What About Cork Flooring for a Basement?
Learn When Cork Flooring Is and Isn’t a Great Basement Flooring Option & the Best Brands to Consider
If you’re wondering whether you can install cork flooring in a basement the short answer is yes… under certain conditions. Cork is an attractive choice for a basement floor, however like hardwood there are some major rules that need to be followed before you can install cork flooring below grade (underground).
January 26, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
In this post the Home Flooring Pros are going to look at two cork flooring options (glue down cork tiles and a cork floating floor), run through the pros and cons, take a look at installation considerations and finally review some of the best cork flooring brands for a basement and give you an idea of how much everything will cost.
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So, let’s get going with the pros and cons of cork flooring for a basement.
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PROS & CONS OF BASEMENT CORK FLOORING
With no natural light, basements need all the help they can get to feel warm and inviting. The two types of flooring that offer a warmer feel are carpet and cork. Obviously, basement carpet is the most inviting but cork runs it a close second. Warmer and more forgiving underfoot, cork is also quiet and very stable, qualities that you will appreciate in a confined, sometimes echoey, basement space.
With no windows how do you plan to ventilate your basement? Whatever the answer you’ll appreciate having a healthy and hypoallergenic cork floor that’s easy to keep clean.
It can be hard to keep a basement warm and flooring insulation is often a good idea especially in cold climates. Cork already has a high insulation R-value. Add some cork underlayment below your cork floating floor and you’ll really keep the heat locked in.
Even one of cork flooring’s disadvantages turns out to be a plus when used in a basement. With no natural sunlight you don’t need to worry about fading!
The one big concern you have with cork flooring (much like hardwood) is moisture. You will need to look closely at the warranties of each and every cork flooring product that you’re considering to see what the manufacturers have to say about installation below grade.
Let’s take a look at your cork flooring options and how they work, or don’t work, in different basement settings.
TYPES OF CORK FLOORING
You have two options for cork floors, either glue down cork tiles or a click & lock plank (or tile) system, much like laminate, that you install as a floating floor.
Glue down cork tiles are attached directly to the surface of the floor and the adhesives used do not mix well with moisture at all. We will talk about installation instructions and warranties for major cork flooring brands later on, but for now, know that you shouldn’t glue cork tiles directly onto a below grade concrete floor and even gluing cork onto a plywood sub-floor will only work in certain conditions when used below grade.
You have much more room to maneuver with an engineered cork plank or tile floating floor. As you will learn, manufacturers still have guidelines about moisture levels and you will need to get familiar with moisture barriers and suitable basement underlayment, but generally speaking you have plenty of great options to choose from.
Basement Basics – There are three types of basement situations found in any home, which one best describes your basement?
- Unfinished Basement – This is stage 1; you have a bare basement with a concrete slab and not much else. It may be damp or it may not be…yet.
- Semi-Finished Basement – At stage 2 you’ve taken some steps to make your basement into a practical living space. Your concrete is sealed and you have humidity under control.
- Finished Basement – This is the ideal and final 3rd stage. Your basement has been fully renovated and interior (or exterior) drainage systems have been installed making moisture a problem of the past.
Let’s narrow things down by excluding one of these options straight away…an unfinished basement. If you haven’t taken any steps to control moisture levels in your basement then the only flooring you should consider is a completely waterproof option. There are four great waterproof basement flooring options for you to consider.
A semi-finished basement is a scenario that many homeowners know well. You’ve treated the walls, sealed the concrete basement floor and taken care of ventilation, maybe installed a dehumidifier. In this situation you have a number of suitable cork flooring options for your basement, but you will need to read the installation instructions for each cork flooring product before you begin and then undertake proper moisture testing. Most cork manufacturers these days allow for their cork flooring to be installed in a basement, but many have very specific guidelines around acceptable levels of hydrostatic pressure.
Engineered cork planks installed as a floating floor, with a 6-mil moisture/vapor barrier beneath, is standard for basement concrete. If you have your heart set on glue down tiles or want to give your floating floor added protection why not consider a moisture resistant underlayment or subfloor?
