Installing Cork Tile Flooring in the Kitchen

installing_herringbone_cork_floor

One of the best decisions I made in our kitchen renovation was adding cork tile flooring. I was exuberant when Globus Cork agreed to work with me on my kitchen renovation! Now that they are installed, I am in total love with the cork flooring. It is warm, water resistant, cushy under foot, attractive, and best of all the two tone tiles help tie the different wood floors in our home together.

chevron_matching_wood_tones

The light pine flooring in the living room matches nicely with the lighter natural floor tiles. And the darker golden oak color tiles match our darker heart pine floors in the rest of our home. It’s as if the differing wood floors in our home are woven together in the kitchen.

weave_two_wood_tones

The installation of the cork tiles was fairly easy (if you are precise). The prep work was a bit tedious, but worth the effort.

Preparation to Install Cork Glue Down Tiles:

Before installing the flooring, you need to create a perfectly smooth surface to lay your tiles on. Seams between the plywood sheets have to be sanded down to be equal heights.

sand_flooring

A self-leveling compound must be poured to fill in cracks and knots in the plywood subfloor. Before pouring the self-leveler, use a primer on the subfloor (the self-leveler you chose should have a recommended primer to use.)

Primer_self_level_floors

Working in sections, mix and spread the self-leveler onto the floor. Then trowel off most of the liquid. The leveler will settle into cracks, nail and knot holes. Globus Cork has a great slideshow showing this entire process.

Leveled_floors

After the self-leveler has dried (up to 24 hours), sand down any bumps and rough spots.

sand_levelled_floors

It is very important to eliminate any imperfections in the flooring before installing the glue down cork tiles. Any imperfections will show up in the flooring later as you walk on the floor and continue to increase the adhesion of the cork tiles to the subfloor.

Once the subfloor is properly leveled and sanded, it’s time to have fun laying out your glue down cork tile pattern (there are oodles of patterns you can create for your cork flooring.)

Materials to Install Cork Tiles:

tools_for_installation_cork_tile_floor

  • Carpenter’s Square
  • 45 degree triangle
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife or painter’s tool
  • Pencil
  • Tack
  • Hammer
  • Scrap board

Creating Guide Lines by Drawing a 3-4-5 Triangle:

Find the center of your room vertically. Measure out the same distance from one side wall. Snap a chalk line.

find_center_vertical_line

Find the center of the vertical line and mark that point. Measure 4′ up from the center point along your vertical line. Make a mark.

4foot_line_mark

From that mark, extend your tape measure out 5′. Draw a small arc where you think a horizontal line will intersect with the center point.

5_foot_out_curve

From the center point, measure 3′ out to the arc. Where the 3′ line meets the arc, draw your line. Each side of your triangle will be exactly 3′, 4′ and 5′ to give you the perfect 90 degree angle from the center of your room.

drawn_3-4-5-triangle

Snap a chalkline horizontally across the room, using the 3′ section as a guide.

3-4-5-triangle

After you have your horizontal line marked, measure (and mark) approximately 2 feet in each direction from the center point. Connect the marks to create a diamond. This will give you the perfect 45 degree installation angle.

Use_triangle_to_mark_45_degrees

Dry Fit Your Glue Down Tiles:

Set a carpenter’s square on the 45 degree diamond you drew.

set_up_carpenter_square

Set the first tile inside the square so the top corner of the tile touches the vertical room line.

lay_first_tile

Move the square up enough to make room for the second tile. You can use the 45 degree triangle to aid in achieving a perfect 90 degree angle for these first two tiles. (Staying square and precise is the most important part in the process. If you are off by a slight amount, it will become more prominent as you install tiles out from the first row.) Make a mark at the outer most corner of the 2nd tile.

line_up_first_tile

Measure the distance from the first line to this point. Make a few marks the same distance from the vertical line at the top and bottom of your room. Snap a second chalk line parallel to the first line.

first_second_vertical_line

If you want to help stay precise, set a third tile down to the left of the first two and make a mark. Again, measure this distance from the first line and snap a chalk line parallel for a third guide line.

third_line

Pick up the tiles. Sweep and vacuum the floor thoroughly.

Installing Glue Down Cork Tiles:

apply_adhesive_to_floor

Using a paint roller and tray, roll out the floor adhesive provided by Globus. Let it completely dry (about an hour depending on your conditions.)

Take a big breath and get ready to put the giant puzzle that will become your floor together!

