Cork Flooring For Kitchen Pros & Cons
Cork floors have been a popular choice for kitchen floor remodels and renovations for years and years. And with the flexibility, sustainability and ease of installation that this option provides, it’s easy to see why! Here are some of the top cork flooring for kitchen pros and cons for you to consider before choosing this type of flooring for your home.
What is Cork Flooring?
Cork flooring is, as you may have guessed, made from cork. Cork is a natural and renewable material that is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, which are native to Spain, Portugal and Tunisia. It has been used sustainably in construction for centuries. For flooring products, cork is harvested, ground up, compressed, and formed into sheets bonded with resins.
Pros of Cork Flooring
For comfort-conscious homeowners, cork is a great flooring choice. Its inherent softness creates a more comfortable environment, and makes standing for long periods much easier on backs, legs, and feet, which is key for a busy room of your home like the kitchen.
Cork flooring has gained popularity in the United States as a flooring material because of its durability, eco-friendliness and high comfort factor. Here are some of the top advantages to choosing cork flooring for kitchens.
Cork flooring has one of the longest lifespans of any kitchen flooring options, with some of the best materials able to last 40 years of more with proper care and maintenance. It’s an incredibly durable material — it resists cracking and abrasions and is impermeable to gas and liquid.
This quality is a reason why cork flooring is a great choice for large family homes, or homes that experience a lot of foot traffic. Cork flooring bounces back easily, so indentations caused by furniture or human activity won’t be permanent.
Although it’s not quite as low maintenance as other flooring options, like luxury vinyl flooring, for example, cork flooring is relatively easy to take care of.
Especially when installed correctly with multiple layers of a quality water barrier sealer applied to the surface, cork flooring will require sweeping or vacuuming to remove dirt or dust. One thing to note though – spills need to be wiped up quickly to avoid staining, so be sure not to overlook messes that may occur as you cook and prepare meals.
Cork flooring is a dream floor for the hygiene-obsessed. Cork is naturally resistant to mold, mildew and termites. Unlike carpet, cork tends to repel dust, hair, and other small particles from its surface, which makes it easier to get completely clean. Because of this, and the fact that cork does not off-gas or shed microfibers, cork floors tend to promote higher indoor air quality.
In addition, cork actually has antimicrobial properties – Cork contains a waxy substance called “suberin,” which naturally repels small vermin and insects. This makes cork floors resistant to insects and can help keep a clean environment.
Another family-friendly factor – core flooring is generally a very safety-friendly choice. Cork is fire-resistant, which makes it especially great for kitchens. It will melt or ignite only at very high temperatures. And furthermore, even if it does ignite, cork generates less smoke and doesn’t release any toxic gases or chemicals when burned accidentally.
One of the most recognizable and distinguishing characteristics, as far as cork flooring in kitchen pros and cons, is the comfort factor.
A cork floor provides a comfortable cushion underfoot because it “gives” when compressed. One of the best things about this material is how noticeably soft it feels beneath your feet, especially compared to harder floor materials like hardwood or tile. Cork flooring also eases stress on your back and legs, making it a good fit for any place in your home where you’ll be standing for long periods of time, like kitchens or laundry rooms.
And if you run cold, you’ll be pleased with the touch of cork flooring. If you usually wear socks or slippers around the house to avoid cold floors under your feet, you’ll appreciate cork’s ability to stay at room temperature and therefore feel warm to the touch.
Cork is also a natural thermal and acoustic insulator, which means rooms with cork flooring are naturally warm and quiet. This is because the inside of a piece of cork is made up of millions of tiny air-filled chambers, which act as barriers against the transmission of noise, effectively insulating any room. For this reason, cork is a great choice for kitchen flooring, but also for second floor rooms in multi-story houses, since cork will reduce noise from being transmitted through the floor to the ceiling below.
Cork flooring can also help you save money on heating and cooling bills. That same property that insulates the floor against noise will reduce transmission of heat into a room in the summer or out of a room in the winter.
The look of cork flooring is certainly a draw for those looking to create a truly unique space. Unique look aside, cork flooring is widely available in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes, so you can can completely customize your kitchen’s look.
Cork comes in both planks and tiles for installation – planks create a seamless-looking floor, and tiles provide a more nontraditional effect. Similar to ceramic tiles or paint, cork has the fun benefit of being able to create just about any floor motif! From stripes to chevrons to intricate patterns or even mimicking hardwood – cork provides a world of possibilities.
