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Can You Paint Cork Flooring?

Can You Paint Cork Flooring?

Despite the declining popularity of cork flooring, it is still used and can be highly customisable – but can you paint cork flooring?

Since cork is an organic, natural wood product, cork flooring can technically be painted. However, because of the way cork particles are fused together with an adhesive to turn the organic wood bark particles into flooring, painting it is tricky.

There are just going to be some important steps to take when painting cork. The secret is in the preparation and what type of paint to use as well as making sure to allow extra time for the floor to thoroughly cure before using it.

What is Cork?

Cork is harvested from the bark of live cork oak trees from forests mostly in Portugal and Spain. It doesn’t harm the trees to harvest it because the bark grows back. No trees are cut down to create cork.

Two precise incisions are made in the bark of the trunk of the tree, and then a cork plank is carefully pulled out. From there, the cork is boiled to make it soft and clean.

Once they are boiled, the planks of cork are flatter as well, which makes them easier to work with.

First, corks intended to be used in wine bottles are punched out of the wood directly. From there, the rest of the cork is ground up and glued together to make other cork products, including flooring.

Benefits of Cork Flooring

Cork has many benefits including:

  • Provides a soft, cushion-like surface
  • Provides good insulation
  • Can be refinished
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to maintain
  • Hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and eco-friendly

Cork has other aspects to consider when using it for flooring.

Characteristics of Cork Flooring

Some less-than-ideal aspects of cork to consider when using it for flooring include:

  • Because of the porous nature of cork, it requires water sealing
  • Cork can be easily damaged by pets or furniture
  • Cork flooring tends to fade in sunlight

Cork floors tend to fade as time goes on, they begin to wear, especially with exposure to sunlight. When they fade, they tend to reveal their orange, red, or pink tones.

Whatever paint you choose for your cork floors, be sure to start in a small, inconspicuous area to test it out before covering the entire floor with the paint.

Things to Consider When Painting Cork Floors

Because of the porous nature of cork, painting a cork floor is going to require some know-how, effort, and knowing what type of paint to use.

The floor will need to be sanded down to the raw cork first and special steps need to be taken, such as also levelling the cork to get the paint to stick and not crack.

Also, a primer or some type of sealant will need to be used to create a level, foundation that can be sealed for the final layer of paint to stick to and stand up to foot traffic, furniture placement, and everyday use.

Many opt instead for finishing their cork floors with a stain.


It is difficult to find a professional flooring expert who is knowledgeable and skilled enough to work with cork floors to paint them properly and well enough to last. Ideally, the cork floor should first be sanded down before painting it.

To professionally sand and refinish a cork floor is going to be quite a bit more expensive than sanding and refinishing a hardwood floor.

Step-By-Step Method for Painting Cork Flooring

  1. First, clean the floor extremely well to remove every bit of dust and debris as well as any pet hairs that could fall onto it, even while working
  2. You will need to seal the cork floor before painting it
  3. Start with an oil-based primer
  4. Use a solid stain paint
  5. Apply one coat, and wait at least 12 hours before applying a new coat for both the primer layer and the stain or paint

Allow Painted Cork Floors to Cure Fully

Allow plenty of time for the painted cork floor to cure before moving furniture on top of it or walking across it with heavy foot traffic.

Because it is so porous, a painted cork floor will take much longer to fully and properly cure than a painted hardwood floor.

Once it has fully cured, it should be safe to steam mop and clean without any danger of the paint flaking off.

Extra Protection with an Epoxy Seal

If you want an extra seal, apply epoxy over the entire floor after the paint has set and cured. Never put epoxy directly onto the cork surface since it will eventually make it become brittle and crack. Before applying the epoxy, make sure the floor is level, clean, and free of any dips or slants.

Selecting the Best Primer

You will need to first use a primer to help the paint stick to the cork. Both the primer and the paint need to be flexible enough to adhere to the cork. Even after it has been sanded down, the nature of cork is that it will still be porous.

Also, be sure to use a paint or sealer that is extremely flexible so that when it sinks into the porous cork it will not become brittle when it dries and begin to crack or splinter. For best, lasting results, choose a primer and paint meant for outdoor use.

Final Thoughts

While it is possible to paint cork flooring, it is important to properly prepare the cork floor before any finishing work begins.

Cork is very porous, so a good sealant or primer will need to be used first before the layer of paint is attempted. After painting a cork floor, take extra steps to seal in the paint with an epoxy layer.

Keep in mind that when you take the time to use the right preparation and take proper steps in painting, it will take a bit more patience and time than painting another type of less porous floor.

Just make sure you allow plenty of time for the painted cork floor to thoroughly cure and harden before placing any furniture back onto the floor or walking across it.