Cork Flooring Installation: PRO or DIY?
If you’re interested in eco-friendly flooring, cork is one of the top choices out there. In addition to being gentler on Mother Nature, cork flooring also offers easy maintenance and excellent sound absorption. It’s even warm and soft under your feet for extra comfort, and its thermal properties can help alleviate your heating costs in winter.
With all these pretty awesome perks, it’s no wonder more homeowners are choosing cork when they want to update their floors. Cork is moderately priced, so you may be considering getting some extra savings by installing it yourself. However, before you embark on DIY cork flooring installation, there are some important factors to consider. Read through this guide to find out whether you should hire professionals to get the job done instead.
Do You Have the Correct Tools and Materials Needed?
Installing your own floors gives many homeowners a sense of pride. Of course, they also hope they’ll be able to save some serious cash by doing things on their own rather than hiring professionals. While you won’t have to pay for labor costs with a DIY installation, you will have to pay for any gear you don’t already have on hand.
Unfortunately, there are many tools and materials for cork flooring installation. That means the costs will add up quickly, especially if you aren’t a homeowner who already has an extensive set of tools lying around. Here’s what you’ll need if you do plan to tackle your cork floor installation DIY-style:
- Floor leveler
- Orbital sander
- Laser line
- Water-based polyurethane sealer
- Liquid acrylic casting material and catalyst
- Painter’s tape
- Respirator mask
- Rubber gloves
- Paint tray
- Paint roller
- Heavy floor roller
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- Sanding pad
- Medium-grit sandpaper.
Do You Know How to Prep the Floor?
Cork flooring takes a lot of prep time to install correctly. First, you’ll need to measure the room accurately and plot how you’ll install the cork tiles or planks in the space. Be sure to account for any decorative border you plan to include. In addition, be sure to buy at least 10 percent extra square footage of cork flooring to account for any cuts or mistakes along the way.
Measuring and planning out the installation is something most homeowners can tackle, but prepping the subfloor is much more complex. If this step is not completed correctly, it can lead to serious damage to your cork flooring and very uneven floors. This is part of the reason professionals are generally recommended for cork floor installation.
To prep the old floor, you’ll need to use a professional-grade floor leveler (DIYers should try to rent this equipment rather than buying it to save money). This will help you apply the floor filler throughout any seams or depressions. Once the filler is applied, it’s time to fine-tune it by sanding away any ridges or uneven spots.
If the subfloor is not exposed, you may have to tear out one or more layers of old flooring before you begin this step. Your underlayment should be made of plywood that is at least a 1/4-inch thick, and all screws need to be set flush with or just below the surface. Once your subfloor is complete, you can snap the layout lines.
Do You Know How to Spread the Adhesive?
The adhesive for cork flooring can be challenging to apply. In addition, you’ll need to be careful about ventilation, since the vapors from the adhesive can be quite strong. Again, this is a difficult step in the process and contributes to the preference for a professional installation when it comes to cork flooring installation.
There are two types of adhesive commonly used to install cork flooring: mastic adhesive and contact adhesive. Both are effective, but there are pros and cons to each. Contact adhesive stays in place once you set the cork tile down. This ensures you stick to your pattern, but it allows little room for error.
Mastic adhesive, on the other hand, is more forgiving. You can move a tile after it’s been placed, since it takes longer to stick into place. However, this leaves you more susceptible to nudging one out of place accidentally while it dries, which can mess up all the hard work you’ve already put in. You should use whichever adhesive the manufacturer recommends.
Do You Know How to Lay and Cut the Tiles?
Once you’ve applied adhesive to the cork tiles, it’s time to lay them down. As mentioned above, the type of adhesive you use will likely play a part in your strategy for laying the tiles so as to minimize mistakes. Use a laser line to keep your edges straight throughout.
Generally, you should try to work on the floor in sections, allowing the adhesive to set in between. Once the tiles are set down, use a rubber mallet to tap it firmly into place. Once all the tiles are set down for a section, you should go over the floor with a heavy roller to help bond the adhesive. If you need to cut any of the cork tiles to fit them into place, use a straight edge and a utility knife to make a careful cut.
Do You Know How to Sand and Finish the Cork?
The final steps are some of the easier ones in this project. You’ll need to go over the entire floor a few times with an orbital sander, working down to a finer grit. Be sure to vacuum thoroughly afterward to pick up any dust left behind.
Finally, apply a water-based polyurethane sealer to finish the floors. Use a large finish applicator to spread it evenly over the floor; then wait a few hours to apply a second coat. This finish needs to sit for several days before you bring the furniture back into the room.
Due to the complicated nature of the installation process, most homeowners opt to hire professionals to install their cork flooring. If you want to avoid damage to your new cork floors, it may be best to skip the DIY process for this home makeover.