Cork flooring has become an increasingly popular choice for bathroom floors due to its natural water-resistant properties and ability to withstand humidity. However, even cork needs special consideration when used in humid environments like bathrooms. This article will explore the suitability of cork as a bathroom flooring material, best practices for installation and care, and how to keep cork bathroom floors looking beautiful.

An Overview of Cork Flooring

Cork is a renewable resource harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree. It is a lightweight, durable, and flexible natural material that offers many benefits as a flooring option:

  • Natural moisture resistance – The waxy substance suberin contained in cork makes it naturally moisture resistant. This prevents water from penetrating the material and causing warping or damage.
  • Insulating qualities – Cork is an excellent thermal and acoustic insulator, keeping bathrooms warmer and quieter.
  • Comfort underfoot – Cork has a soft, pleasantly springy texture that is comfortable to stand on, even for long periods of time.
  • Hypoallergenic – Cork contains suberin which has natural antifungal and antimicrobial properties, helping to repel allergens and microbes. This makes it ideal for asthma or allergy sufferers.
  • Sustainable – Cork oak trees are not cut down to harvest the bark – it regenerates itself every 9-12 years, making cork a sustainable flooring choice.

These characteristics make cork a great flooring choice for bathrooms. The material’s water-resistance prevents swelling or deterioration from humidity or accidental splashes. Cork flooring also helps create a warm, quiet, and comfortable bathroom environment.

Benefits of Using Cork Flooring in Bathrooms

There are several specific advantages to using cork flooring in humid bathroom spaces:

Moisture Resistance

The waxy suberin in cork resists water absorption and penetration. This prevents moisture damage like warping, expanding, or growing mold. Cork can withstand repeated exposure to water and humidity without impacting its structural integrity or aesthetics.

Insulation from Cold Surfaces

Cork’s naturally insulating properties keep bare feet warm, even on cold tile or concrete subfloors. This adds comfort underfoot.

Noise Reduction

Cork floors dampen echoes and ambient noises like water dripping, fans humming, or music playing. This can make bathrooms more peaceful.

Allergy Relief

Suberin inhibits mold, mildew, and microbe growth which helps minimize allergens. This creates a more hygienic environment for those with allergies or sensitivities.

Safety Underfoot

Cork has a non-slip, slightly springy surface, even when wet. This gives it better traction than many hard surface floorings, reducing fall risks.

Comfort & Ergonomics

The softness of cork flooring reduces fatigue from standing for extended periods like long showers or baths. It creates a more ergonomic bathroom environment.

Style & Design Flexibility

Cork comes in a wide array of patterns, textures, and colors. This allows matching any style from modern to traditional, rustic to elegant.

Considerations for Installing Cork Floors in Bathrooms

While cork is well-suited to humid bathroom environments, there are some important installation considerations to ensure its longevity and performance:

Subfloor Preparation

The subfloor must be structurally sound, level, clean, and dry before installing cork planks or tiles. Address any unevenness, damage, or moisture issues first.

Waterproof Subflooring

Use a waterproof substrate like cement board rather than a standard wooden or plywood subfloor which can deteriorate over time from moisture exposure.

Proper Acclimation

Allow cork flooring to acclimate in the room where it will be installed for at least 48 hours beforehand. This allows it to adjust to the temperature and humidity.

Expansion Gaps

Leave 1/4 inch expansion gaps around the entire perimeter of the cork floor to allow for natural expansion and contraction as humidity levels fluctuate.

Correct Adhesive

Use the adhesive specifically recommended by the flooring manufacturer to firmly adhere cork planks or tiles to the subfloor. This prevents buckling or detachment.

Finish Application

Follow manufacturer directions for applying any protective finishes or topcoats to seal and safeguard the cork flooring after installation.

With proper subfloor prep, materials, and installation techniques, cork can perform exceptionally well in humid bathrooms for many years. Paying close attention to these factors helps prevent moisture-related damage.

Maintaining Cork Floors in Bathrooms

Once installed, cork bathroom floors require some simple maintenance practices to keep them looking beautiful:

Sweeping and Vacuuming

Regularly sweep, dust mop, or vacuum cork floors to remove surface dirt, dust, and debris which can abrade the finish over time.


Use a damp mop to wipe up spills or wash occasionally with a mild, gentle soap. Avoid harsh cleaners which can damage the cork flooring.

Reapplying Finish

Reapplying protective wax or polyurethane finishes per the manufacturer’s recommendations helps maintain the water resistance and luster.

Bathmats & Area Rugs

Use bathmats, area rugs, and floor mats in high traffic bathroom areas to prevent excessive wear and tear.

Protect from Standing Water

Immediately clean up any puddles or excessive moisture to protect cork from warping or water damage.

Manage Humidity & Airflow

Maintain proper ventilation and use exhaust fans, windows, or dehumidifiers to manage bathroom humidity levels.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Cleaning products containing bleach, ammonia, or acids can discolor or degrade cork over time.

