Category Archives: Cork Flooring Installation

Cork Flooring Installation

How to install a unheated space with cork flooring?

(10:35:23) Visitor 74789261: Hi, I’m leading the build of a yoga/shiatsu studio and my client would like to install a cork flooring. The building has a concrete slab and will NOT be heated permanently, as it’s off-grid in the wood in a vacation centre. Which of your product would best fit this application?
(10:35:45) *** Cacork Floor joined the chat ***
(10:35:54) Cacork Floor : A cork floating floor – 10mm or 11mm golden Beach
(10:36:24) Cacork Floor : As soon as it is “unheated” or goes without HVAC, the warranty is void – but then again so would ANY floor.
(10:36:53) Cacork Floor : In the Pacific coast region this is not much of an issue.
(10:37:10) Customer: I’m from Quebec
(10:37:11) Cacork Floor : IN more extreme areas the life of any floor will be reduced when exposed to extremes.
(10:37:57) Customer: The floor will go through temperatures from -25 to +25.
(10:38:13) Cacork Floor : Yep…reduced life expectancy = to be expected.
(10:39:34) Customer: What would be the best way to prevent damage, I’m thinking especially in terms of underglooring. I was thinking vapour barier plus foamy underlayment
(10:39:36) Cacork Floor : My shift is over – is there anything else?
(10:39:49) Cacork Floor : Please send your questions in an email
(10:39:57) Cacork Floor : Contact us
(10:40:29) Cacork Floor : The details of such an install are pretty tough to get done over a chat. It should take me 1-2 hours of typing to get it all down.
(10:40:43) Cacork Floor : Please send email with your question and I will try my best to answer tomorrow.
(10:40:55) Customer: Ok, thanks!


I happen to build a Yoga studio that’s going to be off-grid in the forest, here in Quebec. My client insists on using cork for flooring as it’s a natural, soft and “warm” material. I’m concerned because the building will be left unheated for long periods of time, so the humidity rate will fluctuate a lot. This would probably cause expansion and contraction to the floor, especially if it’s a floating floor, and could badly damage it if it happens too often or too quickly. A fireplace will be added to the room and I’m afraid that someone coming in the dead of the winter might make a fire too hot too quickly and the humidity rate would change rapidly.

The building is round, 27 feet of diameter inside. Right now the floor is a concrete slab. What would be your best product to tackle those challenges? I understand very well the fact that because humidity and heat will not be constent, your warranty will be void. I want the best option to mitigate my client needs with the conditions the building is into.

I was also considering installing a polystyrene insulation between the concrete and the cork floating floor for added insulation and protection from temperature differences between the top and the bottom of the board.

Please indicate me what solution you would recommend to me given the circumstances, and which of your product s best suited.

Cancour Floor Answer
Thank you very much for taking the time to read me and accepting the challenge.


This is one of the toughest things you will do – install “indoor” materials in an unheated space in Quebec.  Everything you install will have a limited lifespan.  Contrary to my colleague’s advice, the glue down tile is the last thing I would use in this setting.  I’m sorry but he is in training and was “guessing” when he answered your chat.

I believe I may have answered your emails in the past regarding this situation.  Regardless, the answer is “floating floor” for as long as it lasts.   Insulating the slab won’t make any difference.  Cold is cold and hot is hot.  Unconditioned spaces are still ‘unconditioned’ no matter how insulated they are.

A cork floating floor + 6mm cork underlay = a nice way to insulate the space.  This will do what the ‘polystyrene’ insulation would do without the big expense.  A cork floating floor in your situation may only have 7-15 years of life in it.  A carpet = 7-15 years of life.  Vinyl = 3-7 years.  Laminate = 3-10 years.  Linoleum = 5-15 years.  Hardwood = 5-15 years.  As you can see, everything we have that is “interior” grade is going to have a vastly shorter life span.  The cork floating floor will function nicely while it is structurally sound.  Once it starts to deteriorate, it will do so very quickly.  The joints will show gapping, the boards will feel “spongy” like they are too damp/wet, etc.

