Weighing Kitchen Floor Options: Cork Or Pergo?

Houston, we have liftoff! We made a big kitchen purchase. We ordered the floor! Wait, we should back up. We originally hoped to find hardwood floors running all the way under the linoleum in the kitchen (after finding out that it ran under the fireplace side of the room here)…

… but we removed the transition between the kitchen and the office on the other side of the room to find… booo!… plywood. So no refinishing for us. Gotta start from scratch.

But there were a few limitations off the bat. We learned from the previous owners that the kitchen floors couldn’t handle tile (they would need to be reinforced/leveled from underneath = $$$), so tile was out. Even laying down new hardwood worried us since it’s thick and heavy and not as flexible as some other options. So based on the limitations, we honed in on these three options (any of which we hoped to install ourselves if we chose it):

  • cork
  • floating wood laminate like Pergo
  • vinyl or linoleum/marmoleum

At first we loved the idea of laying some sort of sleek eco-friendly linoleum in some chic tone-on-tone stripes. Candice Olsen does it sometimes, but I couldn’t find any online pics. And I’m sure it sounds really tacky but I promise it looked really good and that lady spends five thousand dollars on sconces so she’s not exactly about compromising when it comes to form. But after checking out a ton of local places /online stores we just couldn’t find anything that we liked. And we didn’t want to give off that “we upgraded the whole kitchen but forgot to update the floors effect” (which is a pretty embarrassing result if you do, in fact, upgrade the floors but no one can tell).

So we were happy to move on from the whole striped linoleum thing. We also realized that we prefer when our floors fall back and let other things be the star (like the wall paint, textiles on the chairs & windows, light fixtures, art & accessories – etc). Next was the possibility of: 1) a Pergo type wood-look click floor or 2) cork (since it was substantially lighter than hardwood and even bamboo). So we looked at a bunch of options in both materials and zeroed in on two options that we liked best.

One was a whitewashed Pergo from Lowe’s (for $3 a square foot called “Driftwood Pine”) that looked so much like the hardwoods we already had in the house, except whitewashed – which could have been a fun choice for the kitchen. The planks were the same size as the existing ones and it still had warm wood tones underneath so it would almost look like we had the same hardwood running through the kitchen that we had in the office, dining room, and bedrooms, but decided to whitewash them in the kitchen.

The other option was a rich mocha cork from Lumber Liquidators (called “Porto” by Libson Cork) that was on super sale for $3.26 a square foot. Which is an awesome price since cork usually starts around $4 or $5 a square foot and can go all the way up to $10+.

We realized we might have initially been attracted to the whitewashed Pergo because it’s similar in tone to the existing vinyl flooring in our kitchen (so our eyes are just used to seeing that tone underfoot), but once we paint the cabinets white and add stainless appliances and make a bunch of other upgrades, we realized that we might appreciate a warmer toned floor (so the whole room wouldn’t be white and gray). Boom, option one was effectively eliminated. Buh-bye graywashed Pergo.

The funny thing was that when we checked out nearly all of the inspiration kitchens that I pinned on Pinterest, they all had one thing in common: rich dark floors. Talk about subliminal messages. Can’t believe we didn’t pick up on that sooner. They were actually similar in tone to the mocha hardwood ones that we added to our first kitchen, which we still miss on the daily. Oh and it bears mentioning that while some folks prefer lighter wood for shows-less-dust reasoning, we never had any issues with that (or keeping them clean in general) since they weren’t super dark/ebony, just deep enough to be called “mocha.”

Decision made. Mocha cork it is! Especially since we planned to refinish the existing hardwoods in a similar tone for an even more seamless whole-house feeling down the line. But before pulling the cork trigger we googled around for cork pros and cons – just to be thorough. We learned it’s warm, quiet, naturally fire & water & bacteria resistant, soft underfoot (for less dish breakage and sore knees from standing), and eco friendly. The cons were that the finish could be scratched (like hardwoods) and it could be dented over time by heavy appliances or furniture if you don’t put those felt feet on them (like hardwoods). But if scratched or dented it could be sanded down and even restained and resealed (yup, you guessed it – like hardwoods). So it didn’t sound too out of our league since we’re definitely not strangers to oak flooring, which is apparently pretty similar.

But because we’re neurotic, we took it one step crazier further. We emailed four people we know and love who have cork and asked them to be brutally honest with us and tell us what they hate and if they’d recommend it and what they’d change and all the bad stuff. Well, not a complaint among them. Everyone said they loved their cork and would make the same choice again. Whew. So we (finally) went for it.

