How to Paint Cork? (Floors, Tiles, Walls, Etc.)

painting cork

Cork isn’t typically used to create floors and walls. But believe me – it’s a great option.

The very first thing that I like about cork floors is it’s made from sustainable, biodegradable, and eco-friendly material from cork trees.

Plus, the cork floors are easy to install and come with a wide range of properties that you can enjoy for a lifetime.  

Some of these include:

  • Cork is insulating and can lower your utility bills
  • The cork tiles used as a wall or flooring are sound-dampening and super quiet
  • Cork is also antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and spongy which makes it easy on your body and joints

The only drawback of cork flooring is its high cost and the lack of water resistance properties.

Cork is an extremely porous material that absorbs water and is more prone to warping than traditional hardwood. 

With that said, corkboards are easy to paint and stain as long as they are at least 4mm thick.

This means if the cork layer is relatively thin (like in the case of engineered cork flooring) you should avoid getting them refinished.

Painting Cork – Step-by-Step

Painting cork flooring, walls, tiles, or even your antique wine bottle corks isn’t very tough.

All you need is to seal the surface properly before you apply the paint or stain.

Here are the exact steps you will need to follow to get the job done…

Step 1- Protect the work area

Start by laying down the drop cloth or a plastic tarp over your flooring area for protection.

If the surface of the cork you need to paint is fixed or framed (like a bulletin board), mask the surrounding areas using masking paper and painter’s tape as well.

However, if there are smaller pieces of cork items you need to paint, place them on the drop cloth for painting.

Step 2- Apply a sealer undercoat

Using a sprayer machine or a pump sprayer, spray the latex primer (or shellac) over the surface light handily in sweeping motions.

While primer is good to provide a nice base for the paint to adhere to, shellac will fill the pores of the cork material completely and will provide a smoother feel.

So, if you prefer the porous, textured look after painting the cork – use a primer to seal the surface.

sealing cork floor

Step 3- Allow it to dry

Next, you will need to allow enough time to dry the sealer on the surface.

This will depend on the type of cork paint sealer you have used.

You can refer to the amount of drying time that is recommended by the manufacturer of the sealant on the can of sealer you have used.

Step 4- Sand the cork surface and reseal

After the surface is completely dry, sand your cork surface using 220-grit sandpaper.

Make sure you smooth all the rough areas and then wipe the surface using a clean cloth dampened with water.

After sanding, if required, apply a second coat of primer-sealer on the cork to achieve even coverage.

Do not forget to sand your cork surface between each coat.

Step 5- Spray multiple coats of latex paint

Interior acrylic latex paint with a flatter finish works best on primed cork flooring and other corkboard surfaces.

It dries quickly and is easy to apply using a brush, roller, or sprayer. A sprayer machine is however easier and faster if you have a large surface to refinish.

Spray a coat of high-quality latex paint on the cork, the same way you have done with the primer.

Allow the paint to dry and then apply a second or third coat of paint.

After the final coat, again let the paint to dry for at least a day before using your freshly painted cork surface.

If you feel like getting a smooth glossy finish, consider applying a new coat of varnish as well; after the paint or stain has dried completely.

You can match this with the other wood furniture placed in your room to brighten up your space.

A coat of varnish (like water based polyurethane) will add a layer of additional protective coating making your expensive parquet cork flooring last for ages.

Related FAQs

What is a real cork made of?

A real cork is made of the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark is shaved off the tree and then formed into a cork stopper.

The cork is then cleaned and sterilized before being used to seal wine bottles.

When used as cork flooring or other household stuff, the cork is usually ground up into a powder and then formed into sheets.

The sheets are then covered with a protective coating to make them more durable.

Is cork flooring in the house waterproof?

Cork flooring is water-resistant but not completely waterproof.

Cork is a natural material that is made up of cells that are filled with air. When these cells are compressed, they create a water-resistant barrier.

However, if the cork flooring is not sealed properly it can get wet which can cause it to swell or break down. Wet cork material can even attract molds and mildews.

How do you repair cork floor tile if it’s damaged?

Cork flooring is a very durable material, so the damage can usually be sanded down and refinished several times before it needs to be replaced.

To repair any holes, cracks, or gaps in your cork tiles all you will need is some cork putty or a cork repair kit.

For deep scratches or gouges, you may need to replace the damaged tiles. To do this, you will need to remove the old tile and install a new one in its place.

The Bottom Line

Cork is an excellent choice for homes, to add the warmth, attractiveness, and comfort factor.

However, the downside is, that cork is relatively soft and will scratch faster. It’s important to maintain the surface by refinishing it from time to time.

The good thing is you can paint, stain and varnish the corkboard flooring or walls to make them look nicer and to add a seal of the protective coating that lasts for years.

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