I previously posted on the topic of cork flooring, but having recently replaced several panels due to a popped compression fitting under the sink and a resulting lake in our kitchen, I feel like I have more knowledge on the topic now that could be very useful to others.
I installed floating cork flooring in our home (kitchen and entrance way) around five years ago. For two years the flooring held up beautifully to our Doberman-Rottweiler and anything else that could be thrown at it. However, when the Boxer-Pit became a member of the family, the flooring took a toll (photo below is to illustrate scratches; obviously the color is way off –though you can kind of get an idea of how much lighter the floor has become in sunlight). The “look” of these floors is a very thin membrane over a cork substrate, thus, it’s not terribly difficult to mar the layer that gives the flooring its look.
At first I was really disappointed, but I now see this more as a failure on my part to maintain the proper finish on the floor (more on that issue below). And to be fair, this is a 90 pound beast with CLAWS sliding across the floor chasing balls and running at the door when the bell rings. The ONLY place the floor looks like this is in the entrance right in front of the door. The kitchen still looks flawless.
The “click together” system is incredibly easy to install and is surprisingly stable. However, it has the same problems as any other floating floor system, i.e., it will warp when exposed to water. When we had the water leak in the kitchen, about 10 panels that were exposed to standing water warped. On top of that, the moisture trapped under the panels started growing mold. I was able to remove two rows of the panels instead of having to replace the entire floor, so +1 for the click-together panel system. This would have happened with any floating floor type system, so the problem was not really an issue of the cork.
As far as maintaining the floor, this stuff really is a miracle (I picked up this can at Lowe’s):
If used like a preventative measure (like waxing your car), your floor will last and last. And it’s incredibly easy to put on (also like waxing your car). After thoroughly cleaning the floor (anything you miss will be sealed in!), I use a rag and simply dip it in the can and then apply to the floor in a circular motion (again, like waxing a car).
The Varathane dries in about 10 minutes (I’m in Colorado, so the dry time may be longer if you’re in a more humid place), and then I go over it again. Five coats takes less than two hours for a 200 sq. foot area, and the can will last forever.
Had I kept up with the Varathane as part of my “cleaning” regiment for the floor, I’m almost certain the scratches in the photo above would not have occurred. This stuff is incredibly durable, and works great with cork flooring.
While our cork has definitely faded in sunlight, it’s an even fade and the floors still look great (barring the scratches which, again, I must take responsibility for). There has been less fading in the kitchen where there is less sunlight (though it still gets its fair share of exposure). If you look at the photo of the kitchen, you can see the floor is more the original shade under the table. And then comparing the entrance, you can see how that area is even lighter than the kitchen.
All in all, I really love cork, and would put it toward the top of my list for flooring options.
Considering the issue we had with the burst pipe and standing water in the kitchen, I’m not sure it’s the most perfect floor covering in that room (I might try rubber next time?), but it’s fantastic for dropped plates (they bounce!), fatigue relief, and warmth. Lots of people put all kinds of engineered flooring in a kitchen, which would all suffer the same problem we experienced with our cork and the leak, so again, it’s not really the cork’s fault, and that should be taken into consideration.
I wouldn’t recommend cork in bathrooms in households with children (tub splashing!), but I think it’s a great option for its warmth and comfort as long as you know it’s not going to be subject to standing water.