How To Install A Floating Cork Floor

This is supposed to be the post where I declare “The floors are DONE… enthusiastic exclamation point!” But instead I’m here to say “The floors are almost done… sheepish period.” Since we last updated you, they’ve gone from this:

To this:

Note: Some of these photos have the cork looking more red/orange than it is in real life. But if you watch the video where we’re installing it (or the one with Clara in it), it’s probably the most true to life (a rich mocha color). We’ll try to take better pics next time!

We thought we could knock out the rest of it in the last few days, but between making all of the cuts to snake around our peninsula/cabinets/doorways and moving appliances out to make way for a few planks of flooring under them (to keep them level without pinning down too much cork), it just took longer than we thought. And since this whole blog is in real-time, as much as we wish we could fast forward to the end and share all the glossy after pics (no one wants to call this turkey done more than we do, haha) we just have to keep plugging away and share the pics whenever we get ‘er done. We did stop to take some how-to pics and a video along the way this time though – so we’ve got that to share with you. Shall we begin?

Here’s how the snapping system works on these cork boards. Tongue goes into groove. Boards lay flat together. Everybody’s happy.

When it came to actually putting a board in place, it went something like we show in the video below. If you can’t watch the video (we don’t want to blow your cover at work) we’ve also included the same information via photos below. Watching the video on mute is probably more explanatory though, just to see things in action.

Okay, so now for the photographic, Burger-cameo-free version of that same info. We first slid the tongue into the groove at a slight angle.

That held it very loosely together so that we could then lay it flat and slide it into the groove on the short end of the board.

Obviously that isn’t enough to hold the board in place, so out came the hammer and the tapping block (we got the tapping block in a flooring kit from Home Depot mentioned here). The block allows us to give the board a pretty solid wallop (technical term) without hurting the cork (since it takes the brunt of the hit instead of slamming the cork directly).

Once we had the short end tapped in enough to make the seam disappear, we did the same on the long side of the board. See that slight seam? After a few taps it was history (you can watch it disappear in the video above).

In our experience, when the long side popped into place the board sometimes, well, popped up a little bit on the outside edge. No bueno if your goal is a nice flat floor. So we found that if we put our weight on the board to keep it flat, then hammered it a couple more times it would get the board to lay flat and behave.

See, it’s behaving.

Of course it was a bit different when we got to boards close to the edges because (bummer alert) you don’t have room for your block or hammer.

That’s where the pull bar comes in handy (it was also included in the kit from Home Depot along with the tapping block and spacers mentioned here).

The wide side hooks over the board so that you can tap the other end with your hammer to get that seam to disappear. Oh and see that gap near the baseboard? There’s a recommendation of a 5/16th gap around the perimeter of the room (floating floors need to be able to expand/contract a bit to keep from warping, and the shoe molding will completely cover these slivers of space so they’re undetectable) – so we did have to cut a sliver and stick it in there. But nothing too snug to the wall since we don’t want warping. We used spacers to help us keep our place. More on that here.

Both techniques weren’t that time consuming, actually. It was the cuts that were a big time suck. Well, that and sliding the appliances out so we could run a few planks of flooring under them to keep them level. And since we got a big groove in our hardwood floors at the old house from sliding the refrigerator out, we were SUPER careful about it. Like two-layers-of-cardboard-over-a-scrap-piece-of-cork careful.

So I’m sorry we don’t have “after” pics for you yet (not that they’d be totally done anyways since we still have to reinstall transitions and shoe molding along with seal all the cork for added durability), but I did try to fake it by taking some pictures from angles where you don’t see the unfinished section in the laundry room. Yep, I’m clever like that.

Who knows, maybe we’ll never finish it and just shoot around it for the rest of our time here.

Just kidding. Of course we’ll finish it. Especially since I couldn’t even shoot one cute video of Clara without blowing our cover. Darn you Clara, always being adorable in the most inconvenient places! Note: for some reason every time Clara throws the football on this video the floor appears to makes a crazy loud sound, but in person the floor is really soft and absorptive of sound, so it doesn’t make loud hollow noises when you walk on it or drop things – must just be the sound quality of the Flip camera (it seems to amplify voices to hear them better, so it must have amplified the football sounds too).

