Sustainable building products like cork floors are being used with increasing frequency in many homes. Cork is a naturally resilient and water-resistant material that provides a softer feel beneath the feet. Since cork boards and tiles can also be floated, or laid above the subfloor rather than attaching to it, they can be used to cover older flooring. While cork floors do have some advantages, they also have several disadvantages that can occur from improper use or installation.
Water-Resistant, Not Waterproof
Cork contains a naturally occurring substance called suberin, which makes the material naturally water-resistant. This can be confusing to some homeowners who may not realise that by floating their floor, they are creating cracks between the planks where moisture can enter, causing damage to the floor and the subfloor. While cork is water-resistant, it is not waterproof and can discolour, warp or sustain other damage if water seeps between boards.
Swelling and Buckling
Every floating floor, including cork, has exposed edges to the boards. When moisture is absorbed at these points, the edges of the boards swell. This causes the floor to hump and buckle. Cork floating floors installed in kitchens and bathrooms, or in areas prone to moisture are at risk for swelling seams and buckled boards.
Maintenance and Expense
To keep cork floating floors from sustaining damage either due to moisture, spills or UV rays, the floors must be sealed and cared for on an ongoing basis. Some manufacturers offer pre-sealed cork floorboards, which adds to the expense of the floor. Regardless of whether the floor was pre-sealed, it should be sealed after it is installed to help seal the gaps between floorboards. The boards also require periodic resealing, which can lead to high maintenance and expense over the floor's life.