We put in an order for 265 square feet of it to cover the entire 25′ kitchen and adjoined laundry room (and account for about 10% of extra cork, just in case of a catastrophe cork-tastrophe). Of course I haggled with the Lumber Liquidators guy to get $15 off our $863 cork order (down to $848, baby). Haha. Every penny helps. It’s definitely not a drop in the bucket, but we’re excited to install it ourselves (it should be pretty simple since it’s click + lock and doesn’t call for any adhesive). The awesome thing is that refinishing hardwoods usually runs around $3-4 a square foot around here, and our new floors were $3.26 a square foot – so we’re psyched that new cork floors are about the same price as refinishing what we wished we had found under that old linoleum. In the words of Clara: yoi! (that’s how she says yay).

The only ironic thing: installing the floor is one of the last things we’ll be tackling (floors usually go down last so they don’t get dinged up by demo or painting or appliance installing) but the price was right so we pounced! For anyone wondering what we have to get done before cork-ing things up, here’s a brief rundown:

  • Switch out/alter some of the existing cabinets & relocate some appliances
  • Order/install new appliances (since we have some bisque mixed with black going on)
  • Open the doorway between the dining room & kitchen (still working on permits/contractors)
  • Create a peninsula out of secondhand, built, or purchased cabinetry
  • Upgrade the counters (possibly with some DIY concrete ones if the floor can support them)
  • Redo the backsplash (we have something pretty fun planned… more on that later)
  • Paint the old and new cabinets white, so they look nice and seamless
  • Add some open shelving (that’ll go along with our fun TBA backsplash idea)
  • Completely upgrade the lighting (goodbye florescent tube lights!)

So yeah… we might not have after kitchen pictures for you until 2013. Just kidding. But maybe not. Have you guys purchased flooring lately? Gone crazy for cork? Or whitewashed wood (or faux wood)? Or realized that there’s a subliminal common thread among all of the kitchens you’ve been pinning on Pinterest? It was kind of hilarious when we noticed they all had nearly identical floors.


  1. Lisa says

    I’m sorry, I haven’t finished reading the post, yet, but the comment you made in this post (and previously) just nags at me – I’ve never heard that a floor can’t “support the weight” of tile. Tile certainly doesn’t weigh as much as cabinets and appliances, and is distributed, not heavy in any one spot like appliances and cabinets. Did they mean that the floors had too much flex in them (which can be fixed by laying backerboard, which you would have to do, anyway, on a plywood subfloor). The “weight” issue just doesn’t made sense to me. Please tell me you’ve had an inspector check this out for you? If you’ve already bought another floor, it’s a mute point, but I would hate for you to have given up on your first choice if it wasn’t really necessary!

    • says

      Yup, an inspector looked it over and an architect was the one to inform the previous owners of that fact. It definitely could have to do with flex (that something heavy like tile wouldn’t flex enough to lay well) but we’re not really tile folks (well, we like it in bathrooms) so we’re happy with the cork choice! Even if we could do tile we probably would have ended up there!


    • Lindsey d. says

      Definitely not the first time I’ve heard of a floor not being able to handle the weight of tile. I live in a 75-year-old raised cottage (about 3 feet off the ground on piers). Putting tile down would require about 1 1/2 inches of additional sub-flooring, plus the height of the tile itself. It’s doable, but leaves you with a terrible mini-step up going into the kitchen or bath. For a klutz like me, it’s disaster waiting to happen.

    • Cate says

      My in-laws recently re-did the floors in the downstairs of their house an they had the same issue with weight. They originally had what looked like a 4×4 tile, but it was actually peel & stick floor. Anyway, they couldn’t put down ceramic in it’s place without redoing the underneath to support the weight. By the time they added that to the cost of the tile, it was out of the budget. They chose a peel & stick vinyl tile instead in a color I didn’t personally care for, but it was an upgrade from the 30 year old floors.

    • Alex says

      Having lots of experience in this area on our DIY home renovation, I can speak to it as an amateur expert.

      The weight of the tile isn’t the issue. The real issue is called Deflection. Essentially, how much the floor will give with normal or heavy traffic. People walking, running, jumping, etc. Deflection is bad for tile, it causes cracks, even when you have a good isolation membrane and substrate.

      Porcelain tile needs a low deflection rate or you get cracks. Stone like marble needs an even lower deflection rate.

      There are many deflection calculators online that will tell you if your room is a candidate for either stone or porcelain tile. The calculations are based on joist sizing, length of unsupported span, and subfloor makeup. A good rough and crude test for sturdiness is to fill a glass of water essentially to the top of a glass. Set the glass on the floor and stand within one foot of the glass. Now stand on your tip toes and then let your heels fall hard to the floor. If the glass rocks enough to spill a little water out of the glass then your floors give too much and your tile will probably crack sooner than later.

      That being said, suring up the structure of the joists to support tile is not a costly project. It’s also something the average DIYer can typically handle. I’ve don’t it for two of our rooms due to damaged floor joists. It’s called joist sistering.

      All you need to do is attach a similar sized floor joist to the existing ones, span to span. You glue with construction adhesive, then screw the boards at regular intervals. And, if you want to be sure, you can attach 2 lag bolts with washers every 10 inches. It is an easy and effective way to handle the project.

