How To Install Cork Floor Tiles

How To Install Cork Floor Tiles

Oct 27, 2010
(Welcome to Lauren, who's trying out for a spot on our editorial team. Enjoy!)

When we undertook a large remodel project this year, we spent a lot of time researching the best flooring options. For us, the winner turned out to be cork. A sustainable and renewable material, cork has a unique cellular structure that is comfortable to stand on, warmer than wood floors and quieter. It also contains a natural substance called suberin, which acts as an anti-microbial agent. Cork flooring typically comes in click-together planks and glue-down tiles. We chose glue-down 12x12 tiles in a dark brown color (achieved through a steaming process). We had a big space to cover (about 500 square feet), but a single room could easily be done in an afternoon. Just remember, preparation is key!

What You Need

Cork tiles (we used Capri Cork)
Cork adhesive (check with the cork manufacturer to see what they recommend)
Chalk line

Skinny, low nap rollers
Paint tray
Roller extension rod (for applying the glue to the floor)
Soft blow rubber mallet
Utility knife
Straight edge
Cutting mat
100 lb roller (we rented ours for $20)
Small hand roller
Knee pads (recommended)


1. Prep the floor. (Cork can be applied over different subfloors, but the surface must be level and flat or the imperfections will telegraph through. We used a self-leveling compound to fill any crevices and divots in our plywood subfloor.)

2. Determine where you will start and snap two perpendicular chalk lines to mark where the first tile will go. (Make sure your lines are parallel to the walls.)

3. The adhesive acts like contact cement. Apply a thin coat to both the floor and back of tiles.(We found that rolling the glue on the diagonal kept the roller from slipping off and getting glue on the edges.) When the glue is transparent but still tacky, it's ready to go.

4. Place the first tile and set in place with a rubber mallet.

5. Install the next tile by setting it in at a slight angle next to the first tile to ensure a tight fit.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Every hour or so, use the 100 LB. roller to press the tiles firmly to the floor.

7. At the edges of the room, use a utility knife and straight edge to cut tiles to fit.

8. For edges and hard to reach areas, use a hand roller instead of the 100 LB. roller to ensure the tiles are fully adhered.

9. Celebrate, you're done!

Additional notes: Our tiles came unfinished (we had a wax finish put on later), but they are commonly sold with a water-based polyurethane finish.

Thanks, Lauren!

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(Images: Lauren Zerbey)

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