With proper preventative care and maintenance, cork bathroom floors can retain their beauty and moisture-resistant properties for many years of use.

Choosing the Best Cork Materials for Bathrooms

There are a few varieties of cork bathroom flooring to choose from, each with their own characteristics:

Cork Tiles

  • Come in 12″ x 12″ squares typically
  • Can be solid or composite construction
  • Offer visual variety by mixing patterns/colors
  • Easier for DIY installation

Cork Planks

  • Longer, rectangular plank shapes
  • Come in click-lock floating floor systems
  • Provide a more seamless look
  • Ideal for larger bathroom spaces

Wicanders Cork Floors

  • Made from a dense, high-performance cork composite
  • Extremely durable and water/stain resistant
  • Offer antimicrobial Hydrocork technology
  • Ideal for demanding bathroom conditions

Amorim WISE Cork Floors

  • Pressed composite cork construction
  • Proprietary WISE technology for stability
  • Can be glued down or floated
  • Resist swelling and indentation

Always check the manufacturer specifications for the best format, construction, and performance ratings for humidity and water exposure when choosing cork flooring for bathrooms.

Top Cork Flooring Brands for Bathrooms

Some of the top cork flooring brands that are suitable for high-moisture bathrooms include:

  • Amorim – The world’s leading cork producer, with durable, water-resistant WISE and Hydrocork flooring lines.
  • WE Cork – Offers beautiful, sustainable floors that resist mold growth in humid conditions.
  • Wicanders – Known for high-performance cork composite floors with antimicrobial properties.
  • Globus Cork – Provider of luxuriously soft yet durable cork bathroom floors.
  • Capri Cork – Specializes in waterproof cork floors backed with polymer core layers.
  • EcoFusion – Uses a renewable bamboo substrate for firm, stable cork bathroom floors.
  • EcoTile – Provider of affordable yet attractive cork floors suitable for baths and showers.

Always look for established, reputable brands that back their cork flooring with adequate warranties for bathroom use. Avoid cheap, generic cork that may not withstand humidity well.

Costs of Installing Cork Flooring in Bathrooms

The costs of installing cork flooring in a bathroom can range significantly based on the product type, size of the space, and labor involved:

  • Cork tiles tend to range from $2-$4 per square foot.
  • Cork planks range from $4-$7 per square foot on average.
  • Professionally installed cork costs $6-$12 per square foot including labor.
  • The total cost for a 50 square foot half-bath might range from $400-$600.
  • A larger full bathroom of 100 square feet may cost $1000-$3000 total.

There are ways to reduce costs, such as:

  • Choosing lower-priced tiles instead of planks
  • Doing DIY installation rather than hiring a professional
  • Shopping end-of-season sales and clearances
  • Using thin cork overlays instead of full replacement

Overall, the investment in high quality cork designed to resist humidity is well worth it for the years of enjoyment, performance, and style it will provide in a bathroom space.

Cork Flooring Moisture FAQs

Q: Is cork flooring waterproof?

A: Cork flooring itself is not completely impervious to water. However, modern composite cork floors with polymer or resin coatings can achieve waterproof-like performance while retaining cork’s natural moisture resistance.

Q: Can you use cork flooring in a bathroom?

A: Yes, cork is well-suited to humid bathroom environments due to its water-resistant suberin layer. Proper prep and installation are key to ensure the flooring withstands moisture.

Q: Does cork flooring work in showers?

A: In shower stalls, areas around tubs, or other frequently wet zones, use waterproof composite cork floors or pair with additional water barriers for best results.

Q: How is cork as a bathroom flooring material?

A: Cork performs very well in bathrooms compared to many flooring materials. Its moisture resistance, comfort underfoot, noise insulation, and warmth make it ideal for bath spaces.

Q: Is cork flooring durable in bathrooms?

A: With proper moisture barriers and care, cork floors can be quite durable in bathrooms. However, standing water should always be avoided.

Q: Can shower water damage cork floors?

A: Direct drenching or pooling water can damage cork over time. Using waterproofing treatments, avoiding standing water, and proper maintenance is key.

Q: Does humidity affect cork flooring?

A: Cork resists humidity well, but excessive moisture can still cause issues. Maintaining humidity levels under 60%, sealing cork properly, and allowing for expansion helps avoid problems.


Cork flooring can be an excellent material choice for humid, wet bathroom environments. Its naturally moisture-resistant properties prevent water damage, swelling, and deterioration. When properly installed over adequate subflooring with expansion gaps, high-quality cork floors can retain their structural integrity and appearance for many years, even with routine exposure to humidity and dampness.

By selecting bathroom-rated cork products from reputable brands, following manufacturer specifications for installation and care, and maintaining humidity control in the bathroom, cork floors can offer beauty, comfort, and practical water-resistance for shower enclosures, tub surrounds, and beyond. With proper maintenance to protect the finish and prevent excessive moisture, cork bathroom floors provide a warm, quiet, and safe surface that maintains its appeal over time.