A floating floor will do better than a permanent/glued floor.  It will have the chance to EXPAND when too hot/humid (that’s fine) or contract when it is too cold.  As long as it has the SPACE to expand/contract, it is fine.  The lifespan is greatly disturbed.  You *might get 10 years out of it.  You *might get 25 years.  You might only get 5 years if moisture intrusion (roof is compromised, flooding, etc) occurs.

Personally I would put in the entry level Golden Beach + cork underlay so that when the fire is lit, the space heats QUICKLY and maintains heat for LONGER.  It doesn’t make much sense to pay $2/sf more for a pretty pattern when it has the same “life span” as the entry level Golden Beach for $2.49/sf.  The choice is yours.  

OSB and Glue down Cork DON’T MIX!

So my week has been filled with homeowners who have to deal with OSB (oriented strand board) as their substrate or flooring underlayment. This normally wouldn’t be a problem for a floating floor install (click together type of flooring), but the same homeowners have requested a glue down cork tile as their final floor. Ohhhh dear! Things can go wrong in a HURRY on a job site. And this is one SNAFU that could have been avoided – but it takes forethought by everyone involved – including the homeowner.

Sigh. This is where my job gets REALLY intense. I mean dealing with swearing homeowners already up to their eyeballs in cost over-runs and delays. Boy oh boy does it get intense around here when OSB is the substrate for glue down tiles. Why all the fuss you ask? It starts with how OSB is created.

OSB is a manufactured product that uses tremendous amounts of adhesives (to keep all the wood chips together). It is pressed together and often finished with “wax” of some description. The wax helps keep the OSB moisture and rot resistant (doesn’t always work). Both the adhesives and the wax cause problems with permanent glue down floors. They are considered “contaminants” in the world of chemistry (in the flooring industry the chemistry component of the job can never be stressed enough). And cork is only one of many glue down or permanent floors that CANNOT use OSB as a substrate. It is an issue with so many floors. Not to mention it is problematic with nail down hardwood and bamboo as well.

“So why use OSB it if has so many problems?” Simple. Economics. OSB is CHEAP. And CHEAP is what helps sell homeowners on a project or wins a General Contractor (GC) the bid. The builder who puts in the lowest bid often wins the job. Part of that bid includes cheap surfaces. OSB is one of them. This gets everyone into trouble when the flooring has yet to be chosen (ahem…homeowners don’t have enough information about their build to be able to offer a floor cover), leaving the GC alone in “guessing” at what to use as underlay. When the floor is chosen (in this case a glue down cork tile) Builders are on the hook for a more expensive surface and homeowners are on the hook for a change order (that they didn’t even know existed). Tempers flare at this point.

The builders (either at the time the house was built or at the time of bidding the renovation) will use their best guess when it comes to bidding a project. They will use their own history to price out a job. Part of a flooring job includes underlayment – which means 90% of the time to be OSB (unless specifically stated as something else). That’s how they make money. They use “good enough” materials instead of the better or best materials. Most of the time they can get away with it. But in some cases, like a glue down cork floor, they are bitten by the “good enough” bug. And it bites HARD!

The problem with OSB and glue down materials comes from chemical incompatibility between the adhesives/wax in the OSB and the adhesive required to install these floors. The contaminants in the OSB means it is useless to even try to glue to it. Floor failure can be expected inside of a few weeks. In many cases it shows up the next day. By that time, it is too late. The cork cannot be salvaged, the adhesives cannot be salvaged and the whole thing is a redo. It is better to take the time to remove the OSB or cover it up and then start the glue down process once fresh, subfloor grade plywood has been installed and properly prepared. And properly prepared means the same sort of prep as sheet vinyl or linoleum. That’s a lot of prep. Especially if the OSB has to be removed or resurfaced with something else. The price of the project will climb – steeply.

The moral of the story is: Make sure you know what type of flooring you want before allowing your contractor cartier love bracelet knock off
to lay underlayment. If in doubt, specify subfloor grade plywood – be prepared to pay the extra. Subfloor grade plywood is acceptable in all but a few situations.

Cancork Floor Inc.
185-1991 Savage Road. 
Richmond BC, V6V 0A4 
Tel: 604-207-0661
Toll Free: 1-866-998-1198