Home Depot and other big box stores offer a number of underlayment options that can be used in conjunction with your moisture barrier and will give peace of mind. A good simple option sold at Home Depot is DMX 1-Step underlayment specifically designed for basements. An alternative option, and good for glue down cork as well, is an insulated sub-floor panel system like the ones produced by Amdry, also sold at Home Depot. They’re more expensive but they also offer insulation along with moisture protection.
Pro Tip – If you’re planning to hire a professional for cork flooring installation then they should be offering a moisture testing service before the project gets going. If you are planning to DIY you will have to get these tests done yourself. If you have a problem after installation your warranty may be voided if you can’t produce evidence of moisture tests.
Finally, if you have gone to the trouble of completely finishing your basement, or are fortunate enough to have bought a property where the work has already been done, then you are free to choose any cork basement flooring that you want. We would still recommend installing any glue down cork tiles onto a subfloor.
BEST CORK FLOORING BRANDS AND MANUFACTURERS FOR YOUR BASEMENT
This is a great time to consider cork flooring for your basement with many more brands and styles available than before. We already have reviews of all the best cork flooring brands and manufacturers for you to consider, so for the purposes of this article we will focus on cork flooring products that are best for basements along with links to their installation guides so you can see if they are suitable for your type of basement.
HERITAGE MILLS FLOORS
The brand name may not be familiar but Heritage Mills is currently the cork flooring manufacturer of choice at Home Depot, you can see their available collections here. Their cork floors range in price from as little as $1.99 per sq/ft to a whopping $12.40 per sq/ft.
Heritage Mill cork flooring can be used in the basement although the warranty doesn’t cover flood damages.
WE CORK FLOORING
WE Cork have been in business for over 100 years so they know a thing or two about cork flooring. They produce both floating and glue down products and more recently a cork flooring that comes in rolls called Corkoleum. They have several collections covering a range of styles with prices starting at around $3.80 per sq/ft rising to $9 per sq/ft
With such a large collection of cork, use the following link to access all their different installation and warranty pdfs – www.wecork.com
CALI CORK FLOORING
The flooring brand of choice at Lowes is Cali. More familiar as the company behind Cali Bamboo, Cali also offer a nice range of engineered square cork tiles with a reasonable $2.99 per sq/ft price tag.
You will see from the following links that certain moisture conditions must be met before installing over a concrete basement floor
APC Cork is another cork flooring manufacturer who has been around a while and pride themselves on their eco credentials. They also have 4 different engineered floating plank collection as well as two adhered tile collections. You can buy APC Cork at Wayfair where prices range from $4.09 per sq/ft to $8.99 per sq/ft
AMORIM WISE AND WICANDERS
Amorim Wise and Wicanders are two separate cork flooring brands owned by the same company, Amorim Cork Flooring.
Amorim Wise prides itself on it’s modern designs and highly eco-friendly credentials. Wicanders meanwhile is already a very established name in cork flooring and has a more mainstream reputation and branding.
Both brands can be bought for between $3.99 and $5.60 per sq/ft
Amorin WISE – Installation and warranties
Wicanders – Installation and warranties
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO INSTALL FLOORING IN A BASEMENT?
As you can see from the cork flooring prices above, buying your cork floors could cost you anywhere between $1.99 per sq/ft to $12.40 per sq/ft…that’s quite a range.
In a basement, over a concrete slab you will also need to install a moisture barrier and underlayment which will add a further $0.50 to $1.25 per square foot
Finally you can then expect to pay a professional installer around $2 per sq/ft for installation.
So installing cork flooring for a basement is likely to cost you between $4.50 and $15.65 per sq/ft with the average likely to be somewhere between $7 and $8 per sq/ft.
HOME FLOORING PROS CONCLUSION
We like cork flooring as a basement flooring option. With its good insulation, good looks and healthy air attributes cork flooring really suits an enclosed basement space. Cork is not a cheap option, so we would want to be absolutely sure that there were no flooding risks or moisture problems in your basement before installation.
About the Author:
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”