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Cork Flooring Glossary

If you’re looking for a sustainable flooring material that stands up to wear, offers cushion underfoot, and has insulating properties, cork might be the answer. This environmentally responsible flooring choice looks great and reduces your carbon footprint. Here are some cork flooring terms to familiarize yourself with:


Cork flooring delivers the perfect combination of decorative and functional benefits. (Evora Wide Plank Cork Flooring – Hazelnut)

Acclimate: A several-day process by which cork flooring tiles or planks adjust to a home’s temperature and moisture levels. Let the boxes of cork flooring sit in the room they will be installed – make sure the boxes are open and aren’t directly on the ground.

Acoustic insulation: A material’s ability to reduce sound transmission from one room or area to the next. Due to the porous cellular structure of cork, it’s an effective sound reduction material.

Binder: An adhesive material, such as urea melamine, used to join particles of cork together to produce planks or tiles.

Cork: A natural material harvested from the bark of a cork oak tree. In nature, cork bark serves as a protective barrier against harsh weather conditions, fires, and over 38 species of insects. Its resilient qualities make for very durable flooring.

Finish: A cork floor’s surface coating. Manufacturers use both acrylic- and water-based polyurethane.

Fire-retardant: A quality that makes cork floors naturally resistant to fire. If a fire breaks out in the home, cork floors won’t feed it.

Give: A building material’s tendency to compress underfoot. Greater give (such as with cork flooring) translates to increased comfort and safety.

Glueless-click system: An installation system in which planks or squares of cork flooring click together. No glue is necessary to bind them in place.

Grain pattern: Cork flooring’s natural variations in color and tone offer various speckled patterns.

Insulation: A property that causes a substance to resist noise transmission and heat loss or gain. Cork offers excellent insulation compared to other flooring options, such as ceramic tile.

On Grade: Ground level. Generally, cork flooring is best suited for on or above grade (2nd floor of a building, for example) installations. Manufacturer specifications will tell you if cork can be installed in a below grade location like a basement.

Pigment: A coloring agent that dyes cork flooring so it adopts a particular color, such as a deep brown or red.

Plank: A long, narrow strip of cork flooring designed like a hardwood floor plank. The installer places planks edge-to-edge to create a finished floor.

Polyethylene sheeting: A protective material installed between cork flooring and the subfloor to protect the cork from moisture. You might need sheeting in below-grade installations, such as basements. It is also known as a vapor barrier.

Scratch resistance: A material’s ability to resist scratches and dents when it comes into contact with hard objects. Cork provides better scratch resistance than many other natural wood flooring options due to its resilient qualities.

Spacer: Typically used for floating floor installations, a spacer is piece of plastic or wood used to keep cork flooring a certain distance away from walls or doorways during installation. The area created by the spacer usually gets covered by molding or trim.

Suberin: A waxy substance found in the cork oak tree’s bark. It helps protect cork flooring against moisture damage.

Tapping block: An installation tool used to ensure planks or tiles with tongue-and-groove edges fit together tightly. The block is positioned next to the plank, and the installer uses a hammer to gently guide the two planks together.

Tile: A square or large rectangle of cork flooring. They can be designed for both glue-down and floating installations.

Warp: Cork is susceptible to water damage, so planks might warp (change shape or size) if standing water isn’t immediately removed from the surface.

What else do you want to learn about cork flooring? Let us know in the comments.

Browse our selection of genuine Portuguese Cork Flooring here.

(4) Comments

  1. Is cork flooring suitable to install in a small bathroom / laundry, that also has a shower? We would just be installing the cork on the normal traffic area?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Ethan,

      Cork wouldn’t be the best option because it can be susceptible to water damage but you can add another layer of polyurethane to the surface to seal the cork and make it more water resistant. We can’t 100% guarantee there won’t be any issues but it is used in bathrooms with showers. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  2. BuildDirect Product Expert Team

    Hi Sandra,

    Thank you for getting in touch! Cork may not be the best option for restaurants because it is a natural product and is not water-resistant. If there are a lot of spills and they are not cleaned up right away you could get water damage. It shouldn’t be too slippery when it’s wet but it wouldn’t hold up to the moisture as well as a tile or vinyl plank would. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any other questions!

  3. I am considering this for flooring in a restaurant due to its acoustic properties. How well does it stand up to spills/stains? Is it slippery when wet?

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