Are Cork Floors a Good Option for the Kitchen?
Kitchen cork flooring costs between $3.50 and $10 per square foot
Homeowners have a checklist for kitchen flooring – It must be attractive, of course, resistant to water spills, durable and dent-resistant. If it’s soft underfoot as you stand preparing food and washing dishes, that’s a bonus. Environmentally friendly? That’s a huge plus too. Cork flooring checks all these boxes.
Last Updated: June 8, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
Let’s talk about your cork flooring options for the kitchen with its types, cost and pros & cons. Some Final Thoughts from HomeFlooringPros will pull all the info together as you decide if cork is the right flooring for the kitchen.
Kitchen cork flooring is produced in two main types for residential use, tiles and planks. Tiles almost always require glue-down installation. Planks can be clicked together or glued down.
Most cork floors are water-resistant, and new waterproof cork flooring is guaranteed to protect against common kitchen spills.
There are other ways to categorize your choices that have to do with construction and the finished appearance, and they are explained too.
PROS AND CONS OF KITCHEN CORK
You have a lot of kitchen flooring options. Engineered hardwood and its affordable alternative laminate, several types of vinyl, and ceramic/porcelain tile are tops among them. How does cork compare with those for use in the kitchen?
- Good style choices – natural cork appearance plus those mimicking wood and stone
- Cost competitive w/ installed tile and hardwood
- Water-resistant & waterproof choices
- Cushioned, quiet and warm
- Resists dents from impact
- Dropped items less likely to break
- Sustainable, biodegradable & often recycled
- Certified Low-VOC / No-VOC
- Naturally resistant to mold
- Works with in-floor radiant heating
- Lasts 15-25 years – Lifetime warranties
- Fewer choices than with vinyl or tile
- Costs more than most laminate and vinyl kitchen flooring
- Fades in direct, persistent sunlight
- Furniture feet will eventually leave permanent dents
- Expands – might buckle if incorrectly installed
- Subfloor must be level and smooth
- Glue-down options are a pain to repair
Now compare cork flooring with some of the other popular kitchen flooring materials:
HOW MUCH DOES KITCHEN CORK FLOORING COST?
This chart won’t make sense without defining a couple of terms:
Agglomerated: Agglomerated cork is crumbled, ground or granulated cork. It’s what cork underlayment is made from. Look closely, and you’ll see the individual granules or crumbs. And some affordable cork flooring has a top layer of agglomerated cork. It can be stained, painted, printed or left plain and sealed.
Cork Veneer: This is a layer of solid cork. You’ll know the top layer of the flooring is cork veneer if you can see the grain pattern of the cork. Cork veneer, like hardwood, can be stained or left natural before sealer is applied.
Now, we can explore pricing for materials. The cost of installation is shared below for those who plan to hire a flooring installer or want to know what they can save by DIY.
|Type||Cost Range/sq. ft.||Average/sq. ft.|
|Water-resistant w/ Agglomerated Top Layer||$3.50 – $5.50||$4.65|
|Water-resistant with Veneer Top Layer||$5.15 – $9.50||$6.25|
|Waterproof with Agglomerated Top Layer||$6.30 – $8.00||$7.30|
|Waterproof with Veneer Top Layer||$7.00 – $10.00||$8.85|
CORK FLOORING TYPES – MORE INFORMATION
All types of cork kitchen floors are engineered. This means that they are composed of layers. Here are the full details on water-resistant and waterproof cork flooring, from bottom to top.
- Base Layer: Agglomerated cork substrate, which serves as underlayment.
- Middle Layer: High-density fiberboard (HDF) for stiffness and stability.
- Top Layer: An agglomerated cork top layer or a solid cork veneer.
Variations are available. Cork is baked, and the longer it is baked, the darker it becomes.
Agglomerated top layers can also be stained, painted, printed on or coated. WE Cork has developed a “high definition, 3-pass, digital print technology” to create an agglomerated top layer that closely mimics the appearance of wood planks or stone tile.
Veneer is stained or left natural and sealed, so that the natural cork remains visible.
These cork floors comes in glue-down tiles and click/floating planks. Planks can be glued down, if you wish, a technique usually reserved for commercial settings.
A brand called Amorim WISE is the leader in waterproof cork flooring, so we’ll discuss its innovative construction as a representative of this flooring type.
- Base Layer: Agglomerated cork substrate.
- Middle Layer: An agglomerated or veneer cork layer saturated with food-grade HDPE (high density polyethylene), a plastic polymer used in milk jugs, for example, and many waterproof applications including roofing membrane. If the layer is agglomerated, it is usually printed to create the look of wood.
- Top Layer: Waterproof cork flooring is topped with a clear wear layer, similar to those found on laminate or vinyl flooring. It is often acrylic, but can be polyurethane or other resin.
Waterproof cork flooring is produced in planks. And they can be clicked together using their interlocking edges or glued down.