      So if you want to use tile, don’t hesitate to take this on, it’s very doable. Also, don’t fear normal hard wood, the weight of it doesn’t matter, and the flexibility of wood will take almost anything unless your house is essentially falling down, but I would get the falling down taken care of first if that’s the case. :-)

  2. Liz says

    I can’t tell you how excited I am about this as the husband and I have just decided to put a dark brown cork floor in the finished part of our basement and just started pricing stuff. He was just talking about how it’s cheaper at Lumber Liquidators.

  3. says

    That cork pick is beatutiful. Be careful when removing old linoleum (sorry if I sound like a parent here)… sometimes the old flooring adhesives have asbestos! Should be good as long as the old floor is a post 80s install.

  4. Kristina says

    I can’t wait to see what it looks like. We need to redo the first floor of our house and I had thought about cork. We have three different floorings in a small space. I’ll be following with interest!

  5. Amy says

    How exciting! I hope you do DIY concrete counter tops. I’ve been wanting to do those in my own home! I’ve heard quickcrete even put out a special mix for counter tops!

  6. Carrie says

    Hi guys!

    We are redoing our kitchen right now, and replacing the floor. This was after we found a bunch of mice in the cabinets and the subfloor rotting. Sweet! Will you be pulling up layers of lino or just going over the top. What about the height differential?

    For tile did you do the 360 flex thing? <– yes, that is a technical term, why do you ask?

    One last thing, our neighbors have that cork and it reads very orange in the house. Can't wait to see it!

    • says

      Oh yes, we were certain to bring home a sample before picking the color to be sure it read as mocha in the house (showroom lighting is always really different than “real” lighting at home). As for the floor, we’ll be removing the vinyl tile that’s there to keep the height as seamless as possible. Not sure what the 360 flex thing is for tile- do tell!


    • Carrie says

      The 360 flex thing (which I am sure has a name) is where you take the length of a room- In my case 24 feet over 360, so 24/360= .07, so my floor cannot flex more than .7 inches once walked on. If it does then tile will crack.

      Now that I read that, I guess that has nothing to do with weight. Sooooo, nevermind!

  7. says

    So happy that you went with cork. We had hardwood installed throughout most of our living space but used Pergo in my husband’s office (it’s our 3rd bedroom, not near the hardwood areas of the house) and I hate the way it sounds when we walk on it. It may be partially due to the fact that we have a basement underneath (as opposed to a slab foundation) but it sounds really echo-y and chinsy compared to walking on hardwood. I think the cork will be gorgeous!

    • Kristen says

      Nope – we installed quik-loc (just like pergo) in the basement on a concrete floor (even with really good underlayment), and it still sounds “funny.”

    • Christine says

      I have the same problem with Pergo, which is installed in most of my house except for the bedrooms. It is very loud. I don’t think I would choose it again. I can tell when my Bassett Hound is coming for a little love.

    • Reba says

      I have Pergo whitewashed laminate in my entire home, including bathroom and kitchen. It’s an older manufactured homee and I replaced orange shag carpet and ugly vinyl. I’ve had it for over 1 and 1/2 years and have no problems at all. I have no noise issues and I love that it is so easy to clean. I had a flood in my bathroom that went out to the hall…I pulled it all up and let it dry for a while before putting it back down and have had no issues at all! I also live on the damp Oregon coast but still no problems.

  8. Jill says

    Thanks for sharing the options and decisionmaking process! We’re in the midst of an upstairs renovation and will need to make a flooring decision soon. I think you guys definitely made the right decision – but I’m super excited about the whitewashed pergo floors that you nixed and considering them for our upstairs! :)

  9. Lindsay L says

    omg $herdog this is going to be one beautiful kitchen! I am ready to see it so I can continue living vicariously through your house updates! What I keep thinking about is your 250 secret projects for the book, y’all must be busy!! Love the cork choice!

    • megan e says

      I’m going to assume that some of these projects are taking place in friends and family homes because with how much you’ve been sharing on YHL, I can’t imagine there would be 250 more things around your house you could keep secret and wouldn’t show up in photos.

    • says

      We’re not quite done with anything so lots of in-progress stuff is happening and being stored in the playroom. It’s kind of a zoo. And we kind of hate/love it! Haha. It’s definitely harder to keep the house clean with stuff everywhere!


  10. Andrea says

    Lovely flooring choice, you guys! We ended up going with linoleum, since there are so many beautiful patterns and finishes and at such a great price. Same deal as cork in that it’s warm underfoot, softer if you drop stuff, etc. We decided against cork, because we have a big dog and worried he might tear it up with his moose-sized claws! (for real – and his name is Moose, so…) The one we chose is a slate look, and even has some corresponding texture to it – some visitors are totally shocked when we tell them it’s linoleum and not REAL slate (unless they’re in socks/barefeet and can feel it’s not cold like stone!) Anyhow, good luck with the reno!!

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