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Installation Tips For Cork Floors

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It cannot be emphasized often enough that complete satisfaction and appreciation of cork flooring is directly dependent on proper installation. As always - read the manufacturers warranty. Cork flooring problems are not caused by the product itself but by improper installation practices or by not following the manufacturer's instructions as shown on the labels of the products to be used.

Some consumers prefer the pre-finished floor tiles which do not require a finish once they have been laid. The one problem associated with the pre-finished option is that it can be prone to moisture finding its way into the seams.

For the less experienced DIY,the tongue-and-grooved cork tiles are available.

Avoid Potential Problems:
Avoid installing cork floors in any areas with excessive subfloor moisture (i.e. moist below grade basements or freshly poured concrete or leveling compounds not completely cured). It is the responsibility of the installer to test for excessive moisture. When using leveling compounds, complete drying of compound is critical for proper adhesion. While the cure time may be a few hours, the complete drying time of these compounds can take 24 hours or more. It is, therefore, important to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

Color Variation:
Cork floorings are high quality, natural materials and should be handled accordingly. Some shade variation is an inherent and attractive characteristic of natural products. Both wood and cork, as natural materials, may change color when exposed to sunlight over prolonged periods of time. Cork will tend to fade while most hardwoods will darken and mellow. These subtle color changes do not take way from the beauty of these materials and cork flooring under normal wear and proper installation/maintenance, will last up to 30 years.

Recommended Adhesives:
Experience has showen that the best adhesive for installing cork floor tiles is a water-based contact cement. Cork is unique in that it is a porous material and therefore allows the water in the adhesive to evaporate and create a strong bond. Although we strongly suggest you follw the manufacturers recommendation.

Subfloor Preparation:

1) Proper preparation of the subfloor is essential for the successful installation of cork floor tile.

  • Remove paint, wax or any other substance that may prevent proper bonding.
  • All subfloors must be smooth, dry, clean and free of dirt, grease, wax or anything that would hinder a good bond. In severe cases, it may be necessary to machine sand the floor. When these steps have been completed, the floor must be washed, rinsed and allowed to dry.
  • Subfloors must be level and moisture free.

2.) Wood Floors should be leveled and all cracks filled with a wood filler or similar material. The floor should then be sanded to assure uniformity. If necessary, existing floors may be covered with 3/8 or 1/2 inch plywood with both sides finished. Plywood must be securely anchored.

3. Concrete floors (new or existing) must be leveled with latex fill as needed. Prime the concrete with standard concrete primer. It is not recommend installing cork floor tile on or below the grade, unless precautions are taken to guarantee that moisture will not penetrate through the subfloor.

4. If installing on existing vinyl or other smooth surfaces, rough up surfaces to ensure adhesive bond. Existing vinyl and sheet goods subfloors must be in good condition, firm and clean.

Tile Installation:

1. Remove cork tiles from packaging materials and place open tiles in the room where installation will take place for 48 hours prior to installation. Temperature should be between 60ºF and 70ºF (15ºC and 21ºC) with normal levels of humidity during this period as well as during subsequent installation.

2. Follow the manufacturer's laying instructions for application of adhesives. Be sure to use the proper trowel size to ensure the correct amount is applied.

3. Tiles may be cut with a linoleum or utility knife. Be sure knife is sharp.

4. After installation, restrict heavy traffic for 24 hours or more, depending on type of adhesive used.

5. Follow the manufacturer's instructions before applying a finish - a finish needs to be applied - water-based polyurethane or a wax.

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