Material Comparison

How Tile Compares to Cork

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Tile vs. Cork

Cork flooring is becoming increasingly popular for the wide array of advantages it provides. It brings a soft and warm walking surface, inhibits mold, insulates both sound and heat, is fire and water resistant, and does not release any toxic gases or chemicals if accidentally burned.




The appearance of cork is more limited than other materials, but still attractive. It can create speckled design in a number of different color tones or provide a pleasantly warm hardwood imitation.

However, cork is not a good option for anyone with pet dogs or cats, as the surface of your cork floor will soon be noticeably scratched from the pets’ toenails or claws. Similarly, heavy furniture can puncture the surface leaving gouges, and a dropped book or plate can easily dent or cut into the flooring. Like with many hardwoods, direct sunlight will cause the cork to fade over time.


Alternatively, ceramic tile is incredibly resilient, while offering a near-limitless array of options for color and texture, and can mimic the speckled look of cork. Although tile is a harder and less comfortable flooring option than cork, its longer lifespan offers a more cost-effective benefit and sub-floor heating can be installed to increase the comfort level.


Financial Differences

Installing Cork

To install a cork flooring, the initial costs average to be: $3-8 per square foot for material, averaging $5.50 per square foot. Cork can typically be installed for around $1 per square foot.

This means that it will cost $6.50 per square foot for cork flooring installation, and using a 100-square-foot space as an easily scalable example, the total cost for the installation would be $650. A 100 square foot tile installation would cost, on average, $17 per square foot for a total investment of $1,700.

Installing Ceramic Tile

In comparison to ceramic tile, cork flooring is significantly cheaper at the time of initial installation. Because its lifespan is between 10-20 years, however, you on average can expect to pay that same installation amount every 15 years, making it a good short term fix, but a poor lifetime investment.

Maintenance Costs

Basic maintenance for cork floors is simple; wipe away any spills immediately, sweep or vacuum several times a week, use a damp mop on the floor several times a week, and be sure to use only cork specific cleaners when cleaning stains.

In addition to a short life span, cork must be sealed every 5 years to remain waterproof. This is an easy job, but adds an additional $0.60 per square foot each time.

At (Lifetime) Ceramic Tile Cork
Initial Cost $1,700 $650
15 years $1,700 $1,480
30 years $1,700 $2,310
45 years $1,700 $3,140

Cork is an excellent choice if you want to get the most out of your money in the short term. If you are depending on a longer life span, however, you will quickly be losing more money on sealing and replacing your flooring.


Health & Safety

Depending on the brand that you buy you could be buying cork flooring with cores containing VOCs. This is avoidable, but it does take a bit of extra effort. VOCs are chemicals that enter the air as gas coming from specific liquids or solids. While small amounts are not dangerous, a strong enough concentration can contribute to headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. Long term exposure is linked to cancer affected the kidney, liver, and nervous system.

If buying a brand that does not use VOCs in the core, you have an extremely safe floor that is chemical free with a soft surface.


Environmental Sustainability

The sustainability of cork depends upon where you live. Cork is harvested from a specific species of European oak tree, and this is often combined with recycled wine bottle corks to create the final product. So cork is almost a zero waste flooring solution. However, the use of European oak for the cork requires energy consuming transportation to export it to different locations throughout the world, offsetting the perceived environmental benefits. If the construction site, cork factory, and harvesting locations are relatively close to one another, however, it has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any construction material.

The only material that can compete with this is ceramic tile, which offers advantages over cork such as being completely free of VOCs and having a lifespan that can last for hundreds of years.

Extra Resources

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