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Flooring Installation Workshop: Cork Floors

Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010

Cork flooring is unique compared to other types of floor. It is renewable, being made from the shaved bark of cork trees, which means the trees are not destroyed in the process. It's highly resistant to insects, rot and scratches, its comparable in price to hardwood flooring.

Cork is an excellent choice for the do-it-yourselfer. Its easy to work and easy to finish, and it comes as interlocking planks that float (see the post regarding interlocking floors), or as tiles comparable in size to ceramic tiles or vinyl squares.

Location for cork flooring:
Cork is best-suited to dry locations. Excess amounts of moisture can cause swelling at the seams and an uneven walking surface.

For this reason, cork is not suitable to basements or to damp areas like your kitchen or laundry.

Floor prep and underlayment:
Any normal subfloor material is suitable. A vapor barrier is necessary.

If you use a leveling compound, be sure it is completely dry and cured before laying your floor.

Fill cracks and then sand your floor to where it is evenly rough. You can install over wood flooring, but the floor must first be stripped of varnish and wax.

Installing your floor:
If youre installing interlocking, or floating, planks, refer to our post on that. The only additional advice is to be extremely gentle when tapping planks into place. Use a special block made for your cork plank and tap gently until you hear a click. Dont tap after this sound and dont try to tap the piece in with one blow.

For panels that require adhesive, lay a pattern with chalk lines. Apply the glue using a paint brush. A standard linoleum roller of 100 to 150 pounds is used to press the tiles into the glue. Keep a supply of mineral spirits handy to clean any glue that winds up on your floor.

Unfinished cork is stained and finished with a polyurethane just like hardwood. The difference is that cork is very absorbent and requires more of it, needing up to three coats of urethane to seal it.

Remember, this is a bare bones treatment of an involved procedure. There is a lot more to learn, but this overview is intended to get you started and to help you figure out what it is you need and what you still need to learn.