How to Install Cork Flooring

Lead Image
  • 10-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 1,000-5,000
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Graph paper
Plywood (optional)
Utility knife
Rubber mallet
Floor roller
Drywall sander
Sandpaper in various grits
Polyurethane finish

There are many benefits to installing cork flooring in your home. It’s a versatile material that's eco-friendly, economically smart, and durable enough to last a long time. An added benefit to this floor type is that it’s simple enough to install on your own. While it takes a bit of hard work and some careful planning, follow the steps below and you’ll have it done in no time.

Step 1 - Planning Your Cork Flooring

You’ll need to first make a plan for your new floor. To do so, measure the floor space you’ll be working with and draw it to scale on graph paper. With the size of the cork pieces or tiles in mind, figure out how many pieces will be needed. It’s best to avoid using thin cuts of tile around the walls, so try shifting the layout towards one side or the other to combat that issue. Count how many tiles you’ll need based on your drawn plan, and then be sure to buy some extra pieces to account for any potential errors while cutting.

Step 2- Prep the Old Floor

Next, prep your old floor to get it ready for the installation. Your cork pieces need to be glued onto a flat and smooth surface in order to flourish and retain all of the material’s great benefits! Unfortunately, you can’t install cork directly on top of linoleum, vinyl, or plank flooring. If that is what exists in your space, you’ll need to screw a plywood overlay onto the existing flooring. Ensure that the plywood is at least a quarter of an inch thick.

If your existing flooring is concrete, you can apply the cork directly over it, assuming that it’s flat, smooth, and moisture-free. Keep in mind that you won’t want to place cork over several preexisting floor layers. If necessary, tear out older layers and add a fresh underlayment.

Step 3 - Cut Your Pieces

The edges of cork floor tiles.

While not every piece of cork will need to be cut, in designing your floor you’ll find that some will need adjusting to perfectly fit the layout. Mark the tile with a pencil where it will need to be cut, and then place it on a wood cutting board. Using a clamp at the end of the tile to hold it straight, use a sharp utility knife to carefully cut each piece to the desired size.

Step 4 - Apply Adhesive

Next, you’ll want to roll the adhesive to the backside of your cork tiles the evening before your installation. This proactive measure will make the task go a lot smoother the next day. Because the aroma of the adhesive can be strong and even harmful to your health, be sure to encourage ventilation in the room of the project by opening windows or even using a fan.

Step 5 - Lay the Tiles

After you’ve let your adhesive adhere to the pieces overnight, it’s time to lay the tiles where they will ultimately rest on your floor. Keep in mind that once you lay down a tile, you won’t be able to move it—the adhesive is that strong! Work with precision and accuracy. Butt the tiles against each other for a seamless design. As you lay each piece of cork down, tap them with a rubber mallet to secure the tile. Then, once they’re all laid down, use a heavy floor roller to press over the floor and to bond the adhesive in a uniform manner.

Step 6 - Sand and Finish

Cork flooring installation.

Believe it or not, your work here is almost done! The last step in this flooring process is to sand and finish the cork for a beautiful look. Your floor probably won’t require an abundance of sanding, but it may need some in high spots or ridges. Use a 100-grit sandpaper to start and then a 150-grit paper. Then, vacuum the floor thoroughly.

Paste wax or a modern urethane are typically used as a reliable finish. A waterborne or oil-based polyurethane are great for adding to the aesthetic of the cork as well as protecting it. Apply multiple coats in the same day to finish off the project.

This project may seem like a tall task when you begin, but it’s actually quite simple. Due to the wide range of benefits associated with cork flooring, it’s worth spending a weekend laying this floor down, as it’ll be enjoyed in your home for a long time to come!