Luckily the laundry room should be pretty speedy. Knock on wood…er, cork.

Anyone else in the midst of a project that’s taking longer that expected? Ever laid a cork floor? We have been so happy with it so far (the rich deep color adds so much for the formerly white-on-white room, there are no scratches/dings where Burger runs around from his nails, no dents where we drop things, it’s very soft and easy on the back/knees, and it should be even more durable once we seal it after it’s all in). We’ll definitely keep you posted! Oh and we did learn that if you’re redoing a kitchen from scratch you should install your cabinets first and then add the floating cork floors around them (like we did in this case as well) since a floating floor shouldn’t have big heavy cabinetry resting on it (remember, it needs to be able to expand and contract a bit to keep from warping – more on that here). So we just thought we’d toss that tip out if it was helpful to anyone.


  1. says

    Okay…I have to admit that at first, I was a cork skeptic. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flooring and couldn’t see how the warmer tones would work in such a modern kitchen.

    And now, I am officially eating my words. It’s looking amazing! Can’t wait to see the finished results.

    Also, isn’t cork pretty eco-friendly? Portland would be proud :)

  2. says

    So close! My Saint Patrick’s Day wreath is taking FOREVERRRR to finish. I’ve been using white & green felt – the green I chose tends to be sold out in every craft store I visit. I managed to find 2 sheets at JoAnn, and then 9 sheets at Michael’s, but I’m short by two sheets to finish the darn thing! I have to wait until Friday now to see if they get anymore in.

    Are you guys happy with the way the floors look? I think before the floors were in, the kitchen looked “cold”, and now it looks all warmed up! :D

  3. says

    I love how you run into real world DIY problems…makes me feel less like an idiot in my DIY adventures. Your floors are looking great by the way!!!

    • says

      Experts (and the manufacturer) actually recommend water based poly- which is a lot lower VOC than oil-based stuff! We’ll keep you posted on what we end up using for sure!


    • Lisa says

      The floors are beautiful and I love that they are “green” and warm and soft underfoot, etc. But why don’t they make the floors pre-sealed?! So many flooring options today are pre-sealed and low-maintenance or maintenance free. Seems like a pain, especially since you have to pay for an extra product, provide the labor, stay off the floors until they are thoroughly dry, re-seal periodically, etc.

    • says

      They actually are pre-sealed, but since they’re snap and lock, the only way to seal the seams is to seal them one more time once they’re installed for the most protection! It’s not mandatory, but we hear it’s definitely worth doing for the added durability!


    • Lisa says

      Nvmd! Should have read through the posts before I jumped the gun on my comment! haha

  4. says

    The floors are looking AMAZING! Ah! To be honest, I was a little nervous when you said you were doing cork floors (I envisioned cork-board floors haha) but I’m really liking the way they look – much more than wood! It’s going to look really lovely when it’s 100% done :)

    And look at Clara being all helpful trying to move the fridge. It’ll be a matter of time before she’s helping you DIY around the house!

    • says

      They are, but both experts and the manufacturer recommend sealing it after installing it since all the cracks between the boards (even though they’re tiny from all that tapping) are “open” but once they’re sealed the floor is a lot more stable/protected.


  5. says

    How come every project always takes a lot longer than expected? We’ve been transforming some Ikea cabinets into built-ins for weeks now… anyway, it’s looking great so far! I love the “after” pics from strategic angles.

  6. Danielle says

    I installed a pergo over the summer, the very last piece, was impossible to get in the tongue with the hammer and crowbar, so we wound up cutting just the tongue off, gluing it in with a little wood glue, no one knows the difference!

  7. mariela says

    I’m loving it! Can’t wait to see it all finished :) Off the topic question: Where did you guys get the topiaries that you have on your mantel? I really like them!

  8. meganleiann says

    Looks good! When we did our floors, I wasn’t prepared for how loud the process was. I was hearing the mallet tapping in my dreams for a month!

    • says

      Oh yes, hammering that tapping block is loud! Thank goodness Clara sleeps through it so we can work on the floor during naps and after she goes to bed!


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