The explanation of cork flooring construction leaves us with these types of cork floor for the kitchen:
- Water-resistant cork with an agglomerated top layer, plain or printed.
- Water-resistant cork with a cork veneer top layer.
- Waterproof cork with an agglomerated top layer, plain or printed.
- Waterproof cork with a cork veneer top layer.
Of course waterproof and water-resistant cork is exactly what you need if you are considering cork flooring for a basement.
Sealed vs Unsealed: There’s one more wrinkle. Some water-resistant cork comes factory-sealed, meaning you only have to install it, and you’re done. There’s a higher cost of $0.35 to $0.60 per square foot for sealed tiles and planks.
Other products aren’t sealed, and the entire floor is sealed after installation. Some installers prefer this method to allow sealer to cover the places where tiles and planks butt up to one another.
HOW MUCH DOES INSTALLATION COST?
Flooring installers charge $1.85 to $3.50 per square foot to install cork kitchen tiles and planks.
There are a few installation cost factors that affect the price.
Floating vs glue-down: The job goes faster with floating floors, so prices are lower.
Amount of Trimming: Cutting and trimming around cabinets, islands, built-in seating and other obstacles slows the work and raises the labor cost per square foot.
Subfloor prep: If the subfloor needs minor repairs, installation cost rises within the given cost range. A subfloor in very poor condition will require replacement at an additional cost of $3.50 to $6.00 per square foot for materials and labor. That is rarely needed, however.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST CORK FLOORING FOR YOUR KITCHEN
These tips will assist you in determining if kitchen cork flooring is a good idea in your home, and if so, which type and style is the best choice.
- Cost and return on investment: Installed cork flooring runs from $7.00 to $14.00 per square foot. That’s hardwood flooring cost territory. If homes in your neighborhood feature hardwood, cork, porcelain tile or other premium flooring in the kitchen, then you will probably get a good return if you sell. The one concern is that some potential buyers might not be familiar with cork’s durability and other good values, and they’ll shy away. For sure, if homeowners around you typically use more affordable vinyl or laminate, then ROI might suffer if you choose cork and then sell.
- Consider the look you want: Take your time to get to know the different styles cork offers – many more than just a decade ago. If you want the beauty of hardwood with the benefits of soft, warm and quiet cork, then you will be happier choosing a product with a cork veneer (solid cork). Cost will be higher, however, than if you choose an agglomerated cork. Of course, you could consider a wood-look printed cork flooring too. Again, take time to browse your options.
- Water-resistant vs Waterproof: You have better selection with water-resistant cork flooring, and in most kitchens, it is sufficient to stand up to normal liquid spills and even pet accidents.
BEST CORK FLOORING BRANDS FOR THE KITCHEN
While growing in popularity, there are far fewer manufacturers of cork kitchen floors than of most other types.
And there are no cheap or budget-level cork floors. The raw material and labor to harvest it demand a price higher than most vinyl, laminate or ceramic tile.
But you do have cost options to compare with other flooring choices for the kitchen.
Cork kitchen flooring starts at around $3.50 in this tier and tops out about $6.00 plus installation.
Cali Cork, by the Cali Bamboo brand, is the most reasonably priced along with Heritage Mills found at the Home Depot.
WE Cork’s Eco Nomic line of cork flooring is in this range, and you’ll also find a good selection from Wicander and Amorim.
If $6.00 to about $9.00 per square foot is in the budget, you will find the best water-resistant cork plus waterproof cork kitchen flooring. Most APC Cork Flooring lines straddle the mid-priced and premium ranges.
WE Cork makes several nice lines including Timeless cork-look and Serenity printed cork that mimics wood and stone.
Amorim waterproof cork flooring is about $6.50 to $7.25 per square foot from most sellers. Nova is a high-end brand that costs $7.75 to $9.00 per square foot.
You can learn more about the best cork flooring in our cork flooring manufacturers reviews.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM HOME FLOORING PROS
Cork and bamboo flooring is trending, though its market share is small compared with hardwood. If you like being on the front of a trend, then cork has tremendous benefits. We especially like it for homeowners who plan to stay where they are awhile.
If you’re selling in the next five years, then cork might be a risk, simply because of its unfamiliarity to many. While it might go against your grain, choosing hardwood or luxury vinyl might help you sell faster than cork would, depending on what is most common in your area.
Is your kitchen a bright, sunny place with a sliding glass door or wall full of windows? If so, you might want to put on the brakes. Sunlight is a worse nemesis of cork than moisture. And you certainly don’t want to keep out the sunshine with curtains and blinds to prevent your cork from fading.
We don’t want to sound negative, just cautious on those fronts. If you want a uniquely attractive floor in your kitchen, especially one that is comfortable and warm beneath bare feet, and kitchen flooring that is a positive choice for the environment, you will love cork.
About the Author: Jamie Sandford
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.”