 styles in stock. Most of their traditional cork flooring is around $4.00 per square foot but printed and waterproof cork can bring a premium.
Another place to find some interesting options online would be Wayfair. They have flooring from several brands like APC Cork and styles that range from wood-look cork to ½” thick tile with an engineered wood core.
Locally, you’ll need to turn to a flooring store to find quality cork flooring or visit your local Home Depot. They have a handful of styles from Heritage Mill, while Lowes stocks US Floors products, and Lumber Liquidators carries Lisbon Cork.
Cork is one of the more unique flooring materials we’ve seen in recent years, and something a lot of homeowners are just beginning to learn about. If you want to learn more about cork before deciding on a brand, be sure to check out our cork flooring buying guide to ensure it’s the right material for your home.