Lay your carpenter’s square out as you did in the dry fit phase.

set_up_carpenter_square

Lay your first tile down within the square (the top corner of the tile should touch the vertical center line.) Set the second tile at a 90 degree angle from the first. Tiles can be gently positioned by setting it on its edge. Then lay it down. Once the back of the cork tile (which has a coating of dried adhesive on it from the factory) touches the dry glue on the floor, they will STICK REALLY WELL!)

lay_second_tile_angle_first

Resist the urge to press down on the tile in case you need to re-position the tile. If you need to remove a tile, you can carefully pry it up by sliding a putty knife or scraper between the floor and the tile. You will discover that this is no easy task.

how_to_remove_adhesive_cork_tile

From the first two tiles install more tiles downward. (For my chevron pattern, I alternated the two tones.) Use the carpenter’s square or the 45 degree triangle to make sure your tiles are installed at a perfect 90 degree angle.

laying_herring_bone_tiles

Once you reach the bottom of the room. Start installing tiles from the first two tiles up toward the top of the room.

installing_tiles_above_start

Use the carpenter square to keep tiles in line with one another and at a 90 degree angle.

using_square_to_set_next_tile

Within no time, you’ll have your first row of tiles installed from one end to the other of your room.

installed_2_rows_herringbone

(Study the herringbone pattern from Globus to get the hang of the correct tile placement. As you work out from the first row, it’s easy to get mixed up. Especially if you are alternating colors for your rows. Note that I alternated colors on the horizontal, not the vertical as shown in the drawing to create a chevron pattern.)

herringbone_pattern

Work out from the starting row. This time you can start at the top of the room. Lay a tile at a 90 degree angle from the first ones.

starting_2nd_row_of_tiles

Continue installing tiles onto one side of your initial row. In no time you’ll have a second row of tiles installed. Work out towards the sides of the room one row at a time.

installed_left_side_herringbone_tiles

As you reach the walls of your room, trimming the tiles to size is as easy as pressing a paint scraper into the corner where the wall meets the floor. The tiles are flexible but will break under pressure.

snapping_cork_tiles

Cutting around floor vents is easy. Lay the tiles over the vent and cut along the edges of the opening with a utility knife.

cutting_tile_around_floor_vent

To fit tiles around walls or objects that jut out. Cut a corner shape around the object first. Then lay the notched tile in place and let it overlap the other tiles. Use a straight edge to score along the tile where they meet the pre-installed tiles.

cutting_tile_against_wall

Remove the excess and press the tile into place.

perfectly_cut_tile

Cutting triangle “holes” against the wall is a little tricker. But, not difficult. Simply measure the side of the triangle.

measure_side_length

Transfer the measurement onto a cork tile. Use the speed square to cut at a 45 degree angle from that measurement. The tile should fit perfectly in the hole.

transfer-measurement_cut_45

Inevitably, your installation may shift every so slightly.(Hey, no one’s perfect, right?!) As you near the sides of the room you may need to trim a tile to fit or add a splice to fill a larger gap.

fill_splice_between_cork_tiles

After every tile has been laid, you should stand up to admire your work. But, then it’s time to get back down on your hands and knees and secure the tiles with a rubber mallet or a piece of scrap wood and a hammer. Pound every inch of the tiles to achieve full adhesion to the subfloor.

finish_installed_globus_cork_floors

I am in love with the herringbone chevron pattern. I’ve already received loads of compliments from friends and subcontractors.

chevron_herringbone_pattern_floor

If you should get a nick in the tiles, you can touch them up with a Minwax wood finish stain marker (this only works on the natural and golden oak tiles.)

touch_up_minwax_stain_marker

I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful this floor is. It is so warm and comfortable under foot.

close_up_nugget_cork_floors

True Story: Minutes after I finished installing the flooring. I was cleaning up and dropped a whole bottle of red grenadine syrup on the floor.

grenadine_syrup

The bottle didn’t break, but the cap split and out pour red sticky syrup! I screamed, I cussed, and I panicked! After several minutes of holding my breath while I frantically cleaned up the mess, this is what I was left with:

close_up_natural_golden_oak_cork

Nothing! Not a spot, not a stain. The little specks you see are the natural patterns in the cork. Which are beautiful because each tile is unique and they have so much movement and texture.

The next day we found  few random red spots of syrup that I missed cleaning up. Would you believe after 24 hours they wiped up with a damp rag and left no stain? Enough said.

herringbone_chevron_pattern_floor

After the cabinets were installed I added the final sealer coat to finish the flooring (also provided by Globus.) We had to refrain from walking on it for 24 hours, and then walk barefoot for a few days as it cured.