Materials-wise, cork flooring is sold with two types of finishes: polyurethane/acrylic-based and water-based. Polyurethane/acrylic finishes are more durable, therefore, will protect the flooring better, while water-based finishes are more environmentally friendly and also less likely to fade with exposure to light. Water-based finishes are, however, slightly more expensive than their polyurethane/acrylic counterparts.
Flexibility of Installation
As far as installation goes, cork is fairly easy to set up in your home. It also offers the added benefit of being able to be installed on uneven surfaces, or even over existing flooring. So, if you’re dealing with a particularly uneven or old subfloor, cork may be an excellent choice. In addition to being used as surface flooring, cork can be used as an underlayment for hardwood, laminate and ceramic tiles to reduce room noise.
As a building material, cork has little negative impact on the environment. In fact, one of the reasons cork has seen a resurgence in recent years is because of its quality as a “green” renewable resource that can be used without the guilt associated with using luxury hardwoods that must be harvested by rainforests.
For starters, the harvesting practices for cork are sustainable: a tree should be at least 25 years old before its bark can be harvested. Cork can be harvested every eight to 14 years without killing the tree. So, homeowners can feel good about their environmental impact (or lack thereof), by choosing cork flooring.
Another environmental “pro” of cork is that the actual manufacturing process for cork flooring generates almost no waste. The residuals from the stopper production are collected, ground finely, and mixed with binders that hold the cork together. These binders typically include natural ingredients and proteins. Once complete, the cork is dyed and shaped to achieve the desired visual effect.
Cons of Cork Flooring
While cork is comfortable, insulative and generally a very family-friendly option, there are some “cons” to be aware of before deciding what kind of floor to install. Here are some of the disadvantages to choosing cork flooring for kitchens.
While is can be a “pro” for comfort, the softness of cork, unfortunately, makes cork flooring more susceptible to damage. Especially in a room like the kitchen, which sees lots of movement, if a sharp or heavy object is dropped, it can easily puncture the floor. Even small dirt particles can act like sandpaper grits and leave marks on the surface of the floor.
Furniture is also an issue for cork flooring. The legs of tables and chairs can scrape or damage cork flooring, and if you have heavy appliances in your kitchen, then you may also have a problem with them sinking permanently down into the cork. Fortunately, using furniture coasters, or placing particularly heavy furniture pieces on top of support pieces, like plywood, can help to offset this problem.
In addition, if you have pets, you can expect to deal with cat and dog nail scratches on cork flooring. Keeping your pet’s nails trimmed can help, but pet scratches are an inevitable side effect of cork flooring.
While cork is relatively easy to maintain, there are certain aspects that may prove to be too “high-maintenance” for the average homeowner. In general, cork flooring can be stained by oil, dirt, and spills if not properly protected, so it is not the best floor to have in a kitchen.
While cork has waterproof properties, they are not permanent – cork flooring must be sealed every 5 years to keep its waterproof characteristics. And furthermore, every five to eight years, you should have the entire floor recoated in polyurethane.
Generally, cork flooring is not an expensive material and sometimes can be as cheap as $1.10 per square foot. But it can also be as high as $7.25, depending on the characteristics and color of the material. Furthermore, the warranty offered by the manufacturer and the insulation and soundproofing characteristics of the flooring material will also affect the cost of cork flooring pieces.
And if you choose to get your cork floor professionally installed, you can expect an additional cost that you may be able to easily avoid with other, self-installation-friendly flooring options. Not remembering to include installation hours into your budget is one of the top kitchen and bathroom remodeling mistakes, and can easily be avoided with the right pre-planning. In some cases, installation for kitchen flooring can easily cost more than 50 percent of the project’s cost! So don’t forget to factor this in if you are getting your cork floor professionally installed.
In addition, since many cork materials originate outside of North America, this can increase production and shipping costs.
If direct sunlight is allowed to beam down on cork materials every day, then discoloration may occur and a patch of the floor can end up taking on a different color than surrounding areas. This tends to be an issue specifically with kitchens, which many homeowners prefer to flood with natural light and big windows. While this fading can be prevented by blocking sunlight with curtains or blinds, it will definitely require constant attention.
In conclusion, cork is a fun, comfortable and safe option for any home. Although it has varying qualities that affect its use in the kitchen, by knowing the cork flooring kitchen pros and cons, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision possible and create a beautiful, functional kitchen for your home.