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 walls and flooring are easy to install and come with a wide range of properties 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 when touched

The only drawback of cork flooring is its high cost and lack of water resistance properties. It’s an extremely porous material that absorbs water and is more prone to warping than traditional hardwood if it’s continuously exposed to moisture.

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 and coasters 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-handedly in sweeping motions.

While primer is good for providing 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.

To determine the appropriate drying time for the sealant, consult the manufacturer’s recommendations on the sealer can. The duration will vary based on the specific type of cork paint sealer you have applied.

Step 4- Sand the cork surface and reseal

Once the surface is completely dry, proceed to sand the cork using 220-grit sandpaper. Ensure that you thoroughly smooth out any rough areas and then wipe the surface with a clean cloth dampened in water.

If necessary, apply a second coat of primer-sealer to the cork to achieve even coverage. Remember to lightly sand the cork surface between each coat for optimal results.

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.

You can use a brush for smaller decorative pieces but a sprayer machine is easier and faster if you have a large surface to refinish like the cork flooring.

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

What is Real Cork Made Up 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 which is then cleaned and sterilized before being used to seal wine bottles.

When used as flooring or other household stuff, the cork is usually ground up into a powder and then formed into sheets which are covered with a protective coating to make them more durable.

Real cork possesses exceptional durability as one of its key strengths. Not only does this material resist cracking and abrasions, but it also exhibits impermeability to both gas and liquid, rendering it an excellent choice for a wide range of applications.

Safety-wise, cork is a winner as well. It’s fire-resistant and requires very high temperatures to melt or ignite, adding a layer of protection where it’s used.

Lastly, from an aesthetic standpoint, cork is remarkably versatile and adept at enhancing various design and decor styles. Many individuals adore the whitewashed appearance of cork floors, while cork crafts can be personalized with acrylic paint in your desired hues if you want.

Is Cork Flooring in the House Waterproof?

Cork flooring is water-resistant but not completely waterproof.

Since cork is made up of compressed cells that are filled with air, 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 mildew.

The damage can usually be sanded down and refinished several times before it needs to be replaced.

To repair any minor holes, cracks, or gaps in your cork tiles before painting or sealing, you will need some cork putty or a cork repair kit.

You may need to replace the damaged tiles for deep scratches or gouges by removing the old tile and installing a new one in its place.

The Bottom Line

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

However, the downside is that cork is relatively soft and will scratch faster. So, it’s essential 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 add a seal of the protective coating that lasts for years.

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