Several people asked about pets and cork flooring. I can’t speak for everyone, but Buddy hasn’t seemed to want to dig them. He hasn’t scratched them, although I’m expecting some wear if I let his nails get too long and he decides to play chase with the boys. But, that’s the case with wood floors as well. 

dog_walk

Dirt and dog hair are hardly noticeable on the floor. And clean up is easy with a damp mop and a gentle ph-balanced cleanser (water and a drop of dish soap.)

What do you think? Do you love the pattern I chose? Would you consider glue down cork tiles? If so, I can’t say enough about Globus Cork. They have great installation tips and slideshows. And best of all, they have excellent customer service!

PHGFancySign

Disclosure: After lots of research, I selected Globus Cork because I liked their product selection, the product reviews and their customer service.  I approached them about working with me on my kitchen renovation. They agreed to partner with me. I received complimentary products, but I was not told what to write or share. Please know that I am very selective about which companies and products I chose to work with. And I will always disclose partnerships and sponsored posts to you the reader.

Comments

  1. I love how this cork flooring looks! I want this in my own home.

  2. Those are so GORGEOUS. I am insanely jealous and it’s amazing how well they tie in with the other floors!

  3. Wow … that is an amazing floor. But oofdah, that sounds like a lot of work. Great job!

    • Erin, it was hard being on my hands and knees for four days, but it was so worth it. And to me, it’s worth some extra aches and pains for a few days ;-). Thank you for your kind comment.

  4. Katharine says:

    Love it! We need a new kitchen floor, and cork is looking like a great option. I had considered the groutable vinyl, but after you said Mike Holmes didn’t like it, it went right off my list! I like the look of tile, but I’m worried about things falling and breaking, particularly since we’ve got cats and dogs and their happy tails like to knock things over. Plus, it’s cold … yuck!

    • Katharine, Oh I’m so with you on not liking the hardness of tile. We now have it in our laundry room and have broken numerous dishes while we’ve been washing dishes in the utility sink. I’ll be happy when we get the sink and dishwasher hooked up in the kitchen. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  5. Excellent job Brittany! You definitely chose a difficult pattern and laid it perfectly! Cork is supposed to be so warm. Great choice for a kitchen floor!

  6. It looks fantastic. It seems like a really challenging job, but you make it all seem doable. I did my kitchen floor in dull, old run of the mill white squares, and frankly, it doesn’t look great. I wish I had your mad skills, and a family that was willing to stay out of the kitchen for a couple of days, sigh.
    I think dropping a bottle of Grenadine on it was a bit flamboyant to prove a point, but it is very convincing. lol. Very exciting and attractive design. And what, may I ask, was the grenadine for? Hmmm?

  7. These came out so great!!!

  8. Oh, my word, Brittany. They are GORGEOUS! Wow, what a statement! And you’re right–they make the other floors in your house tie together so well!

    You’ve outdone yourself with this tutorial. Thank you!

  9. Brittany, I love it! I’ve heard how comfortable and resistant cork floors are. And since my kids can be destructive, it may be a terrific option for us. How does the cost of the cork flooring compare to hardwood? We wouldn’t install ourselves – looks beyond our skills!

  10. I love it!! Love the design you chose!! Love it!!

  11. Brittany, you are awesome!!!

    The floor looks fantastic and knowing that it won’t stain is a huge benefit. I’ve been wondering if cork floors are an option for our rental homes and now the answer is yes. Thanks so much for sharing your project with us all.

  12. Jaw dropping gorgeous! You are so amazing girl! Blows my mind!

  13. This is fabulous!!! I love this picture of your dog in the end :) This must have taken you forever!!! Nicely done :)

  14. I have been thinking lately of changing the floor of my kitchen to a more non-slippery material. Now that you have shared this idea, it has given me light on how I would do it. It could be fun too, thanks!

  15. That looks like a cool idea to do in the front hallway of the office. I might get confused though.

  16. OMG! Brittany, I think you have officially reached the insane level! this is gorgeous, but i can’t imagine the math it took for this. IT IS BEAUTIFUL! GORGEOUS! so impressed!

    xo
    kellie

  17. ummm this is pretty darn amazing! I can’t believe the grenadine spilt on your cork… I would have done a whole lot more than curse! So glad its not too visible! Great job again!

