All About: Cork Flooring

Kitchen Flooring Spotlight

If you've already renovated a kitchen or are just beginning the process, you know how overwhelming the details can be. Our Fittings and Material Spotlights are quick guides to basic kitchen fixtures and materials to familiarize you with terminology, pros and cons, and relevant reader reviews. Today we look at cork flooring - an eco darling, yes, but also quite well suited to the kitchen!

Material: Cork

Overview: Cork might just be the current darling when it comes to flooring, particularly in the kitchen. Besides the fact that it's available in a variety of colors and patterns, cooks love it because of its inherent air pockets, which give it cushion and make it a natural shock absorber. This makes cork infinitely more comfortable to stand on than wood, tile, or stone. (Great for those long hours prepping for a dinner party!) It's also less likely to shatter your dishes when you drop them.

Environmental Impact: Cork comes from the bark of the Cork Oak tree, which grows in places with lots of sunlight, low rainfall and high humidity. Because cork essentially comes from the bark of the tree, obtaining it does not destroy the tree. (Most cork trees live for about 200 years.) The whole production process is incredibly sustainable.

Pros: Great cushion and standing support; shock- and- sound-absorbent; naturally anti-microbial and hypoallergenic; low maintenance; sustainably made, biodegradable, and recyclable.

Cons: Tends to be expensive; must be sealed to prevent swelling at the seams; sensitive to scratches; could become permanently indented by very heavy furniture; light-sensitive, so the color may fade over time.

Installation: DIY-able, but professional installation is recommended for the best, most secure sealing.

Cleaning: Can be cleaned in the same way you'd clean hardwood floors.

Price range: $3 to $22 per square foot; average cost $6 to $8 range

Kitchn Reader Reviews:

I have cork in my kitchen. It is really nice to walk and stand on and easy to keep clean. In any space where there's a possibility of major water spills you have to have it professionally sealed or it will warp and stain. - MorfyDD
I've had the same cork floors in my kitchen for 12 years now. While the original dark stain has definitely faded a bit, the tiles themselves have only suffered minor wear and tear. I'd install it again in a heartbeat-it's amazing on your back if you stand on it a lot and fairly soft when it comes to dropped dishes (many a glass has survived the fall). I'm a big fan! - CookingTeach
We've had cork flooring in our kitchen for at least a year now and we love it! It's got resilience so your legs don't get as tired when you're standing up preparing food for long periods of time, unlike with a tile floor. We were warned to avoid spilling water and/or leaving puddles on the floor, but so far we've had around the average amount of spills/puddles which have not always been cleaned up quickly (we have a puppy... enough said) and the flooring has been fine, no leaking at all! - SophieAngeline
When we were remodeling the house we bought, I decided on cork floors for my kitchen. And I love it! I didn't have to go with colored cork, mine is actually "cork" colored (because it matched my decor so perfectly). It hides dirt (almost too well sometimes). Good quality cork is cushy and more comfy to stand on than tile or laminate or hardwood. It's pretty hardy too - bounces back from indentations from furniture or high heel shoes. And it goes down in squares so if part does get damaged, it's easy to replace. And I use the same stuff to clean my cork as I do my hardwoods so it simplifies my cleaning methods (and makes it shiny). - CynHendrix
I have cork in my kitchen (it looks exactly like the first phot), and I LOVE the way it looks and feels, but BEWARE! We installed the click-together, prefinished tiles, and then found out, after months of trying to get answers from the manufacturer, who could care less, that there was no product to seal the seams, which are extremely vulnerable to moisture. All of our seams are now swollen. It's not super noticable to anyone but us, and I can live with it for now, but it's really disappointing, since, contrary to what this article would have you believe, it was expensive. Plus, we panic every time we spill something on the floor. Not fun. - Gardenchimelle

Readers, do you have cork floors in your kitchen? Tell us your opinion of them, and feel free to share any other relevant info (brand, cost, installation tips, etc).

Related Kitchn Posts:
Can You Give Reviews or Feedback on Cork Flooring?
Survey: What Kind of Kitchen Floors Do You Have?
How To Install Cork Floor Tiles

Other Kitchen Materials and Fittings Posts

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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)