    • Katie, there were no stains left at all! I’m so excited about the cork. It’s really holding up to all the construction traffic right now (with the new restoration team here.)

  18. catastrophegirl says:

    ooh, gorgeous! and excellent to know a place that does it near me [i am local to you] because i want to have a couple of rooms and a hallway done in the next few years. i’d much rather have a specialist than a company that happens to carry cork but isn’t terribly familiar with installing it

  19. Gorgeous! Did you put a primer or some transparent finish to protect the floor? I’m remodeling an old cascina here in Italy and I would love to do this in the bedrooms hallway.

    • Sharon,

      There is a finish that is put down after the installation. It is sold by Globus and gives it the extra layer of protection.

      • Did you take this step Brittany? Will it help “bridge” any gap at the seams? I have two Jadk Russell’s and live near the beach = pet hair and sand. I am worried about those things getting a caught in the seams or the sand abrading the surface. Ok, I’m just worried, but whenever I think of how hide cork would feel underfoot or see a stunner like YOUR install, I really want to resolve these issues and see if I can use this instead of tile. How is is hold up to all the construction detritus ?

        • Korlad, okay sand is the first thing that I would think might not go well with a cork floor. The reason is that there are lots of little pits in the cork material and sand would definitely stick on those. And the joints are not exactly bridged by the sealer. There are still many cracks and seams. ;-(. I wonder if the striata or traditional cork has less pits in it: http://globuscork.com/traditional-colors.html I would definitely send Globus an email to see if they can answer all your questions. I am by no means an expert ;-).

          • Hello Brittany and Korlad,

            Regarding sand scratching cork flooring, it would be the same for any hardwood or resilient flooring. Sand can scratch (think sandpaper) so have a walk-off mat at your front door to catch sand and then vacuum regularly to pick up the sand. Our Traditional and Striata patterns actually have a smoother surface than the Nugget texture so there would be less opportunity to catch sand in the crevices. What you could also do is apply a second or third coat over the tiles on site after installation. This will smooth out the surface more and will also fill in the seams of the tiles. Cork floors are great for pets and they rarely cause a problem with scratching.

  20. Cork flooring is the best choice for those with pets. They are resistant to scratches.

  21. Crazy Brittany! I was just deciding to do this with our kitchen floor and thinking a herringbone pattern. So good to this see and so timely!

  22. Your cork flooring looks great! I do flooring myself and it’s nice to see that cork flooring is becoming more popular because it really is a great choice.

  23. This floor looks amazing! We were considering vinyl wood looking planks for our kitchen but now, I don’t know, after seeing this maybe we’ll go with cork instead. Thankfully, I have a few other rooms to finish before we get to the kitchen so I’ve got time to decided (a few months at the rate I’m moving). I so love the pattern you chose too, can’t wait to see it progress and how everything looks together. :)

  24. I am in love with this floor…and your herringbone design. I have seen and heard of cork flooring on shows like HGTV, etc. This just reinforces my thoughts of doing away with my ugly vinyl tile flooring. I am surrounded in by a house full of men and boys. This would be perfect in my kitchen…and my bathroom. Thanks for the inspiration!

  25. Where can I get cork tiles?

  26. I love the floor! I’ve been trying to decide what to do with the kitchen floor and I think I’ve just found it, thanks for sharing!

  27. What a great finish, they really look wonderful. It is great that they are easy to install and the pattern looks great. I always think that the most important tool when tiling is a good quality tile cutter although with cork tiles it looks like all you need is a good sharp knife!

  28. Wow! You really are pretty handy. I am so impressed, this floor is gorgeous — this is one of the best applications I have seen out there. I actually was researching cork floors to install in my boys’ room and I came across an article about Globus flooring (I have no connection to them) where they did a workshop with at risk kids in the Bronx, teaching them a trade. I was really impressed and wrote for a sample, after all if you are going to use a product, and all things being equal quality-wise, why not use a company with a commitment to the community they live in. Again, fab job, I what this floor! Amal

  29. This is chevron not herringbone. Just FYI!

  30. Great post! Its really good information about cork tile flooring for kitchens. Nice sharing thank you.

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  1. [...] Pretty Handy Girl: Installing Cork Tile Flooring [...]

  2. [...] Installing Cork Tile Flooring in the Kitchen [...]

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  4. […] The backsplash and tiling truly makes my kitchen feel luxurious. In addition to the cork flooring, it was one of the things I REALLY wanted to have in our kitchen. And this is definitely a project […]

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